Grant spares capital bus cut

Funds from state will keep service rolling in Annapolis

August 23, 2006|By NIA-MALIKA HENDERSON | NIA-MALIKA HENDERSON,SUN REPORTER

The state threw a lifeline to Annapolis Transit yesterday, agreeing to provide a one-year grant that will stave off service cuts for at least the remainder of the year as city officials grapple with a significant cut in federal funding.

The $294,000 grant from the state's transportation trust fund will help make up the expected $850,000 shortfall.

Because of a change in census designation, the city stands to lose about $500,000 in federal funding this fiscal year, and an additional $350,000 next year.

For the 2000 Census, Annapolis was designated as part of the much larger Baltimore metropolitan area, thereby making the city ineligible for federal transportation funding available to smaller urbanized cities.

Henry Fawell, a spokesman for Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr., said that the state will work for a long-term solution in the next session.

"The governor is a big believer in transit and knows the important role that it plays for the city of Annapolis," Fawell said. "He wanted to provide the appropriate resources so that citizens did not see a reduction in services."

Mayor Ellen O. Moyer has said that cutting city services is not an option, but cutbacks on lines that extend into Anne Arundel County make the most sense financially.

County Executive Janet S. Owens said the grant could maintain funding for the C-40, C-50 and C-60 lines, which provide service north to Baltimore-Washington International Thurgood Marshall Airport and Arundel Mills and south to Shady Side, Churchton and Deale.

Owens first discussed the matter with state Transportation Secretary Robert L. Flanagan about six weeks ago, and those two, along with House Speaker Michael E. Busch, have since been working toward a solution.

"We have too many people who depend on these transit lines, and we have got to keep them going," said Owens, who is running for state comptroller. "I am thrilled that there will be no interruption in service."

The infusion of the one-year grant will give city, county and state planners time to come up with a long-term funding solution, Owens said.

The county already provides about $150,000 in federal, state and county funds for Annapolis, Owens said: "We just have got to get the transportation planners together and come up with some bedrock numbers because we have to ensure the stability of the service."

With the new grant, Flanagan said, the state will have given Annapolis Transit $2.5 million in operating and capital funds for this fiscal year. He said he wanted to assure bus riders that service would continue.

In about a month, the Annapolis board of transportation will issue a report to Moyer.

Yesterday, Danielle Matland, director of the Annapolis Department of Transportation, said that the increased funding would make it much less likely that county services would be cut this year.

"Being able to postpone the loss of funding clearly gives time to work out other solutions and other ways of providing the services," she said. "We still need to explore new and different ways of providing services and perhaps making the services more efficient and effective."

The city spends about $300,000 a year for the three C routes, Matland said.

Matland said that the city will continue to look at ways of reducing costs and potentially finding additional funding to ensure that city service is not cut.

A 25-cent fare increase is slated for Sept. 1 and is expected to bring in about $100,000 in additional revenue. The new fare will be $1.

At a public hearing Monday evening, about 50 regular riders gathered at the Loews hotel in downtown Annapolis to express their concerns about possible cutbacks in the city's service.

Most said the fare increase wasn't a problem.

"I need the bus. I can't afford a taxi service," said Nicole Downs, who said she takes the bus to work Monday through Friday. "If they cut back, how would I get to work? How would I get anywhere? I solely depend on the bus."nia.henderson@baltsun.com

Sun reporter Phillip McGowan contributed to this article.

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