MTA considers holding off on cutting Columbia routes Bus riders argue midday, late-night runs are needed

THE BALTIMORE SUN

The state Mass Transit Administration may postpone cutting six bus routes between Columbia and Silver Spring after more than a dozen riders argued last night that more promotional efforts were needed.

"Most people in Howard County don't know there's even the service, and you guys are cutting a part of it," said Ruth Pacheco of Oakland Mills village, a commuter. "I'm stuck at my job without these buses."

MTA officials proposed cutting the midday, late-night and Saturday bus service -- contracted to Eyre Bus Service Inc. in Glenelg -- by June 1 because revenues do not cover costs.

Republican state Sen. Martin G. Madden suggested cutting only routes with low ridership. He also said the effective date of any cuts should be delayed until after riders respond to a questionnaire about the bus service.

A public hearing would be scheduled to inform riders of alternatives if bus service is cut. MTA officials said they expect to decide the matter next week.

"It comes down to economics," said Sam Carnaggio, MTA director of operations. "We get crucified for any amount under 50 percent of the costs. The everyday rider in the business suit is the backbone of our system."

State law requires bus service to recoup half its expense through the fare box. A recent MTA study showed an average of six people used the Saturday bus service from Columbia to Silver Spring, which costs $74.26 a trip to operate. Cutting the service would save $100,000.

But many riders argued that the midday, late-night and weekend routes provided necessary transportation for people who work late hours, weekend tourists and parents.

"The people who are riding these routes aren't your suit-clad group," said David Steere of Oakland Mills village, who rides the bus. "We're talking about part-time workers, shift workers, people who have to pick up their sick child, senior citizens and students.

"They have no other way of getting around," Steere said. "MTA tried to slip this in. To me, it was no way to do a public service."

MTA officials said they passed out fliers on the buses for the past month, informing riders of the proposed cuts. But many riders at last night's meeting said they never saw the fliers.

Shirley Whitted of Oakland Mills village said she has been telling riders about the proposed cuts over the past few weeks.

"I depend on these routes for getting my two children around to doctor's appointments and for getting myself to work," Whitted said. "Putting them [fliers] on the seat of a bus isn't going to get people's attention that it's being cut."

Pub Date: 5/23/97

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