City to cut buses to mall

Route to Arundel Mills never became popular

Service to end June 29

Lack of transit funding prompts the decision

Annapolis

April 21, 2003|By Ryan Davis | Ryan Davis,SUN STAFF

Daily bus service from Annapolis to Baltimore-Washington International Airport and Arundel Mills mall, which never became as popular as expected, will be eliminated in two months, city officials said.

"Right now it's not a practical use of public funds - sadly," said Danielle Matland, the city's transportation director.

Matland said she learned this month that the Maryland Transit Administration is discontinuing its annual funding of about $145,000 for next fiscal year, which begins July 1.

The Sky Blue route originated in November 2001. Six days a week, buses make eight round trips from the city to the BWI Business Park light rail stop, then the airport, then the airport's Maryland Rail Commuter and Amtrak train station and then Arundel Mills. They then return directly to Annapolis.

On Sunday, the bus line makes five roundtrips. A one-way trip costs $3.

The route is averaging fewer than 16 riders a day, Matland said.

While it carried hundreds of people to the mall over Mother's Day weekend, infrequent riders aren't enough to sustain a transit route, Matland said.

"The bread and butter of transit is jobs," she said, referring to people who commute to work. "We started the route, and the economy started tanking.

"You need to have commuters, and there just hasn't been that much hiring going on."

The program was funded by a state initiative that took effect in July 2001, MTA spokesman Alonza Williams said. Called the Maryland Comprehensive Transportation Plan, it aims to get Marylanders to and from their jobs.

While the program continues, the Annapolis route is being cut because of poor performance, he said.

The last bus will leave Annapolis at 5 p.m. June 29.

The route is one of six city routes that run into the county. Anne Arundel County stands with Baltimore County as the only two of the state's eight most populous jurisdictions that don't offer public bus transportation. Instead, Anne Arundel relies on the city and other groups that provide a patchwork system to parts of the county.

A 3-month-old city route that runs from Edgewater to Anne Arundel Community College in Arnold is carrying as many riders as the year-and-a-half-old Sky Blue route. When the community college opens its branch campus at Arundel Mills in August next year, the city might be able to resurrect the Sky Blue route, Matland said.

"We'll have a reopening on this some day for sure," she said.

Commuters will still be able to take other Annapolis buses to the BWI Business Park.

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