State adds 2 BWI bus routes

Shuttles will serve Annapolis and D.C., connect to train lines

Anne Arundel

November 15, 2001|By Johnathon E. Briggs | Johnathon E. Briggs,SUN STAFF

Seeking to provide a low-cost, low-stress transportation option for travelers and workers heading to Baltimore-Washington International Airport, the state has launched new bus services this week to link the airport with Annapolis and the Washington Metro system.

Starting today, Annapolis residents planning to take to the skies can first ride the Sky Blue route, an express shuttle operated by Annapolis Transit that will take them from Annapolis to BWI and Arundel Mills for a one-way fare of $3.

On Tuesday, the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority launched BWI Express, a line that shuttles passengers from its Greenbelt Metro station in Prince George's County to BWI. A one-way trip is $2 - or $1.15 when travelers transfer from the Metro system to the bus.

The bus services are part of Gov. Parris N. Glendening's six-year transit initiative, a $502 million package approved by the General Assembly last year. The plan seeks to reduce traffic congestion and improve air quality by encouraging people to use public transportation with enticements such as reduced rates and expanded services.

The Sky Blue route was made possible by a $135,000 "access to jobs" grant administered by the Maryland Transit Administration. The BWI Express received a similar, $990,000 grant.

State and local transportation officials said they had not intended to launch the routes two days apart, but hope that the expanded services will improve access to BWI and Arundel Mills as both brace for a holiday crush of travelers and shoppers. BWI officials estimated that more than 377,000 passengers would pass through the airport between Tuesday and Nov. 26.

The routes are significant because they allow travelers and workers to link to different modes of travel in the Baltimore-Washington region including light rail, MARC trains and Amtrak, transportation officials said.

"This is an example of how we can bring the state together through public transit," said Len Foxwell, director of Washington-area transit programs for the MTA.

Bridget Garra, a manager for the work force development program at the Mills Corp., which opened the 1.3 million-square-foot Arundel Mills mall last year, said company officials are thrilled about the Sky Blue route.

"We believe there are individuals that can take advantages of it to work as well as to shop," she said.

With more than 40 percent of BWI's nearly 20 million passengers coming from the Washington metro area each year, Foxwell said the idea of linking the area with the airport was a no-brainer.

"It just made sense to connect [BWI and the Washington Metro] through a convenient bus system," he said.

Foxwell, of the MTA, said the early passenger response to the BWI Express has been "phenomenal," and that its main appeal has been its affordability. The maximum fare for the trip is $3.15 - $2 for a Metro ride and $1.15 for a transfer to the bus.

The bus operates every 40 minutes, from 6 a.m. to 11 p.m. daily, between the Greenbelt Metro station and the Linthicum airport. Each of the four buses used on the route holds 33 passengers and sports high-back seats and customized luggage racks.

Spoofing the humorous Southwest Airlines ads, Annapolis transportation officials said in announcing the launching of the Sky Blue Route that Annapolitans are now "free to move about the county."

Starting today, buses will leave Annapolis' Spa Road transfer point every two hours, from 7 a.m. to 11 a.m. and 1 p.m. to 9 p.m. Monday through Saturday and from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. Sundays, arriving at BWI Business Park light rail and the airport about 40 minutes later. At BWI, the buses will stop at the lower deck of the international terminal next to the light rail before going on to the MARC/Amtrak station and then Arundel Mills in Hanover. The bus then returns to Annapolis.

For more information about the Sky Blue route call 410-263-7964. For BWI Express, call MTA at 301-565-9665 or visit the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit System's Web site, www.wmata. com.

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