Getting around Carroll County on a Saturday will get easier for residents who depend on public transportation.
The Carroll Board of County Commissioners approved Thursday a pilot program to expand the county’s public bus service to Saturdays. Commissioners Dennis Frazier, Ed Rothstein, Stephen Wantz, and Richard Weaver voted in favor; Commissioner Eric Bouchat voted against.
The Carroll Transit System offers nine fixed routes called TrailBlazers, normally running Mondays through Fridays only. There are two routes around Westminster plus a North Carroll, South Carroll and Taneytown route. The system provides about 200 trips per weekday, according to county documents.
The county plans to begin Saturday service Aug. 1 and continue it through Oct. 29. A countywide route will run 9 a.m. to 4 p.m., Saturdays, with reservations required. Same-day service will be provided, if available.
According to Stacey Nash, transportation grants manager for Carroll County’s Department of Public Works, county residents have asked for Saturday bus service.
Nash said the county has offered service on Saturdays at various times, but few riders use it. Residents brought up the issue again during a public meeting on June 8, Nash said, so the county is trying again.
Nash said the transit system will use the month of July to market the program to potential riders, in hopes of gaining more ridership.
The money to run the pilot program will come from the county’s CARES Act funding. The Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act was passed by Congress in March 2020. It allotted $2.2 trillion in economic aid to Americans negatively affected by the COVID-19 pandemic.
Carroll County has about $2 million left in its CARES Act budget for transit, Nash said in an email; however, at this time the department does not know how much of that money it will use to pay for the Saturday service.
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The cost will depend on ridership, Nash said.
Passengers pay $2 to ride the bus, but it typically costs the county about $35 per passenger trip, one way. For the Westminster routes the cost is lower, at $15 per passenger trip, one way, Nash said.
“That’s a lot of money,” Rothstein said. “I’m looking at what is the return on investment, because that’s a lot of money. ... I’m not against public transportation, and I like to support it, but I didn’t realize, that’s a lot of money.”
If the service is successful, Nash said the transit system will discuss with commissioners funding options to continue the program beyond Oct. 29. If few people ride the buses, transit officials will likely recommend that Saturday service be discontinued.