Maryland Transit Administration officials are proposing changes that would cut back three bus routes serving downtown Baltimore - prompting protests from riders and advocates for public transportation.
Changes to the routes were aired at a little-publicized "informational" meeting yesterday at which MTA officials briefed about 15 riders - none of whom found much to like in the proposal.
The MTA is expected to decide within two weeks whether to shorten the routes when it moves to its fall schedule in September.
The changes would eliminate portions of three lines:
No. 10, which runs from Dundalk to State Center at West Preston Street, would instead end at Lexington Market.
No. 31, from Arbutus to Pennsylvania Station, would end at the Inner Harbor rather than continuing up Charles Street to the train station.
No. 64, which runs from Curtis Bay up Calvert Street to 20th Street, would run no farther north than Centre Street.
Michael J. Deets, an MTA planner, said the proposals were based on ridership surveys.
"These are places where it's very obvious there are not lots of people on the bus," he said.
Deets said changes are driven by several goals, including cost savings, scheduling efficiencies and relieving downtown traffic congestion.
Edward Cohen, vice chairman of the Transit Riders League, challenged the notion that buses cause congestion.
"Anyone who is trying to lay the blame on the buses is just passing the buck," he said. He predicted the changes would force disabled riders who use public transit to switch to costly Mobility van and cab service.
Aloma Bouma, who is blind, said cuts to Nos. 31 and 64 will impose hardships on residents of Mount Vernon, where she lives. She also noted the proposal would eliminate No. 64's connection between Penn Station and the National Federation of the Blind headquarters in South Baltimore.
MTA officials said the proposal is not final and reassured skeptical riders that their comments would be conveyed to higher-ups. But Bouma was not convinced.
"I have low confidence that these information sessions accomplish very much," she said. "I believe these changes are a done deal."
Beth Robinson, an MTA operations director, said the agency has to look at bus routes to see where it can get "more bang for the buck."
"Our budget is not going to increase," she said.
The meeting was not an official hearing. MTA spokesman Richard Scher said the agency generally holds hearings on route changes only when "a significant portion" is proposed for elimination.
"We do not consider the proposed changes to these individual bus routes to be significant," he said.