Commuters say Baltimore's 'bus bridge' running better, with a few bumps, on second day

The second day of the $2.2 million “bus bridge” meant to replace the Baltimore area’s metro system while it’s closed for emergency repairs seemed to go more smoothly than the first, though many riders still reported commutes taking a half hour or more longer than normal.

Officials with the Maryland Transit Administration said they made some changes after Monday’s rollout of the service, including beginning express bus service an hour earlier — at 5 a.m. — and adding more signs in and around shuttle stops, according to Kevin Quinn, MTA administrator.

Some riders noticed the difference.

“Day two is much better than day one,” said Carlisa Jones as she waited for an express shuttle on Madison Street at Broadway, near the Johns Hopkins station.

Jones said she observed more buses and better communication about where passengers should wait. “Of course, it will get better as each day goes by. They had to work out the kinks,” she said.

Still, her commute on the metro took her 18 minutes. “Now, it’s taking an hour,” she said.

The subway was closed over the weekend for safety inspections after the need for emergency repairs on the above ground, northwest leg to Owings Mills were discovered late last week, according to the Maryland Department of Transportation. Problems discovered on the underground portion led to a closure of the full system.

Metro has a ridership of 40,000 each weekday, officials said, and about 17,000 on weekends.

Glenn Smith, vice president of the Baltimore Transit Equity Coalition — a group that advocates reinstatement of the Red Line rail project that Gov. Larry Hogan dismissed in 2015 — said the closure reflects larger problems in the city’s transportation system.

The shutdown is a major inconvenience for people who rely on the subway system to get to work and school, he said.

“It’s really throwing peoples’ time off,” he said.

The change added an extra 30 minutes to Donte Daniels’ commute to his job as a stocker at Family Dollar. But, as he walked to catch the northbound bus home Daniels, 24, praised the quality of the charter buses — some hired from Coach USA. “It’s a nice bus,” he said.

Not all riders were on board with the shuttle.

“It sucks,” said Deb Constantineay, 61, who typically takes the metro as part of her commute between her job at Johns Hopkins and her home in Glen Burnie.

Tuesday afternoon she said she waited 40 minutes for a bus that would drop her off at Lexington Market — the rest had been express buses, going straight to Mondawmin Mall, she said. Typically, she only has to wait a few minutes for the subway to arrive.

“We do nothing but stand here and wait,” she said.

ctkacik@baltsun.com

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