State seeks public's input on modifying bus routes

Plan could reduce service in northern half of county

June 15, 2005|By Phillip McGowan | Phillip McGowan,SUN STAFF

Anne Arundel County residents will get a chance today on their own turf to sound off on the Maryland Transit Administration's proposed revamping of bus routes throughout the Baltimore metro area.

MTA will hold a hearing from 4 p.m. to 8 p.m. at Pascal Senior Center in Glen Burnie, part of a series of six meetings this week to draw public comment on its first proposed extensive modification of bus routes in at least 30 years.

Under a plan supported by state Transportation Secretary Robert L. Flanagan, dozens of routes would be streamlined, split up, extended or eliminated. The recommendations, which could be implemented in October, would affect 52 of MTA's core system of 59 routes - not including commuter buses - and reduce service along three lines that serve the northern half of Anne Arundel County.

"It's a real concern because we don't provide very much mass transit [in the county]," said County Councilwoman Pamela G. Beidle, who represents a sizable portion of North County. "What is this going to do to people who depend on this for their jobs?"

According to the state's proposals, bus access to Riviera Beach would be eliminated, as would Sunday service from Jumpers Hole Road in the Pasadena area to Annapolis. Also, a route that runs through North County to Baltimore-Washington International Airport would operate only when light rail is closed.

MTA formally informed the county of the plan's specifics last month, said Anne Arundel transportation officials, who are developing a contingency plan if the recommendations go through unchanged.

The county doesn't run its own transportation system, instead contracting out those services. But George G. Cardwell, a county planning administrator, said Anne Arundel officials are trying to revamp what services they have control over. He said the county also will promote the county's two ride-share programs, through the BWI Business Partnership and the Annapolis Regional Transportation Management Association, to assist more people who are dependent on public transportation.

"That's probably not going to reach out to everyone," Cardwell said.

Annapolis Transit, which receives county transportation grants, recently extended weekday service on its C-60 line to such North County destinations as Cromwell Station, BWI and Arundel Mills. Paula Chase-Hyman, a city Transportation Department spokeswoman, said that the MTA's proposed changes will not affect the city's bus schedule.

State officials have said that the recommendations better reflect the transportation needs of commuters and will cut passengers' wait times. The plan, called the Greater Baltimore Bus Initiative, will most benefit riders in the city and the inner suburbs, they said.

None of the changes are set in stone and could be affected by public comment, they added.

But MTA is motivated to cut about $5 million from its core-routes budget.

Cardwell said the state's recommendations fulfill the financial goals, but "no one knows how much wiggle room there is" in regard to the proposal.

County Executive Janet S. Owens is among those who say that the MTA should lengthen the public comment period.

She recently joined her counterparts in the Baltimore region in sending a letter to Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr., requesting 60 more days for a regional transportation board to review the MTA's plans.

Anne Arundel Community College officials said they will testify at today's hearing. They object to MTA's plan to break up the No. 14 line, which runs from the Patapsco light rail station to Annapolis, and make riders switch buses to get to the college. The reduced schedule to AACC, with stops every 60 minutes during peak periods and every 120 minutes during nonpeak periods and on Saturday - with no Sunday service - also worries college officials.

"We're concerned about the impact on our current students and also that new students are now registering for fall classes based on the current routes, not knowing the routes may ... change in October," said Debbie McDaniel-Shaughney, a spokeswoman for the college.

For more on MTA's proposal, go to www.mtamaryland.com or call 410-539-5000. Written comment must be received by MTA by 5 p.m. Friday. Pascal Senior Center is located at 125 Dorsey Road in Glen Burnie.

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