City, state debating MTA access to bus site

Greyhound station spurs latest governmental tiff

July 20, 2004|By Matt Whittaker | Matt Whittaker,SUN STAFF

A belated ribbon-cutting ceremony to mark the opening of a temporary Greyhound bus station south of the Ravens stadium set off another skirmish yesterday between the administrations of Mayor Martin O'Malley and Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr.

Complaints that there is no public transportation available to the terminal surfaced at the ceremony, which occurred nearly four weeks after Greyhound closed its downtown Fayette Street bus station and opened the temporary one on Haines Street.

O'Malley and U.S. Rep. Elijah E. Cummings asked the Maryland Transit Administration to run a bus line to the new facility, but transportation officials said the city's decision on the location of the terminal makes that request a difficult one to meet.

The mayor said that his office has written to the MTA and that Cummings planned to have his staff do the same.

"Maybe that will give them the needed push to get them to bring their buses a few blocks closer so people don't have to drag their suitcases" down the street, O'Malley said.

But state Transportation Secretary Robert L. Flanagan said later that there is no plan to run MTA buses to the new station because of logistical problems created by the site's location.

"There is no obvious solution, given the poor selection of this location," Flanagan said. "It's a remote location. We do not have an answer yet, but we are working very hard at it."

`Stupid decisions'

"Notwithstanding the stupid decisions with locating the terminal in its present location, we have transit planners" working on how to get people to the new station on MTA buses, Flanagan added.

Even though an MTA bus line stops two blocks away on Russell Street, no public bus goes to the 15,000-square-foot, $2.1 million temporary station at 2110 Haines St.

A new permanent station is expected to be open in three years nearby at Russell and Bayard Streets. The old terminal, in the 200 block of W. Fayette St. downtown, was closed as part of west-side redevelopment.

According to Flanagan, making a left turn onto Haines Street coming from the city on southbound Russell Street is difficult. Northbound buses on Russell Street would have to cross railroad tracks, which could cause 15- to 20-minute delays waiting for trains to pass, Flanagan said.

The station is "not located close to the population that wants to use the Greyhound bus service," he said.

`Afraid of criticism'

O'Malley rejected putting the terminal near Penn Station, an idea his administration had originally supported, because he was "afraid of criticism from developers," Flanagan said.

But O'Malley spokesman Rick Abbruzzese said the mayor rejected the Penn Station location because a station there would have brought more noise and diesel fumes to the area.

It also would have been hard to get buses to midtown from Interstate 95, he said.

"It's unfortunate that the secretary feels that way," Abbruzzese said. "The mayor worked with a number of community organizations to find a location easily accessible to Interstate 95 and close to a major gateway into and out of Baltimore City. Now that the location has been chosen, we are confident that the MTA and Greyhound will develop a bus route that allows citizens to get to the terminal."

O'Malley had called the Penn Station location "the best site in the city" because passengers could easily connect to trains, buses and taxis, but in December 2001, the mayor abruptly changed course after business interests led by attorney and Orioles owner Peter G. Angelos rallied against the location.

Cummings and O'Malley, as well as Greyhound Chief Operating Officer Jack W. Haugsland and Baltimore Development Corp. president M.J. "Jay" Brodie were present at yesterday's ceremony at the new station, which is scheduled to serve 1 million passengers a year.

O'Malley praised the "beautiful waterfront Greyhound station," even though he said an MTA bus route is needed. While Cummings was speaking, Lucille Baxter, a 43-year-old hairstylist from Northwest Baltimore interjected with: "I had to catch a cab."

Rider's testimony

The congressman thanked her for her "testimony" and said: "I'm going to put in a simple request that we ought to have some kind of transportation for people to get up here to catch a bus."

"The city has done its part; now we have to have the MTA come in and do its part," Cummings said.

Baxter, who was traveling to Woodbridge, Va., yesterday, said she was frustrated about having to take an MTA bus and then a taxi to reach the Haines Street location.

"It was money I didn't have to spend," she said. "I wasn't counting on catching a cab."

She said she used the old station on West Fayette Street frequently.

"It was more convenient to me," she said, because she only had to catch one bus that dropped her off in front of the old station.

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