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‘A decade in the making’: Baltimore County announces ‘Towson Loop,’ a free transit service for its crowded downtown

Baltimore County Executive Johnny Olszewski Jr. announced Wednesday the creation of the Towson Loop, a bus service that will provide free public transportation in the core of Towson’s downtown and main attractions.

“The Towson Loop will better connect our neighbors with the places where they live, work, study and play and I am so proud of our administration’s commitment to delivering on the promise of this long-awaited service,” Olszewski said at the news conference outside the Historic Courthouse.

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An official start date has not yet been determined but the free bus service will begin operation next fall, connecting riders from Greater Baltimore Medical Center, Goucher College, Sheppard Pratt Health Systems, St. Joseph Medical Center, Towson University, The Shops at Kenilworth, Towson Town Center and Towson Place.

“Expanding access to easy, efficient, reliable transit is an essential element in our vision for a better Baltimore County,” Olszewski said.

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The bus system will provide two loop options which will complement the existing Maryland Transit Administration services. It will feature a purple loop which will operate a north-south route and an orange loop that will run an east-west route — to connect riders to major hubs in downtown Towson.

Operating hours for the service will be Monday through Fridays from 6 a.m. to midnight and from 10 a.m. to midnight on Saturday. The bus will not operate on Sundays.

For years, residents have floated the idea of a free bus system that would shuttle people into Towson’s congested downtown area, said Katie Pinheiro, executive director of the Greater Towson Committee.

“Here we are in 2021 and we finally have it,” she said. “It’s so exciting.”

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Pinheiro believes the service will benefit businesses in Towson by encouraging more people to walk around and shop.

“The goal is to shuttle people in and out of the core and the people who are inside the core to walk — which will benefit the small businesses, restaurants, the shops, the retailers and that’s what it’s exactly going to do,” she said. “It’s going to encourage them to stay.”

County Councilman David Marks, who has pushed for the concept in the past, said the bus service is the best means for mobility in the area.

“There is no capacity in downtown Towson for new roads, so we must implement transit and other options to help improve mobility throughout this dense community,” he said.

Pinheiro said the Greater Towson Committee studied the concept in 2015 to ensure that the new bus system would promote safe and effective travel downtown.

“We conducted a study to see if it was viable, what the good routes would be, and how to make it different from anything else because we already have the college-town shuttle and MTA,” she said.

In November 2019, Baltimore County won a $1.65 million grant from the U.S. Department of Transportation to help support the free bus system, and Olszewski provided new operating funding in his fiscal year 2021 and fiscal year 2022 budgets, including $1.6 million this year.

“I applaud County Executive Olszewski for helping to finalize this goal that has been more than a decade in the making,” Marks said.

Correction: An earlier version of this story misidentified the Maryland Transit Administration. Baltimore Sun Media apologize for the error.

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