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The Carroll County Board of Commissioners is expected to vote on a resolution next week that clearly states the board's intention to prevent the construction of any mass transit system that allows access into and out of the county, said Commissioner Doug Howard, R-District 5.

"[The commissioners] have received some correspondences from residents who don't want the Carroll Area Transit System turning into mass transportation," said Howard, a former executive director of CATS.

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"We didn't put down in writing strongly [in our annual transportation plan] our intent to keep it within our borders and not end up with mass transit. This resolution should make it clear."

The resolution identified six elements outlined in the annual transportation plan for Fiscal Year 2015, key among them being a directive to provide transportation services only within the county and ensure no public money (collected by Carroll County) is spent on transportation services that reach outside the county, Howard said.

The resolution was originally called a mass transit protection resolution, but the title led to some confusion, said Richard Rothschild, R-District 4. The resolution prevents the creation of such a mass transit system, it doesn't protect one, so the name was changed to better reflect its intent.

Rothschild said he supports the mass transit prevention resolution, and mass transportation systems can act as conduits for crime. He cited the decline of Owings Mills Mall and Hunt Valley Mall, both in Baltimore County, as examples.

"[Mass transportation] led to the breakdown of those two shopping centers and we are not going to use mass transit to connect either Baltimore County or Montgomery County [to Carroll]," Rothschild said.

Though both shopping centers suffered economic losses, Hunt Valley Mall was already on the decline before the light rail system was extended to the parking lot of the mall, according to a Baltimore Sun article. The hope was that the light rail would increase business and encourage growth, but this failed to happen and the mall closed in 2000. It has since re-emerged as an open air shopping center with a Wegmans grocery store as one of its anchors.

The Sun article also cited police statistics stating stated areas in Baltimore County that were accessible by light rail had increased crime rates. This was a concern of many business owners and mall employees.

As for Owings Mills Mall, though the Owings Mills Station of the Baltimore Metro Subway was constructed in 1987, one year after the mall opened, the mall had years of success, and eventually expanded in the late 1990s, according to another Baltimore Sun article.

After the murder of Christina Marie Brown while walking along a trail connecting Owings Mills Mall to the metro station in 1992, crime became a major concern for residents and mall shoppers, according to the article.

Howard said criminal concerns, however, had nothing to do with his decision to introduce the mass transit prevention resolution to the board last week.

"There is a large group in the community that care about whether the transportation stays in the county and my focus is to make sure our resources stay here," Howard said. "That's my purpose and intent."

The Carroll Area Transit System functions as a shuttle service which follows regular routes to many communities in the county. It also operates as a demand-response service, a shared ride door-to-door service that is available to all residents of Carroll County.

CATS also provides free shuttle services for veterans and their caregivers to medical facilities outside of Carroll County.

Howard said he would like to see more — and more frequent — shuttle routes in the future.

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"Any changes or implementations will be made in the next five years," he said. "Some [changes] we have budgeted for, things like enhancing the shuttle services to establish two-way service, creating less of a wait time. We also want to make [CATS shuttle service] more affordable so people who need it can use it."

Other than the commissioner's plan to add and increase the frequency of routes, there are no other transit projects planned for Carroll County in the foreseeable future, Howard said. There are also no mass transit projects for Carroll outlined in the state's 2035 Maryland Transportation Plan.

Rothschild said he would like to see more private sector services inside the county.

Howard said the county utilizes very few taxi cab services and if businesses want to become involved in providing this service, the county should encourage that whenever the opportunity arises.

Another possible change would be the creation of a transportation coordination position in county government, he said.

"If someone wanted to take the CATS bus to Carroll Community College, that person could take a cab ride home at night," Howard said. "This would take a level of coordination that isn't available today, but we could coordinate with private businesses to make that happen."

Howard also said he wanted to make sure the commissioners address the needs of new businesses in Carroll County. If employees do not have reliable means of getting to and from work within the county, these needs must be met.

Regardless of the manner in which the needs of the community are met — either publicly or privately — a mass transit system will not be implemented, he said.

"This is our policy," Howard said. "It is and always has been our policy. We have a lot going on, and our plans are always evolving but we are chipping away at it."

Reach staff writer Wiley Hayes at 410-857-3315 or wiley.hayes@carrollcountytimes.com.

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