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Carroll County commissioners approve proposed TrailBlazer Transit changes designed to increase ridership

The Board of Commissioners on Thursday unanimously approved changes to Carroll County Transit System’s TrailBlazer routes designed to cut down travel time and increase ridership.

The system offers six TrailBlazer routes that are open Monday through Friday, that go through Westminster, Taneytown, South Carroll, Eldersburg and North Carroll, running from 6 a.m. to 6 p.m. Ridership costs are $2 per trip, and $1 for seniors, disabled citizens and Medicare card holders.

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Transportation manager Stacey Nash addressed the commissioners during their weekly open session and proposed changes that include implementing two additional Westminster buses, two additional “shuttle” routes in North and South Carroll by purchasing three additional shuttles and stopping Saturday TrailBlazer service altogether.

“The biggest change we are proposing for both Westminster routes is the addition of a second bus. The second bus will run the exact same routes as the first one, but on 30-minute intervals,” said Nash.

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Westminster’s purple and black routes loop on an average of an hour and a half, but after the second bus is added that will decrease the loop time down to 30 minutes each way. The stops along the Westminster routes to be removed due to low ridership are Bishops Garth Apartments, the Carroll County Health Department, the Department of Social Services and Westminster Crossing East.

TrailBlazer’s purple route’s was designed to reach medical facilities, while stops along the black route were set to offer transit for shopping needs. Now, 844 Washington Road Medical Center, formerly on the on the purple route, was combined with the Phyllis Green stop and is now a part of the route, since they share a local parking lot.

Taneytown’s green route has the least amount of changes Stops Grand & Fair round, Westminster Community Pool and Meadow Creek, will all be removed all for lack for ridership.

According to Nash, North Carroll’s orange route “has had excellent ridership since its inception.” As a result, the transport agency requested a shuttle route for both North and South Carroll.

“The shuttle will go from the North Carroll Senior Center to [Business\Employment Resource Center]. Walmart and the post office will be a part of that route, which allows the loop to be run in 30 minutes and decreases the ride by an hour for residents,” said Nash.

According to Nash, rather than utilizing a standard TrailBlazer bus, the transit authorities proposed using the one ProMaster Passenger Shuttle that the agency already had and suggested using the grant money received earlier in the year to purchase three more buses.

The fare for these shuttles would $1 per trip and $.50 for seniors, disabled citizens and Medicare card holders.

South Carroll will no longer provide service to Walgreens, Springfield Complex, Liberty Exchange, Carrolltown Village, Piney Run Apartments, Weis Market and Gaither Manor.

“The South Carroll route is basically the Eldersburg route with a few more stops on it. By removing the seven stops [on the South Carroll route] and just offering a shuttle, this loop will also run every 30 minutes,” said Nash.

Transit is also eliminating all Saturday service. Since shutting down for the outbreak of COVID-19, there has not been any service on Saturday and the transit system has not received any requests for it, Nash said.

Transit plans to pay for these changes with the coronavirus CARES funding the county received from the Federal Transit Administration. According to Nash, she is confident that the county will be able to keep the money, unless FTA decides to reallocate the resources elsewhere.

“Until that money is spent or pulled back by the FTA, I fully believe we do not have to worry about FTA trying to take back this money until the fiscal year of 2023,” said Nash.

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In the event that the money stops being distributed, the program would need about $100,000 added to the budget. The commissioners expressed concern about future funding, but Nash said increased demand could help pay for future costs.

“We believe ... ridership will increase based off these changes, and therefore, costs will decrease in the coming years,” Nash said. “We do not anticipate a negative impact on the budget.”

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