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Greater Towson Committee green-lights further study of circulator bus

Towson Times
Towson circulator idea still on the table after study by Greater Towson Committee

There's plenty of gas left in the tank of the Towson Circulator idea, after a preliminary study by a group of business leaders and elected officials.

The Towson Circulator Study Committee, a subcommittee of the Greater Towson Committee, has issued its final report, "finding that the potential for a Towson Circulator/Shuttle exists, and that it could benefit the Towson community and the continued vitality and attractiveness of the core of the Towson," as the report reads.

The private sector now should fund a professional feasibility study "with meaningful citizen engagement," the report recommends.

"If the service is determined to be feasible by the consultant and stakeholders in the community, the goal should be to initiate service by the end of 2016," states the report, issued last week.

But it recommends that the idea be studied in the context of traffic, bicycle and pedestrian improvements, including:

• improved traffic light synchronization and timing on Bosley Avenue, Towsontown Boulevard and York Road, including turning onto York from Aigburth Road;

• addressing congestion and delays caused by left-hand turns along York Road;

• assessing the feasibility of two-way street conversion in the core of Towson to reduce congestion, increase safety and create a more walkable and bikeable environment.

A professional study would cost "in the ballpark of $25,000," said Katie Chasney Pinheiro, executive director of the Greater Towson Committee.

Pinheiro said after the release of the final report that the idea is worth pursuing.

"We've established that this is definitely something we want to look into further, but we want to be responsible about it," she said. "The last thing we want to do is jump into something. We're in no rush. We'd like [a professional study] to look at the grand scheme [and] what's best for Towson."

"Obviously, if they're going to spend money on [a study], we want to see that it's vetted," said Mike Ertel, president of the Greater Towson Council of Community Associations. "If we're going to do it, let's find out if it'll work, and do it right."

The final report follows a community input meeting last December, which found widespread support conceptually about a free, north-south circulator route along York Road, possibly extending as far as from the Drumcastle Center to the Goucher College campus.

The circulator would be state- and county-funded and modeled after the motto of the Charm City Circulator in Baltimore City.

County Councilman David Marks, who represents Towson, said at that meeting that a transportation component is essential as the downtown Towson area grows, with a new multiplex of movie theaters already open and the $300 million Towson Row project among many housing, shopping and restaurant developments on the horizon.

"Transit's got to be part of our future," 42nd District State Del. Steve Lafferty said at the meeting.

"Our goal is to look out for the growth of Towson," said Matthew Mueller, president of the Greater Towson Committee, a pro-business community group which sponsored the meeting. "We don't just want growth. We want smart growth. We have to make sure we get the most bang for our buck."

But critics said dependable funding is key to the success of a Towson circulator, noting that the Charm City Circulator in Baltimore City is operating at an $11 million deficit and that the Maryland Transit Administration already runs regular bus service along York Road.

Marks said Feb. 9 that he has asked the Maryland Department of Transportation to consider funding a planning study.

"If other cities can have a circulator, why can't we?" he asked.

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