City shuttle delay has financial advantages

Baltimore Sun

A delay in Baltimore's free downtown shuttle service will enable the city to save about $3.1 million and pay for the buses more quickly, according to city officials.

The Charm City Circulator will ferry its first passengers between the Hollins Market area and Harbor East on Jan.11, about six months after service was originally slated to begin. About $2.5 million that the city saved in operating costs will be used as part of the down payment on the buses, cutting the amount of interest owed, said Jamie Kendrick, deputy transportation director.

The savings are a "silver lining" in the series of delays caused by the slumping economy and construction issues, Mayor Sheila Dixon said at a Board of Estimates meeting Wednesday where the deal was approved.

Under the new deal, the buses should be paid off in seven years rather than the 12 as originally planned, Kendrick said. The city saved federal and state taxes by demonstrating that the bus service will not generate a profit, he said.

Two other routes, one that would carry passengers between Federal Hill and Mt. Vernon and one that would connect Johns Hopkins Hospital with Fells Point and Harbor East, are set to start in the spring.

The shuttle, which is intended to reduce traffic and parking congestion and entice tourists to venture beyond the Inner Harbor, is primarily paid for by parking taxes and a parking relief fund fed by developer contributions. After initial costs of $12 million, the program is expected to cost $6 million each year, Kendrick said.

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