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Guest post from my colleague Tim Wheeler, who writes about the environment and green living over at the B'More Green blog.

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Your eyes aren't deceiving you – yes, that's the Charm City Circulator Bus. It made a cameo appearance today in Harbor East, where workers and residents got a chance to kick the tires and board it during a lunchtime rally at the Katyn Memorial to promote alternatives to driving in the bustling, at-times gridlocked neighborhood.

But no, the long-promised downtown shuttle still is not ready for prime time. City officials say that the global recession and problems getting parts have delayed the delivery of the 21 hybrid electric buses the city is acquiring. City officials had said a month ago they still hoped to get it running by the end of summer – which was Monday – but now talk about "fall/winter."

"We've got to get it right and get the right product," says Laurie Schwartz, director of the Waterfront Partnership, a coalition of businesses, residents and city officials. Still, Schwartz acknowledged, "It's taken way longer than anyone ever expected and hoped."

Undeterred, officials launched a new campaign today aimed at getting folks who work, shop or live in Harbor East to try walking, biking, taking a water taxi or riding another bus – anything to cut down on the traffic that often clogs the streets.

Whole Foods, whose supermarket there is a huge draw, was on hand to give out healthy snacks and water. Others stood by with bikes, free advice and information about urban bike safety and the other transportation modes officials hope will ease the area's traffic woes.

The new campaign, "A Smarter Way to Get There," is aimed at the thousands of workers in the new offices and stores there, or their bosses. A survey of major employers found something like 60 percent of the workers reported they drive alone to and from their jobs, while only 14 percent take transit and 4 percent walk or bike, Schwartz said.

The Partnership, one of the sponsors of the initiative, along with the city and area businesses, has unveiled a Web site meant to give workers and residents an easy guide to all the travel options they have.

Photo courtesy of Mark Dennis

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