The plan to extend bus service further west on Liberty Road remains one of the many changes the Maryland Transit Administration has proposed as part of its overhaul of the Baltimore public transportation system.
For years, commuters have complained about the inconvenience of the current Route 54, which begins at Milford Mill Metro Center and ends at Chapman Road in Randallstown. Those who have to travel past that last stop must walk or find other modes of transportation to reach their destination.
Relief is on the way. As part of the second major phase of implementation that would take effect in June, that route would become LocalLink Route 81 and buses would travel about a mile and a half further west to Deer Park Road. Service would be available daily in intervals of a half hour and hour, depending on the time of day.
Tom Hewitt, director of service development for the MTA, says people understand that there is a need to provide transit—I was going through my files and saw a memo from 1997 about having the need for transit there. However, he says, is hearing feedback from the community about the 22-hour span of operating hours from 4 a.m. to 2 a.m. and the desire to scale that back.
“We’re going to go back and see our options because the local 81 connects to the metro system. MTA has not finalized where the bus will turnaround, but the option we have is the alignment now is what we’re looking to move forward with going north on liberty right on Marriottsville Road, a left on Winands Road and left on Deer Park Road.
Hewitt says that leadership at Northwest Hospital “was excited to get the CityLink line,” a service with 12 new high-frequency, color-coded bus routes that will operates 24 hours a day and connect to Amtrak, commuter bus stops, subway stations, Light Rail and MARC train. “They were pleased about having that direct connection.”
Among the other MTA changes:
Portions of the Quick Bus 40 alignment between Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) and Bayview Boulevard will be replaced by CityLink Blue.
No. 44 route between Rodgers Avenue Metro Subway link Station and Security Square Mall will be incorporated into LocalLink 31, including select trips to Security west and Social Security.
Alignment between Milford Mill Metro SubwayLink Station and North Avenue will be incorporated into LocalLink 85.
No. 57 alignment between Liberty Road and Rogers Avenue Metro SubwayLink Station will be replaced by the LocalLink 34.
No. 57 connection between Rogers Avenue Metro SubwayLink Station and Security Boulevard will be preserved on LocalLink 31.
No. 59 alignment between Red Run Boulevard and Patterson Avenue will be replaced by the LocalLink 89, with service extended to Rogers Avenue Metro SubwayLink Station.
Changes to transit are needed as the city changes, says Bill Snitcher, deputy director of marketing for the MTA. He noted that some bus routes are following same lines of streetcars, which left city streets in 1963.
An MTA bus ride from White Marsh to Towson would require a transfer downtown. Now, the previously two-hour commute has been reduce to 45 minutes with the new system that includes express buses. “There are 165,000 jobs in the core of Baltimore, but 600,000 jobs around the city. So we need to change as the city changes,” Snitcher says.
The local buses, which don’t have connections, have been renamed LocalLink. The ExpressBus system makes suburb-to-suburb stops, such as Owings Mills Metro to Towson and Old Court Metro to BWI Airport. It went into effect last June and will be renamed Express BusLink.
Public hearings were held in January, including at Owings Mills and Catonsville public libraries. Officials say they have received some 2,000 comments from the public so far, and that as a result of the first round of public hearings, they have made changes to 56 of the system’s 65 routes that have been incorporated into the second draft.
MTA will continue to collect written comments until Feb. 21 and then finalize the plan. Officials say the final version is expected to be released in March in order to prepare the new signage, schedules and training of bus operators.
Gov. Larry Hogan announced the $135 million overhaul of the core mass transit system in October 2015, weeks after declaring that he was eliminating state funding for the Red Line project. The Red Line would have connected a 14.1-mile light rail line from CMS in Woodlawn to Johns Hopkins Bayview Medical Center in East Baltimore.
The full proposal can be found at www.BaltimoreLink.com. Or you may request quest a hard copy of the proposed changes by calling 410-539-5000.
MTA will continue to accept written statements of the public’s views on the BaltimoreLink network redesign until Tuesday, Feb. 21.