The Mass Transit Administration has backed off its plans to eliminate trips on the No. 210 bus from Anne Arundel County to Baltimore, and the agency even plans to reinstate an evening trip that had been cut, thrilling bus riders in Severna Park.
"The good guys won one," rejoiced Pat Troy, president of the Greater Severna Park Council, which had urged the MTA to keep the service.
Ms. Troy and council member Ellen McGee-Keller testified in support of the No. 210 in January at MTA hearings. The council, an umbrella organization of civic groups, sent protest letters to elected officials, and council members signed petitions.
The MTA had proposed cutting four trips from the morning run from Annapolis to Baltimore and two from the return trip. The changes were scheduled as part of MTA plans to eliminate seven bus lines and change or reduce service on 31 others beginning in January this year.
But in the wake of the protests, the MTA has decided to put off any elimination or reduction of service on the 210 because of a new rider-MTA partnership, said Dianna Rosborough, MTA spokeswoman.
"We've created this partnership with riders where we've got a demonstration project that, if successful, we'll extend to other lines," she said.
Last week, a group of 14 No. 210 riders met with four MTA officials. Riders gave the MTA suggestions on how best to run the No. 210, and the group decided what the new schedule should be.
"It gives us a real perspective of what customers want," Ms. Rosborough said.
In another change from earlier MTA proposals, the bus will not become a feeder route for the light rail system. Riders had opposed that because it would have significantly increased the time of the trip to Baltimore. Now, the No. 210 trip from Earleigh Heights to Baltimore takes 35 minutes.
The last bus returning to Earleigh Heights now will leave Baltimore at 6 p.m., not 5 p.m. A year ago, Ms. McGee-Keller and others protested plans to cut a 7 p.m. bus, a safety net for people who had to work late, and the proposed cut of the 5:30 p.m. bus.
If the MTA had cut that bus, riders would have had to leave work before 5 p.m to make a bus. For many people, that wasn't feasible, Ms. McGee-Keller argued.
The MTA also is planning a marketing campaign to attract new bus riders, rather than cut service on a route because of dwindling ridership.
The MTA plans to advertise the line in county newspapers, develop a free-ride coupon and contact employers with information about the bus service in the hope of attracting more riders, Ms. Rosborough said.
In response to a suggestion from the Greater Severna Park Council, the MTA also is developing a flier describing its service that the council could distribute to residents.
"This partnership with riders will tell us where we should market," Ms. Rosborough said. "They've told us to put timetables in libraries, where to advertise and so forth. One rider suggested the bus line should be called the Business Express.
"They are taking a stake in this 210 line, which is important to us and to them, and it's great. It's working out well," Ms. Rosborough said.
Now that the bus has been reinstated, Ms. McGee-Keller, who rides it from Earleigh Heights to Baltimore, has recruited other riders from Severna Park.
"The MTA listened," said Ms. Troy. "I just hope somebody decides to ride the bus now."