The state Mass Transit Administration discovered through a recently completed survey that Carroll County workers and employers are not terribly interested in mass transit. Despite the lukewarm response to the survey, Carroll County still needs to think about its future public transportation needs.
MTA surveyed about 13,000 Carroll workers and local employers to determine whether a market exists for bus service to the Owings Mills Metro stop in northwest Baltimore County. Workers were asked whether they had adequate transportation to their jobs. The survey also asked Carroll employers if inadequate public transportation hampered their ability to attract and keep workers.
From the survey, the MTA found few Carroll residents who work in the county and who said they need mass transit. Unfortunately, the MTA did not ask the 55 percent of the county work force that commutes outside the county. That segment, making longer daily commutes, presumably would have responded more favorably about bringing mass transit to Carroll County.
The lack of mass transit in the county isn't helpful to Carroll residents who drive to work sites in other jurisdictions. The Metro runs to the heart of the city, but Baltimore is no longer the region's sole employment center. Jobs have migrated to scattered suburban locales -- Owings Mills, Hunt Valley, Columbia, Baltimore-Washington International Airport, Woodlawn and White Marsh. The subway, designed when most of the region's jobs were in Baltimore, may be irrelevant to the current transportation needs in suburbia.
The responses from Carroll employers indicate transportation does not impede their ability to attract employees. The bulk of the workers at Random House, the county's largest employer, for example, live in Carroll and don't seem to need transit service.
Still, if rush-hour commutes become intolerably long and aggravating, some commuters might want to spend their time reading, sleeping or catching up on work rather than sitting in their cars. Employers of lower-paid workers may also want buses to serve their workers who cannot afford housing in the county. Regional air quality as it relates to single-passenger commuting also continues to be an issue.
Now may not be the time for putting buses on the road, but it is the time to begin planning for the future when there may be greater demand for mass transit in the fast-growing suburbs.