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Baltimore County launches long-awaited free bus circulator, ‘Towson Loop,’ with hopes to alleviate Towson’s congested downtown

The Towson Loop circulator is officially open for service to provide free, localized transportation for residents or visitors around the core of Towson’s downtown.

The circulator is Baltimore County’s first free public transportation service, and also features access to a bike rack, air conditioning, and space for wheelchairs and strollers. The service made its first route at noon Tuesday, the county said in a news release.

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“I could not be more proud to finally bring this much-needed, long-promised, free transit service that will better connect our residents with the places they live, work, study, and play,” said Baltimore County Executive Johnny Olszewski Jr. in a statement.

The bus system operates a 12-vehicle, county-owned fleet of 25 passenger shuttles that traverses two routes within Towson. A purple loop runs north-south and an orange loop that runs east-west — to connect riders to major desitinations around downtown Towson.

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One of the circulator shuttle buses leaves from a stop on the purple route on Pennsylvania Avenue in Towson this week.
One of the circulator shuttle buses leaves from a stop on the purple route on Pennsylvania Avenue in Towson this week. (Brian Krista/Baltimore Sun Media)

“Expanding access to easy, efficient, reliable transit is an essential element in our vision for a better Baltimore County,” Olszewski said. “This is a major step in our efforts to build a stronger local transit system that will carry Baltimore County into the future.”

The routes complement the existing Maryland Transit Administration bus services, connecting residents, students and visitors to such places as 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.

County Council member David Marks, who represents Towson, has pushed to make this project a reality since 2010.

“Towson is a densely-populated area where we cannot build any more roads,” he said. “That’s why we have worked over the past decade to create a circulator to improve mobility, connecting our neighborhoods, businesses, and institutions of higher learning.”

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Under a plan announced in June, 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 shuttles are scheduled to come every 15 minutes, according to the county news release.

Katie Pinheiro, executive director of the Greater Towson Committee, previously said residents have floated the idea of a free bus system that would shuttle people in and out of Towson’s downtown area for years.

“Here we are in 2021 and we finally have it,” she said in June.

Coach USA, a New Jersey-based bus operator, will run the system under a contract through its subsidiary Dillon’s Bus Service. The county awarded the company a three-year contract with two possible two-year renewals worth a total of $27.5 million over the full seven years, according to Sean Naron, Olszewski’s spokesman.

Dawn Barber, the lead bus driver for the Towson Loop with 17 years of experience in the field, is thrilled to be a part of the new service.

“I like working with the community at large and I’m pretty excited about this,” she said.

The county has set up a website where it will post updates on the service, with plans of adding similar systems in other communities.

Baltimore Sun Media photographer Brian Krista contributed to this article.

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