MD: New Campaign for City Bus Line; Better Visibility, Outreach Planned

City officials hope a more aggressive marketing campaign will boost ridership on the 4-month-old Annapolis Circulator.

The new bus service was launched July 1 as part of a six-month pilot program. The goal is to link residents and tourists to destinations and the Knighton, Park Place and Gott's Court garages. But the service hasn't been widely promoted and city officials are trying to change that.

In the next month or two, the city's transportation department will come to the City Council with more plans for the circulator line, including greater outreach. Mayor Josh Cohen said the new effort will include better signs for the buses and partnerships with businesses so they can publicize the route to their employees.

"It's going to take time, just because Annapolis is a small town and it takes time to change the culture," Cohen said.

Cohen's comments came at yesterday's annual Annapolis Regional Transportation Management Association membership meeting at ARINC headquarters.

At the meeting, ARTMA board members and city and county officials introduced themselves and talked about the roles they play in the region's transportation plans. Some speakers included ARTMA Executive Director David Humphreys, transportation activist Paul Foer and Linda Hartwig, ARINC's senior director of brand management and communication.

The circulator lets riders can park in the Knighton, Park Place or Gott's Court garages and use the parking stub as their ticket. The ticket is good for an entire day of rides along the loop, which includes inner West Street, Main Street, Lawyers Mall, City Dock and Main Street. Without a stub, the ride would cost 50 cents.

City officials have previously said that a long-term goal for the service was 1,000 passengers a day. Before the October boat shows, the circulator was getting about 200 riders a day and the ridership more than doubled during the shows. In the program's first month there were 9,244 riders, which went down to 8,607 in August.

The most intense use was in September, when 14,371 people rode the circulator; usage declined to 11,521 in October. Currently, the Westin and Marriott hotels promote the circulator service to guests, but that is an effort that could be extended to other businesses, Cohen said.

City officials said the ridership numbers aren't a problem, since the overall goal of the program is to link municipal parking garages and reduce traffic congestion.

"Typically when you have a new route it takes years to build ridership," said Kwaku Agyemang-Duah, the city's senior transportation planner. "We're making extensive efforts to promote it."

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swoodards@capgaznews.com

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