Users of the Maryland Transit Administration's light rail service between downtown Baltimore and Penn Station will soon be able to travel nonstop.
The MTA has announced that starting Sunday, it will eliminate the need for passengers traveling between the station and Camden Yards in downtown to switch trains at the University of Baltimore/Mount Royal Station. Riders northbound from Penn Station, as well as those heading to the station from the northern segment of the line, will still have to transfer at Mount Royal.
Since it opened in 1997, light rail service to Penn Station has operated as a 0.34-mile northwestern spur from the Mount Royal stop on the north-south main line. Under the new arrangement, trains will operate as a shuttle between Penn Station and Camden Yards along the Howard Street corridor. Riders going to stations south of Camden Yards will still have to transfer.
The light rail system runs from Hunt Valley in the north to Baltimore-Washington International Thurgood Marshall Airport and Glen Burnie's Cromwell Station in the south.
The MTA said its Penn-Camden shuttles will run every 20 to 30 minutes during rush hour and every 30 minutes at off-peak hours and on weekends.
Among other things, the new shuttle service is expected to allow MARC passengers to more quickly switch between the Penn and Camden lines at times when one is experiencing service problems.
Ed Cohen, president of the Transit Riders Action Council, called the change a "significant improvement" in light rail service.
Penn Station service "is essentially a useless service right now," Cohen said. He added that the trip between Camden Yards and Penn Station can take as much as 33 minutes.
Changes in the light rail coincide with an increase in the frequency of trains on the MTA's Metro from Owings Mills to Johns Hopkins Hospital. Weekday trains operating between 7 p.m. and midnight, which now run every 22 minutes, will come every 11 minutes, starting Monday.
As of Sunday, weekend trains will run every 15 minutes, compared with the current 22.
The MTA also will make schedule changes to 10 bus lines, including additional trips on Routes No. 5, 19, 35, 64 and 77.
Specific information on bus route changes can be found at www.mtamaryland.com.