Tonight's meeting of the county's Public Transportation Board is the last opportunity for people to comment on Howard Transit's proposed bus routes to provide service to senior facilities in Ellicott City and job sites along the U.S. 1 corridor.
The new "silver" and "purple" lines are expected to begin operation early next year or as soon as new buses can be delivered, said Ray Ambrose, transit administrator for Corridor Transportation Corp., an arm of the Baltimore-Washington Chamber of Commerce that operates the Howard bus service.
"The only comment we've gotten is: `Can't you start it sooner?' " said Carl Balser, chief of transportation planning for the county Department of Planning and Zoning.
Requests from senior citizens prompted planning for the Monday-through-Saturday silver route, which would connect senior-living complexes such as Parkview, off Ridge Road in Ellicott City, with Ellicott City Senior Center and St. Agnes Nursing and Rehabilitation Center. The Enclave at Ellicott Hills, a senior residence under construction on North Ridge Road, would be on the route when the complex is completed.
The Monday-through-Friday "purple" line along U.S. 1 would replace two free rush-hour shuttles at the northern and southern ends of the road. Although the shuttles end at MARC stations, they do not connect with each other. "Residents of the community can use [the new line] as a local route from Elkridge all the way to Laurel," Ambrose said.
The purple route would stop at Laurel Mall, the Savage and Dorsey Run MARC stations and several industrial and business parks at the northern end of U.S. 1.
Only the Maryland Transit Administration's commuter line travels the U.S. 1 corridor between Baltimore and Laurel. The service, which operates along U.S. 1 and Interstate 95 during weekday rush hours, costs $2.85 for a one-way trip.
Single-ride fares on Howard Transit lines, including the new silver and purple routes, are $1. People over 60 with a Howard Transit identification card pay 25 cents a ride.
Riders of the purple line will also be able to connect to Howard Transit's Red express to Columbia and Ellicott City. "With that transfer, they can pretty much get to anywhere else within our system," Balser said.
The three buses CTC has ordered will supplement the 25 in service for 10 fixed-route bus lines in Howard County. Traditional truck buses were ordered rather than low-floor buses that better accommodate senior and handicapped passenger needs, because those specialized buses would take up to 12 months to arrive.
Once the route becomes established, new bus shelters will be built "that fit with the historic character of the corridor," Balser said. They will be fitted with the automated bus locator system that Howard County put into service last year.
The Public Transportation Board meeting will be held at 7 o'clock tonight in the Tyson Room of the George Howard Building in Ellicott City. Information: Department of Planning and Zoning, 410-313-2357.