The most recent numbers are in: Light rail is a winner in Anne Arundel County and South Baltimore, places to which the system was extended only six months ago. Of the nearly 19,000 riders who patronize the jazzed-up streetcar line each weekday, 60 percent use stops south of downtown Baltimore's Camden Station.
Surprised? We are not.
Since 1840, when the first train steamed from Baltimore City to Annapolis, Anne Arundel countians have been comfortable with the reliable and economical all-weather transportation that the rails provide.
Both of the state's great railroad systems -- the Baltimore & Ohio and the Pennsylvania -- selected Anne Arundel County as their route from Baltimore to Washington. The history of many Anne Arundel communities, such as Jessup, Odenton, Gambrills and Millersville, is inextricably linked to the railroads.
In fact, it was the legendary Annapolis Short Line Railroad that began the transformation of Anne Arundel into a rapidly urbanizing county. That line -- later known as the Washington, Baltimore & Annapolis Electric Railroad -- first enabled Baltimoreans to take advantage of Anne Arundel for summer getaways and helped give birth to Glen Burnie, Linthicum Heights and Severna Park. When the line was electrified in 1908, residential land speculation began in earnest. Explosive suburbanization came with widespread car ownership after World War II.
By the mid-1960s, even the last commuter trains had vanished.
But a mere look at the layout of Ferndale, for instance, makes it plain the community was built around the railroad. It was only natural then that when the light-rail system reached Ferndale last June, it found instant favor among residents.
We are confident that when the Central Light Rail Line, which now runs from Timonium to Glen Burnie, is extended to Baltimore-Washington International Airport, to Baltimore County's Hunt Valley and to Pennsylvania Station in Baltimore City by mid-1997, the stops in Anne Arundel County will see even heavier use.
Anne Arundel countians never quite forgot the railroad. Today's version may be much different from the commuter trains of yesteryear, but it still carries plenty of passengers to Baltimore's Camden Station and beyond, promoting the cohesion of the metropolitan area.