Twice-daily bus rides from Mount Airy to D.C. set to begin in October

Howard company ponders similar service from Westminster to Arundel

August 26, 2004|By Sheridan Lyons | Sheridan Lyons,SUN STAFF

A Howard County motor coach company will begin offering twice-daily trips for Mount Airy commuters to the Washington area in October and might offer a similar service from the Westminster area to the Fort Meade area in Anne Arundel County, company officials said yesterday.

Eyre Bus Service Inc. of Glenelg would like to find out from potential riders on both lines whether they would use a bus and what times they would prefer, said Stephen D. Parker, Eyre's operations manager for 11 years.

The plan for the Mount Airy area is to begin offering twice-daily commuter service Oct. 4 from the park-and-ride lot at Interstate 70 and Route 27, beginning at 5:15 a.m., Parker said.

The company, founded in 1947, has contracts in Frederick County with the Maryland Transit Administration, he said, but this would be a privately operated commuter service.

"We're certainly not going to say no to an enterprising businessman who's going to provide an invaluable service," said Mount Airy Town Council President John P. Medve. "They're pretty astute. They do this for Howard County."

Eyre also is "working on the logistics" of offering the same type of private service from Carroll to Fort Meade, Parker said, starting from Westminster with stops in the Sykesville-Eldersburg area and down Route 32.

The possibility of the Fort Meade service arose because of traffic jams from Route 32 construction, said Parker, a Westminster resident. "The traffic going down there is absolutely horrible. ... The traffic has got to be coming from Carroll and Howard," he said. "We'd be very interested in feedback on that. We think there's a need there as well."

The ride probably would take 50 to 55 minutes from Westminster to the Fort Meade area, which has about 25,000 employees, he said.

Bus routes for Mount Airy commuters have been sought and discussed for years. In October 2001, the MTA called service to the Shady Grove Metro station in Montgomery County imminent, but several months later the plan failed in the General Assembly, Medve noted.

"We'd heard it proposed in the past, so we thought we'd give it a try," Parker said of the Mount Airy service.

"We are going to do it," he said. "We think it will be successful. We don't need thousands and thousands and thousands of people -- just 50, 60, 70 people who are tired of sitting in traffic and the high cost of gasoline and wear and tear on their vehicles, not to mention on your nervous system."

The company probably will know within 12 weeks whether demand is sufficient, he said. Those who used the bus would become loyal riders, he predicted.

"If it pans out, we would add more service and adjust schedules," he said.

Bus company and town officials met Tuesday to outline Eyre's plans, Medve said, and he and Councilman Peter R. Helt suggested stops closer to Washington. Eyre had suggested the Shady Grove metro station.

Parker asked that people call the company or use its Web site, www.eyre.com, beginning Monday to express interest and preferences for times and stops.

Wherever the bus stops, Medve said, "I think it's a great idea, and I hope people support it, because it will reduce the congestion on the roads and allow people to have a little more pleasant commute."

Eyre plans a $6 one-way fare from Mount Airy, with 10 trips for $54, Parker said. Its 57 motor coaches, which seat 47 to 56, have restrooms and reclining seats.

Dry runs put the trip at about 45 minutes, he said.

"People go to work early," he said, noting that on runs from Columbia, "the heaviest by far are the earliest."

Tentative returns would be at 3:30 or 3:45 p.m. and at 5:50 p.m., he said. "That's another reason we would like folks to contact us, so they can indicate their preference for the time," he said.

"Mount Airy has been in the news primarily because of the town expanding so much," Medve said.

The town has a population of almost 8,000, and at least 30 percent to 40 percent of its commuters head toward Washington, including Medve, who works in Tysons Corner, Va.

At least half of the Mount Airy commuters head toward Washington, Parker said.

"At one time, everything was going to Baltimore. Things have shifted and changed, and a lot more folks are going into D.C. This is a service there's a demand for," he said.

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