Free rides to promote mass transit

Bus, subway, light rail won't charge in effort to highlight services

September 11, 2001|BY A SUN STAFF WRITER

Bus, subway and light rail users can ride free tomorrow as part of a weeklong promotion of Maryland's growing transit services, Gov. Parris N. Glendening announced yesterday.

Speaking at a news conference at Oriole Park at Camden Yards, the governor also unveiled a new name for the Mass Transit Administration and a new logo, a Maryland flag waving in the breeze, to be displayed on all buses and trains. Though the agency's name has been altered to Maryland Transit Administration, the initials by which it is popularly known - MTA - remain the same.

The new agency "will have an expanded role in coordinating and developing transit programs around the state," he said.

MTA operates the Baltimore area's bus, Metro and light rail system, as well as the MARC commuter rail service between Baltimore and Washington, commuter bus service in Southern Maryland to Washington and bus service in Ocean City.

"I believe we have an offer Marylanders cannot refuse," he said.

The news conference was designed to promote ridership during "Try Transit" week, which runs through Sunday, and to draw attention to the governor's $3 billion mass transit initiative.

Mass transit is a part of his Smart Growth program, he said. "It relieves traffic congestion, and it is good for the environment."

The latest initiative - offering free rides on the Metro on Sundays - has exceeded expectations. Transit planners estimated the service would attract about 11,000 riders each Sunday by July. But the line carried 17,000 on Sept. 2, its first Sunday of operation, and 18,000 last Sunday.

"Now, I know the service was free," Glendening said, "but 17,000 riders using the service on its first day is phenomenal."

Glendening also unveiled a campaign for Commuter Choice, a program of tax incentives for employers who buy their employees monthly transit passes.

Other transit initiatives announced recently include plans to build dual tracks on the light rail system so trains can travel both ways at once; extend the Washington Metro line into Prince George's County; and add Frederick to the MARC commuter rail network.

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