Al­liance: Bus route changes dis­rup­tive

Too lit­tle no­tice, long de­lays, ad­vo­cates say

Baltimore Sun - - MARYLAND - By Erin Cox ecox@balt­sun.com twit­ter.com/Eri­natTheSun

A trans­porta­tion ad­vo­cacy group says re­cent changes to nearly half of Bal­ti­more’s bus sched­ules were poorly pub­li­cized and wreaked havoc for rid­ers.

The Cen­tral Mary­land Trans­porta­tion Al­liance an­a­lyzed sched­ule shifts on 22 routes that changed Aug. 28. They found re­duced ser­vice on all but one route.

With fewer buses run­ning and more time be­tween them, some busy routes have seen wait times dou­ble to as long as an hour be­tween buses dur­ing rush hour, the group said.

“They were across-the-board cuts,” said Eric Nor­ton, di­rec­tor of pol­icy and pro­grams for the ad­vo­cacy group, which called the changes too big to be made with only a week’s no­tice.

“From a rider’s per­spec­tive — and an ad­vo­cate’s per­spec­tive — six, seven or eight days’ no­tice isn’t enough,” Nor­ton said. “You’re talk­ing about peo­ple’s lives, peo­ple’s com­mutes — get­ting to work on time, pick­ing up their kids on time. These sorts of changes have ma­jor im­pacts and rip­ple ef­fects.”

The Mary­land Tran­sit Ad­min­is­tra­tion ad­justs bus sched­ules at least three times a year to im­prove reli­a­bil­ity, said agency spokesman Ryan Nawrocki.

Nawrocki said most of the re­cent changes were small, but that a few routes with chron­i­cally late buses now have less fre­quent — but more re­li­able — ser­vice.

“That was to op­ti­mize our sys­tem so that buses show up when they are sup­posed to show up,” Nawrocki said. “This is an at­tempt to make a sched­ule that the cus­tomer can plan their day around. … In some cases, that meant re­duc­ing how fre­quently the buses came.”

Nawrocki said the sched­ule tweaks were fo­cused on fix­ing prob­lem routes.

“We didn’t just go in and blow apart the sys­tem,” he said. “We used a scalpel.”

Del. Brooke Lier­man, who rep­re­sents South­east Bal­ti­more, said she has fielded com­plaints for months from con­stituents tired of wait­ing for the No. 7 bus, which goes through Can­ton.

Lier­man wrote a let­ter to the tran­sit agency out­lin­ing the com­plaints and ask­ing about changes to the line.

In re­sponse, the agency re­duced the fre­quency of buses. Now, the MTA said, buses on the No. 7 line are an av­er­age of two min­utes late, not 15 min­utes.

While reli­a­bil­ity is an im­prove­ment, Lier­man said, peo­ple now are wait­ing longer for the in­fre­quent buses to ar­rive.

“Rather than im­prove the on-time rate for the No. 7, they de­cided to cut ser­vice,” Lier­man said in an in­ter­view.

“Peo­ple who ride pub­lic tran­sit want to get home just as much as peo­ple who drive cars,” she said.

“If they miss a bus be­cause a phone call went long at the of­fice, they don’t want to have to wait an hour for an­other one.”

The changes are sep­a­rate from MTA’s $135 mil­lion over­haul known as Bal­ti­moreLink, which is sup­posed to be a ma­jor re­tool­ing of the re­gion’s bus sys­tem.

That new plan is ex­pected to take ef­fect next year.

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