MTA officials say they 'can't please everybody,' but it doesn't hurt to ask The tale of the Glen Burnie bus stop that was moved eight blocks away

Today's topic: Rampant sex along the Baltimore Beltway.

Intrepid Commuter suspected that would capture your attention.


Actually, today's topic comes from Glen Burnie and deals with Mass Transit Administration buses. (You now understand why we used that cheap, attention-getting technique in our first sentence.)

Julia C. Erat is an apartment-dweller who relies on the MTA to get around, and she has written us about a problem that is quite common, but vexing nonetheless.


Late last month, the MTA changed her bus schedule when the new light rail station opened at Patapsco Avenue. They altered the Number 14 route so that the buses, which shuttle from Ritchie Highway to Crain Highway, would cross Oakwood Road and Hospital Drive more frequently than they do Aquahart Road.

Ms. Erat lives near Aquahart Road. She now must walk eight blocks to get to and from her stop at Crain Highway.

"This is not too bad right now. A half-mile twice a day is good exercise," she writes. "But soon it is going to be cold and possibly icy. Not to mention getting dark early."

What particularly concerns Ms. Erat are the customers who are less able to make the hike: the woman with poor circulation, or the mother and small child.

She has petitioned the MTA to add just one bus to get the group to Patapsco station in time for the 7:45 a.m. light rail train. Thirty-two others from her neighborhood who ride the bus have signed the document.

"I am writing in the hope that you can help us in negotiating with the MTA," Ms. Erat writes.

Well, the Intrepid One took her case to the MTA this past week, and after an hour's worth of debate, we walked away from the bargaining with this iron-clad guarantee: they'll study the situation and come up with an answer in the next two weeks.

That may not seem like much, but frankly, we find ourselves in sympathy with the MTA on this one. Let us explain why.


Each day, the transit agency must juggle a bus ridership of 300,000 with 860 buses running along 62 different lines. It's a complicated business, and routes areconstantly changing to accommodate shifting residential and work patterns.

State law demands that the buses make up at least half their operating costs at the fare box. That means the planners can't afford too many empty or even half-empty buses.

For most people in Glen Burnie, the shift represented no more than a six-block walk from their former bus stop, says Morris L. Wilson, the MTA's operations planning and scheduling director.

Now, the MTA must consider: if the route gets an extra bus, who gets short-changed? Does that mean less service for nearby North Arundel Hospital? What about the other apartment complexes in the area?

"We can't please everybody," Mr. Wilson says. "That's just the way it is."

It's a balancing act between need and resources. Plus, it's a losing battle. Bus ridership has long been in decline, particularly during the current recession, and with the state budget crisis, extra resources just aren't lying around.


How to ride

While on the subject of buses, Intrepid would like to give the MTA a pitch. For those unfamiliar with the system, here's how it works.

Fares are based on distances traveled in any of five zones. For instance, if you are traveling within five miles of Charles Center downtown, you are in Zone 1. The other zones radiate outward: Zone 2 is 2 1/2 miles beyond, Zone 3 is another 3 1/2 miles, and on.

Travel within a zone and the fare is $1.10. Travel to the next and you add 10 cents, and up to $1.95 for those traveling from one to five. Transfers cost 10 cents and express buses cost a little more.

Students and senior citizens can travel at reduced fare with special identification. Monthly passes are a good value for regular riders and cost from $38.50 to $71.50 for regular service, depending on the distance you travel.

The best way to get more information about your local MTA service, including timetables with maps for each bus route, is to call the MTA at 539-5000 between 6 a.m. and 11 p.m. Monday through Friday, and 8:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturdays.


Checking your speed

We asked readers a few weeks back what they thought about our 55 mph speed limit in Maryland, whether it's being enforced properly and if they thought it should be raised to 65 mph on some highways.

So far, the mail is one-sided. Everyone wants to see the speed limit raised.

There is still plenty of time to comment on the topic, and we particularly encourage letters.