Lawmakers want Bay Bridge bus service restored

Legislator withdraws bill, awaits response from MTA

General Assembly

March 04, 2005|By Phillip McGowan | Phillip McGowan,SUN STAFF

An Anne Arundel County legislator has shelved a bill that would restore commuter bus service between Kent Island and Annapolis, saying he wants to give state officials time to study the proposal.

Del. David G. Boschert, a Crownsville Republican, said he hoped that the Maryland Transit Administration would find a solution to ease congestion and lessen the risk to commuters crossing the Bay Bridge, which remains under construction for deck replacement.

The county's legislative delegation agreed last Friday to ask the MTA to consider funding such a service, which would have connections to Baltimore and Washington. Boschert agreed to withdraw his bill until the agency had formally responded.

An MTA spokeswoman said Wednesday that the agency hadn't received the letter and had no comment.

Boschert said he was expecting to hear from the state agency next week.

"No one listened to the cries for help," he said, "but they are now."

Thousands are extending their commute by settling on the Eastern Shore, which has provided a sanctuary from soaring housing prices. Boschert said the demand for a commuting service extends from just over the Chesapeake Bay in Queen's Anne County to Talbot, Caroline and Kent counties.

Annapolis operates a popular shuttle service that runs once a day between the city and Kent Island, but Boschert said buses needed to run more often.

"There's only one bus that goes in from the Eastern Shore during the peak hours" and one that returns in the evening, Boschert said. "That will never work."

MTA said high cost was the main reason for scrapping its commuter service from the Eastern Shore after 17 years in June 2003.

The state agency estimated recently that it would cost $576,000 a year to run three buses in the morning and evening rush hours, as Boschert and Del. Mary Roe Walkup, a Kent County Democrat, have proposed.

Boschert has challenged the MTA's cost estimates. Two charter bus services - Dillon's Bus Service Inc. and Chesapeake Charter Inc. - estimated the cost of a service as proposed in the bill at about $150,000.

Chesapeake Charter, pointing to a lack of riders, recently scrapped a two-month experiment with shuttle service that began in Kent Island in the morning and returned from Baltimore in the evening. Buses carried 15 to 20 a day, he said, and he'd have needed 30 to break even. But Chesapeake Charter President John Lonergan Jr. said that if the state broke up its contracts for commuter shuttles, more companies could participate and potentially tap a wider pool of riders.

"Competition for that work would be better," he said. "And that would save the state a lot of money."

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