MD: MTA Proposes Commuter Bus Changes

May 22--Riders on the Commuter Bus 991 line should expect changes to their route by fall.

The Maryland Transit Administration is looking into the possibility of splitting the route in two, separating the Hagerstown and Frederick service and creating a stop at the downtown MARC station.

The lines will be renumbered if the changes take effect Nov. 1.

The proposed 515 route, which would serve Frederick County, would begin leaving from the MARC station at 4:20 a.m. Another bus would leave at 4:35 a.m., then others would leave roughly every half-hour until 7:10 a.m.

There would be a return service leaving the Shady Grove Metro station from 1:30 to 7:10 p.m.

The MTA also hopes to eventually use the planned park-and-ride at U.S. 15 and Monocacy Boulevard as a stop, MTA planner Glenn Saffron said Wednesday at a public meeting on the changes.

Frederick County has been advocating bringing commuter bus service to downtown Frederick, county traffic engineer Ron Burns said, because it would better integrate with the current transit system at the location.

TransIT Services planner Carrie Anderson-Watters said the county transit system had been looking for ways to allow drivers to avoid driving through the city.

"We thought if we could capture people on public transit north of the city, we could reduce congestion," she said.

Ultimately, Burns said, the county would like to see return service from Shady Grove to allow people living in that area to commute to Frederick.

"You could get off the bus and walk to your employment," he added.

Planners expect that the rerouting will ensure there is space on the buses, particularly near the end of the line.

"This will significantly help the Urbana folks," Saffron said in a phone interview before the informational meeting.

The new routes will add service overall, he said. The Commuter Bus 991 line runs 39 one-way trips. When Frederick and Hagerstown service splits, there will be a total of 45 trips going out to those cities.

The MTA will bid out its contract for commuter bus service and is using the opportunity to reconfigure the bus routes.

The current contractor is Eyre Bus. If the company wins the contract, riders will probably continue to see their regular drivers, Saffron said. If another company takes over the contract, it is possible commuters would see some new faces behind the wheel.

Several riders at Wednesday's meeting said they approved of the changes.

"It sounds like it will improve it," Steve Lombard said. "The times are a little different. We're just going to have to see how it works out."

A Walkersville woman, Dee Crouse, has been riding the commuter bus for 11 years. She expressed concern about the proposed downtown stop because it could create problems if the MARC train was unable to run and all of the train commuters went to board the commuter bus.

However, she enthusiastically said she approved of the plan and said she was looking forward to a stop at the U.S. 15 park and ride.

"I like it," she said. "They're very accommodating."

Follow Kelsi Loos on Twitter: @KelsiFNP.

Copyright 2014 - The Frederick News-Post, Md.