Harford Transit's Silver Line helps connect residents with jobs in Perryman, Riverside

Chris Wyatt used to take a bus that dropped him a five-minute walk from the Coty distribution center in Belcamp, where he works.

Now, he can take the Silver Line, the newest Harford Transit LINK bus route that serves Aberdeen, Perryman, Riverside and Edgewood, and get dropped off right in front of the beauty products firm's facility on Appliance Drive.

"When I catch it, it's great," the Havre de Grace resident said after getting off the bus Wednesday afternoon. "It gets you right here."

He had already taken one Harford Transit bus from Havre de Grace to the Aberdeen Train Station, where he then picked up the Silver Line, also known as Route 8.

Wyatt noted his previous bus route — Harford Transit's Purple Line — took him to the far side of the Coty property, and he had to cross train tracks to get to the front entrance. He is part of the custodial staff at the facility.

The county implemented the Silver Line in May in an effort to provide more mass transit options for people who work at the array of industrial facilities in Riverside and along the Perryman peninsula.

"It's what we're calling our Perryman-Riverside Express," Robert Andrews, the administrator of Harford Transit, said Wednesday while riding the 12:09 p.m. bus, the same bus Wyatt rode to work.

Andrews noted the county is working to respond to the growing needs of employers in Perryman and Riverside. Harford Transit is paying for the pilot route with federal grant funds already in its budget.

"We are trying to meet that need of getting the employees linked up with the employers," he said.

Tyra Stanley, a nearly 15-year veteran Harford Transit driver, drove the 12:09 p.m. route. She left the Aberdeen train station with three passengers, including Wyatt and Perryman residents Gail Bowser and Laurel Spears.

Both women got off at the Teake Lane stop near the Perrywood Garden apartment community.

Spears rode the Silver Line for the first time Wednesday; it was the second time for Bowser.

Bowser said she likes that the Silver Line runs later than other bus lines serving the area. The route runs from 5:33 a.m. to 8:42 p.m. Monday through Friday, according to a route guide provided by Andrews.

She said it was helpful during her prior trip when she got out of a medical appointment later than expected.

"Thank God this bus came past," she told Spears.

Stanley continued, from Teake Lane, down Spesutia Road to Chelsea Road, a key route to the massive distribution centers in Perryman.

She stopped at locations such as the Rite Aid Distribution Center-Mid-Atlantic and XPO Logistics' e-commerce distribution center.

The Sephora cosmetics company has two facilities along the Silver Line, in Riverside and along Chelsea Road in Perryman — Harford County landed XPO Logistics in the fall of 2016.

Some of the companies along the Riverside portion of the route include the McCormick & Co. spice company's distribution center, Coty and the Bel Air Auto Auction, which is developing its new facility in the Riverside area, according to Andrews.

Steven Overbay, the deputy director of the Harford County Office of Economic Development, also rode the bus Wednesday. Harford Transit is part of Economic Development.

Overbay noted Perryman is "an active peninsula for us" in Harford County.

"We have future growth opportunities here, both through new construction as well as expansion of our existing business partners in Perryman and Riverside," he said.

The Silver Line is not just a local express route, as it also runs along Route 40 between Aberdeen and Edgewood. County officials want people along the corridor to be able to transfer to the Silver Line, if they need to get to work in Riverside or Perryman, according to Overbay.

He noted transportation for employees is the "number one" topic of discussion when Harford officials meet with employers who want to bring a new business or expand an existing facility.

"We have a qualified workforce, and we're working to utilize Harford Transit to create employment opportunities for residents," Overbay said.

The Silver route is a pilot project slated to be in effect through the end of this year, according to Andrews.

He said it can take six to 12, sometimes 18 months, for a bus route to mature as word of mouth and advertising help the route to grow and for riders get comfortable with it.

"We're just looking to see how effectively it addresses the needs of the riding public and the employers," he said of the Silver Line.

The line has had 1,351 riders since it debuted in May, with an average of 150 riders a week and 29 riders a day, according to statistics provided by Armstrong.

Ridership peaked at 210 during the fourth week, June 5 to 9.

Stanley, the driver, said she sees more riders in the mornings.

"They really appreciate the route," Stanley said of her riders. "They hope they don't stop the route."

She said people would have to take a taxi, walk or ride a bike to work if they did not have the Silver Line — Stanley pointed out her bus and other Harford Transit buses have bicycle racks on the front.

Area businesses, as well as the staffing firms that support them, have been promoting the Silver Line "to their greatest extent," Overbay said.

"We've had steady ridership from day one," he said. "As with all new transit lines, it is slow to develop, generally taking up to six to eight months to really gain major traction."

Overbay noted continued growth is expected later in the year as industrial centers "ramp up" for the holiday shopping season.

He also noted the county and the City of Aberdeen have been partnering on a bus shelter program. Concrete pads have been poured in four locations — the Aberdeen train station, on Route 40 in front of Walmart, at the Boys & Girls Club on East Bel Air Avenue and at the Affinity Old Post Apartments.

The county handled the pads at the Boys & Girls Club and the apartments while the city put in the pads at Walmart and the train station, according to Overbay.

Andrews said the shelters should be installed in September and October.

The federal government is covering 80 percent of the cost of the shelters, the state 10 percent and the county 10 percent, Overbay said.

He said the shelters will help protect riders from the elements and "make transit a viable alternative to single-occupancy vehicles."

"It's a great partnership," he said.

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