Transportation issues — including the fiscal year 2018 annual transportation plan, transit vehicles and the evening pilot program — were key discussion points for commissioners last week.
The Carroll County Board of Commissioners was briefed on the evening pilot program, which started in December and concludes in May. The program runs 5 to 8 p.m. Monday through Friday in a 5-mile radius of the Westminster public library.
In its first three months, according to Jeff Topper, the county's deputy director of the Department of Public Works, they're seeing just over one passenger per hour. But from what they've heard from the Maryland Department of Transportation, he said, a new program takes 18 months to two years to more accurately determine how it's going.
There was talk about whether expanding the hours to 5 to 9 p.m. could help, though ultimately the commissioners did not vote to head in that direction.
Commissioner Doug Howard, R-District 5, suggested reaching out to potential destinations, or lining up with shift changes at local businesses like Walmart.
Commissioners bounced around the idea of trying to work with Carroll Community College to see whether students there need rides. But, Commissioner Richard Rothschild, R-District 4, said, people going to school have already figured out how to get there, be it having their own vehicle or going with classmates.
"There's not enough demand for this service. This pilot failed," Rothschild said.
"The pilot's not done," he said.
Ultimately, the commissioners voted to expand the service by location, but not by time. In its final few months, the program will not be limited to just the original 5-mile radius in Westminster.
The vote passed, with Howard abstaining and Commissioner Stephen Wantz, R-District 1, absent.
The commissioners again discussed transit vehicles.
Currently, the county is waiting on a number of vehicles from the state. Carroll is still waiting for 16 transit vehicles used for the Carroll Transit System that had been approved by the Maryland Transit Administration in fiscal years 2014, 2015 and 2017. But the bids were contested, and when this happens, the state must go through a legal process.
Commissioners again weighed the pros and cons of leasing or buying vehicles to bridge the gap until the vehicles from the state arrive.
If the county leases vehicles, at the end of the lease all they have is a smaller bank account, said Jeff Castonguay, the county's director of the Department of Public Works.
"You're leasing these vehicles and at the end of the day you have nothing," he said.
If they purchase, they can use the vehicles in whatever way they'd like, he added.
"That gives us some additional flexibility," Castonguay said.
The commissioners made no action on the item, though it is set to come up again this week for a vote.
The commissioners also attempted to discuss the fiscal year 2018 Annual Transportation Plan, although after a long discussion, there was confusion about numbers from the previous year and using them to compare to this year's budget.
Commissioners eventually asked to have the plan presented at this week's Tuesday meeting before making any decisions.