MTA releases revised Baltimore bus route proposal

The MTA has released a revised version of its proposed Baltimore bus route system.

The Maryland Transit Administration released significant revisions Tuesday to its draft plan for a new system of Baltimore bus routes, with 86 percent of the initially proposed routes revised based on more than 1,280 suggestions.

This second draft restored several bus routes that drew outcry when the first version eliminated them, including routes on Greenmount Avenue, Harford Road, Garrison Boulevard and Edmondson Avenue, as well as an express bus from White Marsh to downtown.

The MTA's $135 million overhaul known as BaltimoreLink is designed to eliminate inefficiency and long waits in the bus system, and reduce a bottleneck of bus routes converging downtown by shortening and consolidating them into 12 shorter, high-frequency lines known as CityLink.

When first announced last fall, the project faced criticism from those who complained that their routes had been cut short or canceled altogether.

Kevin Quinn, the transit administration's director of planning, said riders have complained that the system is broken, disconnected, crowded, unclean and unreliable. The MTA's goal, he said, is to give the bus system "a haircut to reduce these super-long routes."

The MTA held the first of 20 work group meetings Tuesday — this one at State Center — to collect feedback on the second draft, which will be revised again before being finalized and implemented in June 2017. Other meetings will be held elsewhere over the next three months.

The new routes will come with new buses and bus stop signs, branded in the state's colors.

Quinn presented the revised plan with a slew of statistics:

•More than half, or 53 percent, of trips would require no transfers. Thirty-five percent will require one transfer, and 12 percent would require two or more. The average daily transfer rate would increase less than 2 percent.

•The average transit travel time — from getting to the bus stop, waiting for a bus, taking it to the destination and any transfers — would take, on average, 52 minutes.

•The new bus system is structured to bring an estimated 33,600 additional people within a quarter-mile of transit access, and another 60,700 more into range of frequent transit, a 4 percent and a 15 percent increase, respectively.

•The new routes would bring riders within a quarter-mile of 14 percent more jobs, or 34,400, by high-frequency bus.

•Twenty percent more jobs would be made accessible within 30 minutes by the new routes; 12 percent more would be accessible within 45 minutes; and 8 percent more within an hour, the MTA said.

•Five more hospitals, seven more pharmacies, 12 more supermarkets, four more libraries and 15 public schools would be served by the new routes.

Megan Shook, 72, a retired medical services specialist who lives in Guilford, said she wants to go carless but doesn't know whether it would be tenable. She takes the No. 11 bus from her home on Charles Street to the Inner Harbor. Under the new plan, it goes instead to City Hall.

"If you want people to ride the buses," she said, "you have to make it user-friendly."

Others expressed concerns about added transfers from the consolidated routes, signage, bus-tracking technology, wait times and state investment in its transit system.

Jacqueline MacMillan, a member of a North Baltimore group that advocated for changes to the initial plan, said she appreciates that the MTA working to improve the bus system. But she said she still has concerns about multiple transfers rendering the system inconvenient for riders.

"Transit has to be better than driving," she said. "We need a really good transit system to get people out of their cars and onto buses."

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Significant changes:

Greenmount Ave. (Current route 8 and 48) — Reintroducing CityLink Red to serve the entire corridor

Garrison Blvd. and Edmondson Ave. (Current Routes 91, Route 15) — New connection to downtown

Eastern Ave. (Current route 10) — Reintroducing CityLink Navy to serve Eastern Avenue in Highlandtown

Express Services — Reintroducing current routes 103, 115, 119, 120 and 160

Falls Road, Roland Avenue, North Charles Street, and Philadelphia Road (Current Routes 27, 61, 11 and 35) — Reintroducing existing services

North Avenue (Current Route 13) — Corridor-long CityLink Gold service

Harford Road (Current Route 19) — The MTA Route 19 LocalLink service

Patapsco Station and Annapolis (Current Route 14) — Retains direct service

White Marsh Mall and Middle River — (New LocalLink 61) Establishes new direct service

Curtis Bay (Current Route 164) — Improved transfers to Light Rail

Southwest and Northeast Baltimore (Current Route 36) — Improved connections between CityLinks Yellow and Green

Bernard E. Mason Apartments (Current Route 15) — Improved service to Mondawmin Mall

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