Expanded bus service announced

Elderly, disabled to have easier access to medical treatment

HATS trips increased

Evenings, Saturdays added on route to Gambro facility

August 18, 1999|By Edward Lee | Edward Lee,SUN STAFF

Responding to requests from elderly and disabled riders who depend on bus service to receive medical treatment, Howard County Executive James N. Robey has announced an expansion of the Howard Area Transit Service (HATS) system to medical facilities in the county and Baltimore.

The most notable change is increasing to two the number of trips from Howard County to treatment centers in Baltimore on Monday, Wednesday, and Friday afternoons on HATS-Ride, the component of the local bus system known as para-transit.

"More flexibility in scheduling medical appointments is a cry I heard from many users of this service," Robey said in a news release. "It is a definite quality of life issue for the HATS-Ride customer and this expansion is in response to that need."

The additional trips drew hearty approval from health advocates who argued that providing only one run in the afternoons forced patients who missed their buses to find other transportation.

"It limits appointment times they can have and the activities in which they can participate," said Marni McNeese, a disabilities information specialist for the county Department of Citizens Services. "It affords them more opportunities to get to their medical appointments."

Robey, who was elected county executive in November, campaigned on a platform that included improving public transportation.

Another significant expansion is the addition of weekday evening and Saturday service to the former Howard County Dialysis Facility, now called Gambro Healthcare.

Amanda Bayless, a social worker with Gambro, said as many as 63 percent of the facility's patients used HATS-Ride in the past to obtain dialysis treatment.

"It just will make it a lot easier for people who have to deal with dialysis to get their treatment without worrying about how to get here," she said. "It will take the burden off of family members, too."

County transit officials have also added more runs. The yellow route, which serves Dorsey's Search and Ellicott City, has increased from eight to 12 runs a day.

The green route, which serves Harper's Choice and Wilde Lake, and the orange route, which serves Hickory Ridge, each increased daily runs from 13 to 17.

The additional runs are expected to reduce the waiting time for buses on those routes to 45 minutes, said Gerald Von Mayer, a planner in the county's Division of Transportation.

The final change is the addition of four new 20-passenger buses, which increases the number of buses in use to 11, Von Mayer said.

"What we're trying to do is provide more service," he said. "In the long run, the route will be a little more efficient."

Pub Date: 8/18/99

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