MTA trains its sights on commuter buses

Service proposed to subway station in Gaithersburg

October 17, 2001|By Lesa Jansen | By Lesa Jansen,SPECIAL TO THE SUN

Living within commuting distance of Washington's Metro system, Mount Airy resident Kathy Adams thought occasional visits from her son, who lives in Northern Virginia, would be a breeze.

But Adams found out that mass transit only goes so far, and Mount Airy is not one of its destinations. Her son could travel mass transit as far as Damascus in Montgomery County - about 10 minutes away - after taking a bus from the Shady Grove Metro station.

The inconvenience of having to drive to Damascus might change for Adams - and Mount Airy's Washington commuters - as the Maryland Transit Administration unveils a proposal for commuter bus service between the southwest Carroll town and the Shady Grove Metro station.

MTA, which hopes to launch the commuter bus service next year, will hold a public information meeting on its proposal at 8 p.m. today at Mount Airy Senior Center. A formal public hearing will be held at a later date.

"We want to hear from the public about which times would be convenient during rush hour so they can make their connections on the Metro," said Suzanne Bond, MTA communications director.

MTA is considering placing three to five commuter buses into service in Mount Airy beginning as early as 5:50 a.m. weekdays. The buses would operate during morning and evening rush hours.

The proposed commuter bus would pick up riders at the Mount Airy Park & Ride on Route 27. It also would stop in Damascus on Route 124 at Damascus United Methodist Church before continuing to the Shady Grove Metro station in Gaithersburg. The fare would be $2.85 one way from Mount Airy and $2.35 one way from Damascus.

At tonight's meeting, MTA officials hope to learn the number of potential riders. Once a level of need is determined, MTA would put out bids to bus contractors to begin service in March.

"This will be so convenient for people who don't always have use of a car," Adams said.

The proposed commuter service is part of Gov. Parris N. Glendening's transit initiative, which will provide more than $500 million for transportation projects over the next six years.

"We want to expand upon existing routes and develop new routes," Bond said.

Traffic congestion on Mount Airy area roads, particularly Route 27, has prompted the bus service. More than 18,500 vehicles travel along Route 27 - over Interstate 70 - in the Mount Airy area on an average day, according to the State Highway Administration.

"I think it's important not only for Mount Airy, but for [the areas] between here and the Metro station that have overcrowded roads and have been impacted with heavy traffic," Mayor Gerald Johnson said of commuter bus service.

Johnson said Mount Airy has grown considerably and much of the population commutes to work outside the county. "Any way to get less cars on these roads would be an improvement," he said.

The mayor worked for three years to get commuter bus service in Mount Airy, enlisting the help of Republican Del. Donald B. Elliott, who represents Carroll and Frederick counties. Elliott guided legislation to fund the service.

"I feel very strongly that environmentally ... trying to eliminate as much traffic as possible from the standpoint of air quality makes a good bit of sense," Elliott said.

Those unable to attend the meeting can call MTA with questions or comments. Call Glenn Saffran, MTA service planner, at 410- 767-4589 or 888-218-2267.

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