Turning Carroll Transit Around


In less than two years, Carroll Transit -- Carroll County's only public transportation system -- has gone from the verge of bankruptcy to record levels of ridership. The non-profit enterprise, having regained its financial health, is now struggling to keep up with demand for its services.

Its fleet of 20 vehicles, a collection of cars and vans that transports primarily elderly and disabled county residents, is hard-pressed to accommodate the steadily increasing ridership. Monthly trips have averaged between 4,000 and 5,000 -- double the number just two years ago. Carroll Transit has submitted requests to state and federal transportation agencies for about $130,000 in grants to purchase four additional vans and six radios. The transit agency's application is pending before the state Mass Transit Administration, which is expected to award the money later this year.

As late as late 1992, it appeared Carroll Transit wouldn't even survive. Scrambling to balance its own budget, the state government, which subsidized the agency for transporting the poor, elderly and handicapped, hacked away at its level of reimbursement. With the help of community contributions, an infusion of money from the county government and some internal retrenchment reorganization, the agency was able stay solvent.

In addition to reversing its financial fortune, Carroll Transit has done an excellent job over the past year in making people who might otherwise be homebound familiar with its service. By calling 24 hours in advance, people can make transportation arrangements to doctor's offices, senior centers, even shopping malls. Carroll Transit offers door-to-door service. The charge is nominal, $2 per zone.

By distributing fliers at senior facilities, social service offices and health centers, more people who don't own cars discovered the government-subsidized fleet. Satisfied customers spreading the word about the service have helped to boost Carroll Transit's ridership to record levels.

In a suburban-rural county without an alternative transportation system -- there are no cab companies or other mass transportation -- Carroll Transit fills a critical void. Turning around its financial fortunes so quickly was an impressive accomplishment. Improving service and increasing ridership are even more noteworthy feats.

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