BALTIMORE COUNTY—The Maryland Department of Transportation Maryland Transit Administration (MDOT MTA) announced that Core Bus service adjustments proposed September 1 will not be implemented and all public hearings on that plan will be canceled.
Previously, MTA proposed service adjustments for MARC, Commuter Bus and Local Bus route realignments to, “optimize transit service for core bus riders, especially transit-dependent households.”
These Local Bus route realignments/cuts would have gone into effect in Baltimore County, Baltimore County Howard County andAnne Arundel County. and would have resulted in an overall service reduction of about 20%.
Core Local Bus and MobilityLink service will continue to operate on current schedules, while Commuter Bus and MARC service will begin operating at reduced levels on November 2. As MDOT MTA works to meet budgetary constraints amid the fiscal impact of COVID-19, the agency will continue to prioritize transit service for core riders, especially transit dependent households.
“With the ongoing review of all transit ridership and public feedback, it became clear that preserving core bus service is essential,” said Transportation Secretary Gregory Slater.
“The data shows more choice riders use MARC and Commuter Bus. These temporary reductions allow us to preserve our MARC train slots with CSX and Amtrak and our contracts with Commuter Bus providers. This plan allows us to respond nimbly as Maryland’s economy recovers and more choice riders cease teleworking or return to transit. It is very important to me that we work collaboratively and listen openly to all perspectives. This reflects that approach.”
Top officials from Anne Arundel County, Baltimore City, Baltimore County, and Howard County joined together to voice their approval of the reversal of these cuts.
“We’re pleased that the state has reversed their decision to balance the budget on the backs of our most vulnerable residents. While we understand the significant budget challenges caused by the pandemic, the proposed cuts would have only caused further harm to our residents who are already bearing the brunt of this crisis. Moving forward, we must continue to fight for more state funding to reverse generations of underinvestment in transportation across our entire region.”
While employers continue to support telework options and customers limit their use of transit to essential travel, the data outlines how ridership on commuter services continues to rebound slower than expected. In the fourth week of September, ridership across all MDOT MTA transit modes was down 60% overall, with MARC down 89%, Commuter Bus down 87% and Core Local Bus down 51%.
Comparing 2019 to 2020:
Average daily Commuter Bus boardings decreased from 14,188 to 1,650 in August and from 14,475 to 1,927 in September. (For 2020, total reflects September 1-24.)
Average weekday MARC boardings decreased from 35,410 to 3,076 in August and from 35,401 to 3,341 in September. (For 2020, total reflects September 1-24.)
Commuter Bus average riders per trip: for Baltimore-area routes decreased from 14 to 6; Washington-area routes decreased from 24 to 2; and the ICC routes decreased from 16 to 2.
The public can access a full list of the ridership figures for MARC at this link and for every Commuter Bus route at this link.
Based on these trends, and to adjust service to meet demand, MDOT MTA will implement temporary, strategic service reductions to MARC and Commuter Bus while continuing to operate core Local Bus on current schedules.
The MARC and Commuter Bus temporary changes include reducing service frequency while retaining the overall span of service on each route, as is implemented on holiday and snow schedules. Beginning Monday, November 2, MDOT MTA will resume the following service levels, which were in place at the height of the COVID-19 health emergency:
MARC: will operate on an enhanced “R” service schedule service.
Commuter Bus: all routes will operate on a “S” schedule service with the following two exceptions:
Route 201 – service from Gaithersburg to Baltimore/Washington International Thurgood Marshall Airport will operate only the odd numbered trips on both the Weekday and Weekend/Holiday schedules; and
Route 320 – service from Columbia to Baltimore will operate regular service.
Local Bus: No changes — all Express Bus routes and LocalLinks 38 and 92 remain suspended.
“Even in the face of unprecedented revenue reductions due to the pandemic, the MDOT MTA team has worked diligently to develop a plan that serves our riders and job centers, and supports Maryland’s continued recovery,” said MDOT MTA Administrator Kevin Quinn.
“The agency’s goal remains serving the region’s transit needs while managing unparalleled fiscal demands.”
As one of six agencies funded by the Transportation Trust Fund, MDOT MTA is proposing these changes as part of MDOT’s multi-faceted approach across the department to manage the fiscal impact of COVID-19. Riders can visit mta.maryland.gov/coronavirus for updated Commuter Bus “S” and MARC Train “R” schedules. Riders needing additional information can contact the Transit Information Contact Center at 410-539-5000.