Mount Airy residents support bus, mayor says

Johnson says study shows commuters would use service to Gaithersburg

August 03, 1999|By Jennifer Sullivan | Jennifer Sullivan,SUN STAFF

Many Mount Airy residents support a proposal to initiate commuter bus service to suburban Washington, Mayor Gerald Johnson told the Town Council last night.

The council last month charged Johnson with the task of researching twice-daily bus service for 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 buses.

Johnson said he recently spoke with several residents at the Park and Ride lot and "found out that people would ride it." The mayor had began studying the issue before the council ordered the study.

The mayor plans to speak at council meetings about the progress of his study -- at least until council members decide to approve or deny the bus proposal.

Johnson said he became interested in commuter bus service after talking to several residents who complained of traffic congestion on Interstate 70 and along the town's main streets during rush hour. Seventy-five percent of the town's work force commutes to jobs outside the community, Johnson's study found.

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

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

But fear of crime was not an issue at last night's meeting as more than a dozen people supported the proposal. No opponents attended.

Mount Airy resident Kevin Bender told the council that for more than seven years he has been driving to Damascus to catch a bus to Washington. "I catch the 6 a.m. bus with approximately 12 people. About half of them are from Mount Airy," said Bender, who works for the federal government.

If the council approves bus service, it would not be established for at least a year. Bus service would be provided in the morning and afternoon.

Johnson said Montgomery County officials estimated start-up costs of bus service to Mount Airy at about $300,000 -- a figure that includes a new bus. The town would seek state funds for the service.

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