Bus plan raises fears

Council to discuss study on possible route to D.C. area

July 12, 1999|By Jennifer Sullivan | Jennifer Sullivan,SUN STAFF

A study to determine whether to bring commuter bus service from Mount Airy to suburban Washington will be discussed tonight by the Mount Airy Town Council.

Mayor Gerald Johnson has been studying the possibility of providing twice-daily bus service to the town's more than 3,000 commuters. The bus would run from the Park and Ride lot on Route 27 to Gaithersburg, where riders could transfer to Washington.

Johnson began looking into the bus plan after talking to several commuters sick of the congestion on Interstate 70 and the bumper-to-bumper traffic during rush hour. Seventy-five percent of the town's work force commutes to jobs outside the community, Johnson found in his study.

The mayor has spoken with Montgomery County transportation officials, who provide commuter bus service to Damascus and other outlying cities, to figure out how such a service could be set up in Mount Airy.

But as soon as his study began, so did the calls from residents fearful that the bus line "will bring crime to Mount Airy," Johnson said.

Now the issue is before the Town Council, which meets at 8 p.m. at the Town Hall on Main Street.

Ben Golueke, manager of Mt. Airy Liquors, is among the opponents. He said bus service would bring crime to the town and could "hurt the image of Mount Airy."

But according to David Bone, operations planner for Montgomery County Transit Services, bus routes are studied thoroughly. He said newer lines generate commuters, not criminals.

"I don't think our experience is that crime has increased when a bus service is introduced into an area," he said.

If the Town Council allows Johnson to continue his study, and approves bus service, commuters would not be able to use the convenience for at least another year. Bus service would be provided in the morning and in the afternoon.

Johnson said Montgomery County officials estimated the start-up cost of bus service to Mount Airy at about $100,000. The town would seek state funds for the service. It has not been determined whether Montgomery County would extend its service into Carroll County or some other arrangement would be made.

Many Mount Airy commuters drive eight miles every morning to catch a bus in Damascus, Bone said. From Damascus, the bus travels 13 miles to the Shady Grove Metro Station in Gaithersburg. Many commuters then take the Metro into Washington.

Bone said he has not talked with Johnson, but said bus service linking Mount Airy and Damascus is not unlikely.

Jen Luecke, an employee at Mt. Airy Photo in the Mount Airy Center -- less than a quarter-mile from the Park and Ride -- said bus service would help not only commuters, but also younger residents.

"I don't think it's that big of a deal," she said. "It's not like people are going to come to Mount Airy just to cause some crime."

Luecke said she could imagine taking the bus service from Gaithersburg into Washington to see concerts.

The bus service might also reduce drunken driving, she said.

Pub Date: 7/12/99

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