Shuttle Bug buses to be introduced in areas around harbor

They have proved popular in other neighborhoods

May 07, 2002|By Allison Klein | Allison Klein,SUN STAFF

The Shuttle Bug, a colorful bus that has quickly become one of Baltimore's most popular modes of public transportation, will be making its debut this summer in neighborhoods around the harbor.

It is unclear which neighborhoods will get the buses, which are adorned with a trademark insect logo and are an important ingredient in the state's goal of doubling transit ridership in the next 20 years. The MTA introduced the Shuttle Bug at the end of 2000 in Hampden, then added one in Mondawmin last year.

Maryland Transit Administration officials, who just completed a series of community meetings on the issue, are looking next to operate the 26-seat commuter shuttle in southern or Southeast Baltimore.

"It will be a tough call which area gets it first," said Simon Taylor, the MTA's manager of service development and commuter bus operations.

In southern Baltimore, the buses would serve neighborhoods such as Sharp-Leadenhall, Federal Hill and Locust Point. In Southeast Baltimore, they would cruise Canton, Fells Point and Inner Harbor East.

The waterfront neighborhoods that do not get the Shuttle Bug this summer should get it next year if the MTA budget allows, Taylor said. The initial cost of a shuttle is $250,000; it costs between $500,000 and $750,000 a year to operate.

Taylor said the MTA will make its decision based on support from residents, businesses and elected officials.

The idea behind the buses is to bring the shuttle to residential and business areas to ease parking problems and link riders with other transportation, such as light rail.

The routes, which will be six-to eight-mile loops, will serve points of interest such the Museum of Industry on Key Highway and the Korean War Memorial on the Canton waterfront.

"It will not take you all over the city; it will not even take you downtown," said Judy Sikorski, the MTA's community planner. "It will take you different places in your community."

The buses have been popular for several reasons. They arrive about every 15 minutes and cost 50 cents a trip (25 cents for senior citizens). The regular MTA buses cost $1.35.

The Shuttle Bugs also have low-to-the-curb floors that allow people with two-wheel carts to board easily with packages.

The buses would make life easier for people such as Thelma Thompson, 72, who lives in Federal Hill and makes three trips in a row to the grocery store once a week on the bus because she can't carry all of her packages in one trip.

If the Shuttle Bug comes to her neighborhood, there will be a stop in front of her apartment, and she wouldn't have to walk the block and a half with her groceries to the regular bus stop.

"If I was certain I could get to the grocery store without difficulty, it would make my life easier," Thompson said.

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