Transit system hopes changes add riders

Route adjustments, starting Monday, are to boost convenience

Howard County

November 02, 2001|By Larry Carson | Larry Carson,SUN STAFF

With ridership soaring, Howard County's bus system is planning a series of route adjustments and changes starting Monday designed to cover more territory and add convenience.

The county is struggling to find ways to get people who do not have cars to hard-to-fill jobs in an upscale county dominated by privately owned, personal vehicles.

And with the county's senior population predicted to triple by 2020, the transit system will become more important for retirees.

"What we're trying to do is serve the current ridership better and also attract new riders," said Ray Ambrose, administrator of Corridor Transit Corp., which operates the eight routes of Howard Transit's system.

"We're trying to get a little deeper into neighborhoods," in response to riders' suggestions, added Carl Balser, Howard County's transportation planner.

Ambrose said ridership increased 53.4 percent in the year ended June 30 compared with the previous year - nearly 100,000 more trips - and jumped another 57 percent in the next three months.

Primarily, Ambrose said, the bus system is designed to serve people who do not have private vehicles and who need transportation to work or medical appointments.

Reducing the time between buses from 1 hour to 45 minutes is calculated to increase ridership, as was last year's fare reduction for seniors - from $1 to 25 cents.

The changes will bring connections for the Red and Yellow routes and the Orange and Brown routes to enable people to get more places.

For example, a student at Howard Community College will no longer have to take an Orange line bus to The Mall in Columbia, then transfer to the Brown line to go home to Kings Contrivance. On Monday, that student will be able to go directly from the college to Kings Contrivance.

Other changes involve more service to Clary's Forest and Columbia Gateway Business Park and more neighborhood stops for buses traveling between Columbia, Arundel Mills and the Baltimore-Washington International Airport.

Ambrose said one more bus will be added to the Red line to reduce waiting. That addition will cost about $175,000 a year.

A planned high-tech bus location system that will enable riders to see where their bus is in real time, either at bus stops or on computers, is two months from being operational, Ambrose said.

Perhaps aided by all the changes and expansion over the past few years, Howard Transit won an award this year for being Maryland's Best Fixed Route Bus System.

The award is from the Transit Association of Maryland, composed of the state's 24 small, local bus systems.

"This is a confirmation of the progress we've made since placing a higher priority on public transportation here in Howard County," said County Executive James N. Robey.

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