As companies near BWI Airport expand and traffic congestion worsens, employers see a growing need for better public transportation forworkers commuting from Baltimore and Glen Burnie, according to a recent report.
More than 150 businesses in the airport area answered the Greater BWI Commuter Transportation Center's annual survey. The non-profit group works with employers and developers to solve commuting problems in a triangle-shaped commercial area bounded by Interstate97 on the east, Howard County on the west and Route 32 on the south.
Study results go to state and county officials, who use them in transportation planning. This year's survey shows continuing trends, such as worsening traffic congestion and projected employment growth, said Nancy Van Winter, the center's executive director.
While the economy has slowed, airport-area businesses have continued to grow, although to a lesser degree than in the past, the survey showed. Employers predicted a 1 percent increase in the work force by 1993, while in the past few years employers had predicted annual increases of 13 percent.
As elsewhere in the county, business is down for companies that do government or real estate work, while business has increased for manufacturers and service and research companies.
As more and more people work in the area, the roads have become overloaded, VanWinter said. Most employers said they've seen slight improvements inpublic transportation over the past year, but service has failed to keep up with growth and traffic tie-ups have grown worse.
As they have for the past five years, employers found the intersection at Dorsey Road and Baltimore-Washington Parkway a major source of traffic headaches and an unsafe crossroads for pedestrians. State officials expect the extension of Route 100 through that area to relieve congestion, but a shortage of money has delayed the project until 1993.
Employers still rank Baltimore as the area most deserving of improved public bus or van pool service to BWI. They rank Glen Burnie second and Annapolis and Columbia tied for third.
The center plans to use its research as a basis for recommending van pools to Glen Burnie, butit will likely take years to start such a service, Van Winter said.
The transportation center surveyed 469 area employers in March andApril about such things as: the type of business they do; employmentstatistics and views on transportation; highway and pedestrian safety; and the need for more services from the center. Responses came from 165 businesses.
Some 450 companies are located in the airport area. Of those companies, 30 pay annual membership fees to belong to the transportation center, which is financed by the county, state and private corporations. The center's member companies represent 75 percent of the work force near BWI, Van Winter said.
The center hopes to boost its membership rosters by offering bus, train, car pool or van pool commuters free emergency rides home by taxi or rental car in about four months. Only employees whose companies belong to the centerwill be eligible for the program, financed by a $60,047 federal Urban Mass Transportation Administration grant.
The money will help pay for staff hours, promoting the program to commuters and publishing a report for the federal transportation agency, Van Winter said.
She hopes free rides will convince more people to leave their cars home. Often, workers won't car pool or ride buses for fear of being stranded at work in the event of a family or home emergency, she said. A commuter could call for a free ride home if his car broke down or if a child got sick, and possibly even if he had to work late, Van Winter said.
Federal transportation officials look on the program as anexperiment that will show whether free emergency rides can induce more people to use public transportation or to car pool, she said.