Mayor says 'nuts' to ending MTA bus

The Baltimore Sun

Annapolis Mayor Ellen O. Moyer is calling a decision by the Maryland Transit Administration to cut a popular but sparsely used bus route connecting Annapolis to the Washington area "nuts," and is vowing to scrape together funds from the city's budget to keep the bus in circulation.

"It's nonsense," Moyer said. "We've spent a lot of time and energy - that means money - trying to convince people to use alternative transportation to reduce congestion on the roads and to reduce the [pollution] that goes up into the air. So canceling this right now, it's the wrong way to go."

MTA announced last week that it would cut service on several rail and bus lines, including the 921 bus that provides service between Annapolis and the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority rail stop at New Carrollton because of shrinking revenues. The service cut will take effect Jan. 12.

The New Carrollton station also serves as a transfer point for several other bus lines, servicing parts of Prince George's County. Two other bus lines - the 922 and the 950 - follow a similar route through Annapolis, but originate on Kent Island, and transport riders into Washington proper near several Metro stops.

Moyer said she has asked her transportation director to examine whether the city could provide the service of the 921 bus using its own fleet of 26 buses. The Annapolis Department of Transportation is supported by city parking garage fees, advertising, and transportation fees, and with federal subsidies, Moyer said.

"For heaven's sake, we're a capital city that gets 4 1/2 million visitors [annually], we ought to be able to support and sustain transportation from one capital to the next capital. It's nuts. We ought to be able to figure out, with the resources we have, how to strategically keep this route - the capital route."

Moyer could not say whether it was fiscally feasible for the city to provide the bus service, saying that she would have to wait for her transportation director to return from vacation and report back to her. But she said she testified before the MTA and wrote a letter opposing the service loss in October, when the cuts were first proposed.

"It's old thinking," Moyer said. "I know that the state has some big deficit problems, but the infrastructure of the future is different from the infrastructure of the past. Change is coming very rapidly, and there are new ways of doing things. Transit, in particular, is really the infrastructure of the future, and we need to not be curtailing and not cutting it, but expanding it."

Edward Cohen, rail committee chair and founding past president of the Transit Riders Action Council of Metropolitan Baltimore, said that the MTA used good judgment, by cutting a line with alternative routes.

"If you're going to eliminate a route, at least make it a route that there are alternatives available," Cohen said. "I do commend the MTA in the process of trying to cut back on service [because of] the budget crisis; they are at least doing things to cut, but they are certainly making things less convenient and are going to drive away ridership. If you want to get to New Carrollton, it will now take you longer, but nobody's cut off from access. ... They can still get to where they're going. They just need more time to do it."

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