Study of bus lines to continue

Mayor tells council commuters to D.C. need transportation

July 13, 1999|By Jennifer Sullivan | Jennifer Sullivan,SUN STAFF

The possibility of commuter bus service from Mount Airy to suburban Washington inched a step closer to a reality last night.

The Town Council agreed to allow Mayor Gerald Johnson to continue a study to determine whether twice-daily bus service from Mount Airy to Gaithersburg was needed to serve the town's more than 3,000 commuters.

Other issues on the agenda included approval of a Harpers Ferry, W. Va., carpenter to construct 10 ramps at the town's new 14,400-square-foot skateboard park off Route 27. The park is expected to open in September.

The need for a commuter bus was debated by council members, but in the end they agreed to allow Johnson to continue studying the issue. "I've had quite a bit of interest and about a dozen people saying they want it in Mount Airy," Johnson told the council.

Johnson began looking into the bus plan after talking to several commuters who complained they were sick of traffic congestion on Interstate 70 and the bumper-to-bumper traffic in and around the town during rush hour. Johnson said nearly 75 percent of the town's work force commutes to jobs outside the community.

If the transit plan comes to fruition, the bus would run from the Park and Ride lot on Route 27 to Gaithersburg, where riders could transfer to Washington bus or subway service. The mayor has spoken with Montgomery County transportation officials, who provide commuter bus service to Damascus and other outlying areas, to determine how such a service could be set up in Mount Airy.

Since beginning the study, the mayor and council members have received calls from residents fearful that the bus line would bring crime to Mount Airy.

"If we start it and it brings problems to the town, can we stop it?" Council President R. Delaine Hobbs asked Johnson.

Johnson told Hobbs he would research that issue.

While crime is on the minds of many Mount Airy residents, David Bone, operations planner for Montgomery County Transit Services, said new bus lines in his county have generated 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, adding that new bus routes are studied thoroughly.

Although the mayor has begun studying ways to get bus service into the southwest Carroll County town, Johnson said commuters would not be able to use the convenience for at least another year. If the Town Council approves the idea, bus service would be provided in the morning and afternoon.

Johnson said Montgomery County officials estimated the start-up cost of bus service at about $100,000. The town would seek state funding 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.

Pub Date: 7/13/99

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