Owings Mills is less than 2 miles from Randallstown. But if you don't have a car, it can take hours to get from one Northwest Baltimore County neighborhood to the other by bus.
The state's Mass Transit Administration wants to solve the problem with a shuttle bus route that would link sections of Randallstown to the Owings Mills Mall, with the goal of opening up employment opportunities for Randallstown residents.
Existing bus routes require riders to travel several miles into the city and travel back out to Owings Mills.
MTA officials proposed the plan last week at a meeting with community leaders. While comments were mixed - some Randallstown homeowners objected to buses traveling through their neighborhood - several leaders agreed to form a committee to discuss the route with MTA officials.
Bill Bralove, president of RENEW, a Randallstown-based community organization of 3,000 members, said many residents are senior citizens "who no longer drive and want to work. They can't get to the Owings Mills Mall."
A shuttle bus "could also reduce traffic," he said. "We're seeing families with four or five cars."
Beth Robinson, chief of community planning for the MTA, said the shuttle bus is in the planning stage and no route has been proposed. She said that if the plan is approved, the buses used would be shorter by at least 10 feet than regular MTA buses and would be called "shuttle bugs."
The proposed Randallstown-Owings Mills shuttle would be one of six planned for older communities in the metropolitan area. The first will connect Hampden in North Baltimore to the Woodbury light rail stop, she said.
She declined to name the other neighborhoods where the MTA is considering shuttles because those areas have not been notified.
In Randallstown, representatives from residential neighborhoods, the business community and Northwest Hospital Center will begin meeting Jan 1.
Bralove said some opponents were concerned that "public transportation generates crime and automatically connects [local] people with the city dwellers. This is a shuttle between communities. If the crime exists, it's already here."
Bralove also said some Randallstown residents might be wary of the MTA because of a dispute that arose three years ago when the transit administration announced it would extend the Liberty Road bus line from Chapman Road north to Deer Park Road, having it pass through several residential neighborhoods.
"The MTA presented it as a done deal and hadn't communicated with anyone in the area," he said. The community fought the plan, and the MTA withdrew the bus line extension.
This time, Bralove said, the MTA is doing a better job of seeking community input.