Local transit system best, forum says

June 07, 1998|By Mary Gail Hare | Mary Gail Hare,SUN STAFF

County residents have consistently opposed bringing public transportation from Baltimore into Carroll, but they might support expanding Carroll Transit, a bus system that operates 19 vans in the Westminster area.

The concept came from a forum organized by state transportation planners in Westminster Friday. Many of the 30 participants viewed Carroll Transit, a private, nonprofit company that primarily serves the elderly and disabled, as the answer to public transportation needs.

"We should connect all major activity centers in all municipalities," said Janet Gregor, county transportation planner. "We need longer hours, weekend hours and more routes."

The forum at Carroll Community College was organized by the Mass Transit Administration (MTA) and is one of 24 gatherings scheduled across the state this summer.

The MTA has visited Anne Arundel, Howard and Harford counties, but drew the largest crowd in Westminster.

In a two-hour session, consultants heard people oppose public transportation and speak about the need for it, particularly as more people move from welfare to work.

Much discussion centered on Carroll Transit, but other suggestions included employer incentives to encourage carpooling, reviving the rail system and linking Carroll to Howard and Frederick counties by bus or train.

The mention of public transportation generally raises fears of crime and rampant growth in Carroll. But a recent survey of cars parked at the Metro station in Owings Mills by the Carroll County Department of Planning shows many county drivers are using the system.

Three years ago, at the request of local officials, MTA surveyed 13,000 Carroll residents to measure interest in a bus service from the county to the Owings Mills Metro station in northwest Baltimore County. The survey showed little interest.

But as Carroll's major roads become increasingly crowded, and with nearly 80 percent of its working population commuting from the county daily, public transportation may become more attractive.

Pub Date: 6/07/98

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