Growing transit in car country Howard buses: Increase in ridership last summer should be viewed as a sign of what is possible.

November 17, 1998

MULTI-CAR households are common in Howard County, where many affluent teen-agers take it for granted that they will have their own wheels before they leave high school. The emphasis of young and old on personal transportation ignores the pollution and infrastructure costs that result from having so many cars on the road. It also ignores what is becoming a viable alternative -- the bus.

The growing dependability of bus service provided by Howard Area Transit Service and Connect-a-Ride is reflected in the increase in ridership. More than 23,000 additional riders took the bus during July, August and September, compared with the same period last year. Corridor Transportation Corp., which manages the two bus services, said it had 151,591 riders during the three months.

CTC was hired two years ago to correct problems in the transit system. Buses weren't running according to schedule. Poor maintenance was causing vehicles to break down. The Laurel company has made improvements, including adding two buses to the fleet. Complaints are down and ridership is up as a result.

It's possible to get even more people to use the bus in Howard County. But to do so, CTC and Yellow Transportation Inc., which operates the buses, must stay in tune with the market. There are still complaints that buses aren't always available when people need them. Potential riders want more service to get to jobs in the U.S. 1 corridor. And buses that run more frequently would allow more people to use them for local shopping.

A passenger advisory group created by CTC and Howard government should help keep up with consumer needs. To provide additional service, though, the system will need adequate funding. County officials should fill gaps in state and federal aid. Anything to encourage fewer vehicles on local roads would be worth the effort.

Pub Date: 11/17/98

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