Commuter Bus Service From Annapolis to Baltimore??? ~ Annapolis Capital Punishment

Friday, August 15, 2008

Commuter Bus Service From Annapolis to Baltimore???

(CP has sent the below letter to the elected officials as mentioned)

August 14, 2008

Dear District 30 Delegation (and by copy to Annapolis City Council, AA Councilmen Cohen and Benoit, Ms. Daley and Mr Knighton of the MTA):

As you know, Annapolitans who commute to work in Baltimore ( as well as Baltimoreans who come to Annapolis), have few transit choices. I am writing to you specifically to see how we can restore express commuter bus service that was terminated in the previous administration supposedly as a "cost cutting" measure. I used to take that bus when I had business in Baltimore and had many friends who relied on it every day as well for daily commuting. We now must drive. My wife works in Baltimore and she too must drive because transit options are so limited and uncompetitive with the convenience offered by personal auto.

But many of us want to take transit for all the benefits and cost savings it makes available.

With high fuel prices, the demand for this service becomes all the more compelling, perhaps even more so than local and urban routes, but I ask you to consider if we should allow the state capital to continue not having commuter service to our largest urban and economic center. I think it is unacceptable and an embarrassment.

As you know, we have had not had train service in Annapolis since 1950, making us what some believe to the only state capital as such (I cannot verify this claim, but it has been made many times and seems to be generally believed by some Annapolitans), and I am fully aware of the challenges of bringing rail service . I think that long term planning demands train service--and I think that a bus service will lead to and establish the clear need for rail. In the 1990's, when I was with the Annapolis Department of Transportation, we restored intercity bus service with Greyhound/Trailways, after our state capital had been 18 years without such service. 18 years! Until that time we were considered to be the only state capital without intercity bus service. We remain one of, if not the only state capital in the continental US without train service.

Perhaps you are unaware of what options do exist, but before I go on, I ask you to consider the structure of our Maryland Transit Administration, for it has some bearing upon this. The MTA is a state agency, tasked to be the federal pass-through from the US DOT (Federal Transit Admin.) and it has a statewide mission, not unlike every other state. Yet it also operates a regional system, operating different modes over a large area, including District 30. While some other smaller eastern states (NJ, RI and DE) operate statewide systems, MTA's state-owned system is regional!

On the one hand, MTA is a state agency supporting transit. On the other hand it is a large metropolitan system. This makes its current lack of express service between the two cities all the more egregious! We're talking about a state run system and its service to the state capital is poor. And we are talking about a system that uses both state employee on most routes, by contractors on commuter routes, such as the one in question here. But what other entity can make this happen?

I do not blame MTA for this service gap and it was the former governor who ended it, but I do feel that when MTA operates or contracts commuter service, marketing and promotion is non-existent. However, demand is up all over for transit--and especially this type of
service, where long distances mean big savings due to fuel costs. We have a fair amount of service to the Washington area--three commuter routes in fact, with Park and Rides. I am told that commuters are seriously demanding more service. MTA runs commuter routes in other areas as well, so how can we not a have a bus from the state capital to Baltimore?

Here are our options now for existing transit:

Greyhound/Trailways 365 days a year, infrequent, not commuter-oriented, expensive, leaves from Chinquapin Round Rd. and not downtown or near urban center
MTA 14 Bus--Local, slow, long, circuitous route, service every hour, ends short of downtown Baltimore

Annapolis Transit C-60: Similar to MTA 14, with service every two hours, goes to Light Rail and BWI Airport

What this means is that if you commute by transit from Annapolis, you must either take a long, slow route and connect to Light Rail or drive to Light Rail in Glen Burnie and go to Baltimore which makes commuting very time consuming.

Conclusion? The most compelling and viable option that will be successful is for an express commuter bus, likely using Interstate 97, making a few stops in Annapolis and one or two in downtown Baltimore. Even an express service to Light Rail might be an option, but only if
a free transfer were allowed. This could be a compromise solution, but is not preferred. What I think we are talking about is bringing back the 210 which was cut.

We are fortunate to have people at MTA such as Deputy Administrator Henry Kaye, and Director of Service Development, Katharine Daley. Here is what Ms. Daley has prepared at my request to assist legislators in understanding the broader fiscal and planning issues:

THE BELOW by K. Daley)

If the MTA receives a request to evaluate "bus service" between Annapolis and Baltimore, it will either come to Service Development (my department) or MARC (which handles commuter bus). For the sake of this document, I'll presume that the request would be for a quick trip from downtown Annapolis into Baltimore, as far as State Center.

The first thing we do with any service request is see what's already out there, and why it might not meet the need expressed in the request. In this case, we have Route 14 running to Annapolis, and ridership, isn't particularly strong for the Baltimore-Annapolis trip,
so our first reaction would be to say there's not a need for new service. However, Route 14 functions as a highly local bus, providing a lot of short trips; it's not designed to provide limited stop service, or a quick trip between Annapolis and Baltimore. Route 14 also serves light rail and connects passengers into town from there, and extending it all the way to State Center competes with light rail: if we modify Route 14 to make that trip, we have to modify every other route to make the same trip, etc etc etc. Clearly, we don't have a
service that fulfills the request.

The second thing we'll do is evaluate what type of service would, indeed, fulfill the request. In this case, we'd identify a limited stop service that isn't obligated or geared toward light rail. On the core bus side, we don't have a route type that does this. However, we
do have that…over in MARC, which includes the commuter bus division. At this point we'd hand the request over to MARC for evaluation.
From there, MARC will evaluate the request, make sure that what they could provide would meet the request, they determine costs, and they project ridership. Fewer than three trips in the AM and three trips in the PM rush hour won't generate enough ridership, or provide enough insurance (e.g., if I miss the 5:30 bus, there's still the 6 PM bus)
for passengers to take the bus.

Now, from here on out, treat this as an example of how the math gets done. Trips get less expensive if you spread them out so the first bus can also be the third bus, for instance. You can also increase the number of passengers by running the buses back to Annapolis in
service (it's unlikely you can do both, however, and operate on any type of schedule that's convenient). Point being, this is the type of math we'll do.
The next point: given the current budget situation, any increase in service in revenue that MARC does not have in reserve, as they're pouring every cent into existing service and trying to make sure that commuters don't end up stranded in DC or Baltimore or at the park N
Rides because there are too few seats to accommodate existing, and expanding, passenger demand. To make this service work, MARC needs that cost, plus enough extra to appease commuters from districts where their legislators may be involved in approving this funding…you know how that goes.

(End note from Katherine Daley, MTA)

CONCLUSION: From Paul Foer
Thank you for your consideration. I certainly believe that if the District 30 Delegation were
to unite and work for a solution, we could make this happen. I urge you to work on this, to count on my support and assistance and to please contact me if you have any questions. Please be advised that I intend to publish this letter at and I may also publish your replies online as well.

Feel free to contact me with any questions. Thank you.


Paul Foer
Transportation writer, trainer and consultant
Foerfront, LLC
Annapolis, MD

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Wes said...

The idea of a commuter bus from downtown Annapolis and a couple of pickups like the MTA lot before getting on 97 and going to Baltimore is a great idea. I commute to Baltimore every day and even with the reduced cost of fuel pay over $150.

The reprieve from high fuel is short and with commuting going up in leaps and bounds this is a natural. In fact 97 is getting more and more crowded every day I would have to believe extending Metro from DC to Annapolis, Annapolis to Baltimore and then Baltimore to DC would be a very logical model to be considered in the near future.

Paul Foer said...

Wes Now they are looking to make even deeper cuts--this time the 921 which serves Annapolis and new Carrolton. Public hearings coming soon...Keep reading and keep writing. thanks

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