By Michael Dresser, The Baltimore Sun
8:53 PM EDT, November 1, 2011
Baltimore added a third line to its free Charm City Circulator service Tuesday, with the launch of the new Green Route at Johns Hopkins Hospital.
The Green line will run from Hopkins Hospital through Fells Point and Harbor East before heading north to City Hall and the Fallsway. It will then head back to Hopkins along the same route.
The Green joins the east-west Orange Route, launched in January 2010 as one of the last acts of Mayor Sheila Dixon's administration, and the north-south Purple Route, which got its start later that year. The Orange runs from Hollins Market to Central Avenue, while the Purple goes from South Baltimore to Penn Station.
Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake joined city officials and representatives of Hopkins Hospital and East Baltimore Development Inc., which are helping to underwrite the costs of the Green Line service. She said the circulator, which has carried nearly 3 million riders since its creation, has been a success.
"We continue to get rave reviews about this service," she said.
Christopher Shea, president of East Baltimore Development, said the new service is critical to the success of the 20-story residential tower now under construction at the medical campus. He said the projected 550 residents — mostly young adults — will depend on the Green Route for access to retail services until shopping can be developed closer to campus.
"This is, as I see it, the connection to the rest of Baltimore's economy," Peterson said.
Ronald R. Peterson, president of Johns Hopkins Health System, said the service will be important to thousands of Hopkins employees.
"With our 10,000 parking spaces in East Baltimore, we're doing our fair share," he said.
The Circulator service is financed through the city's parking tax — a source of financing that has prompted some grumbling from suburban commuters.
But Dorothy Powell, a retiree who lives at the Parkview at Ashland complex just north of the Hopkins medical complex, came out to celebrate the new service, which will stop a block and a half from her door.
"It's real good. You get to go to the Harbor and all that," she said. "I love the galleries. I love the restaurants down there."
The new line will directly interconnect with the Orange Route at Harbor East, but reaching the Purple Route will require about a three-block walk. City officials said the routes didn't quite match up.
"It just wasn't going to work hooking up the Green Route with the Purple Route," said Barry Robinson, the city Department of Transportation's marine and transit services chief.
The Green Route also interconnects with the Metro at Hopkins Hospital and the Shot Tower/Market Place stations and with the water taxi to Canton and Tide Point at Maritime Park in Fells Point.
The city plans to launch a fourth line, from the Inner Harbor visitors center to Fort McHenry, in May. Robinson said the city also plans to add a third free water taxi route, this one from Harbor East to Harbor View, in April. The two current routes serve Maritime Park in Fells Point, Tide Point and Canton Waterfront park.
The Circulator begins its winter schedule Tuesday, during which it will run Monday-Thursday 6:30 a.m.-8:00 p.m.; Friday: 6:30 a.m.-midnight; Saturday: 9:00 a.m.-midnight, and Sunday: 9:00 a.m.-8:00 p.m.
With the launch of the Green, the city has discontinued running its temporary East Side Shuttle service, which ran as an extension of the Orange Route connecting at Harbor East.
Robinson said ridership on the two Circulator routes has exceeded an average of 9,000 — far beyond the city's original expectations — with the majority of riders taking the Purple Route He said the department is projecting ridership of 2,500 a day on the Green Route.
"Hopefully they'll surprise us as much on the Green Route as the Purple Route did," Robinson said.
Aboard one of the first Green Route buses, Anita Linn of West Chester, Pa., was touring the city as her partner took part in a conference downtown.
"Yesterday I did the Orange and the Purple. Today I'm doing the Green," she said.
Linn said she learned about the new service by doing a computer search on local bus routes. Taking the bus, she said, let her get around without moving her car from the Hilton parking garage.
"I think it's a great service," she said. "I think it will help with the traffic down here."
Pat Tracey, who works at the hospital doing community outreach on environmental health, said she was trying out the route to see where it goes and whether it gets there as fast as the Metro.
Tracey said the thought she'd use the new service to get from Hopkins to Fells Point.
"It's so much easier than trying to take your car and find a parking space," she said. "Parking in Baltimore is getting to be like New York."
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