MD: Residents to Annapolis: Don't Mess With Our Bus Lines

July 31--More than 80 people filed into City Hall on Wednesday to protest proposed changes to bus routes in Annapolis.

The residents spoke during a city transportation board public hearing.

Annapolis is weighing two proposals for bus routes. The first would increase fees and eliminate some service on the city's Gold, Brown and Circulator lines. That proposal would increase fees for the Gold and Yellow routes, while adding a $1 fare to the now-free Circulator route.

The second proposal would eliminate the Gold, Yellow and Circulator routes entirely.

The first plan would save Annapolis $878,000 in direct costs, while the second would save $1.5 million, said Kwaku Agyemang-Duah, acting director of the city's Department of Transportation.

Agyemang-Duah predicted bleak ridership numbers under the first plan, saying shortened hours and the $1 fare would decrease ridership on the Circulator by 79 percent.

Gold Line ridership would decrease by 71 percent, while the Brown and Yellow lines would decrease by 41 percent and 22 percent, respectively, he said.

Fifty-one people signed up to speak during the 2 1/2 -hour hearing.

Melinda Cannon, a 51-year-old Bay Ridge resident, said she uses the Brown Line to get to her job at the Fresh Market on Solomons Island Road.

The Brown Line runs from Eastport to the Westfield Annapolis mall by way of Forest Drive.

Reducing service on the Brown Line -- as proposed by the city -- would create a 45-minute wait and make it more difficult for her to get to work, Cannon said.

"As a resident of the city of Annapolis, I pay taxes," she said. "I just want to see where my tax dollars are going to help me."

The city proposed changes to bus routes to help reduce a deficit in the Department of Transportation's budget. Changes would still need to be approved by the Annapolis City Council.

At the hearing close to 20 residents from the Park Place condominium complex protested the proposed cuts to the Circulator. Under the city's plan, the Circulator route would be shortened to end at Church Circle instead of City Dock.

The city would end the service at 11 p.m. on weekdays and Saturdays, and 8 p.m. on Sundays.

George Butler Jr., a crossing guard in downtown Annapolis, said it would be a mistake to alter the Circulator.

"If you get rid of the Circulator, you're going to mess with a good thing," Butler said.

Only a couple of residents spoke in favor of the proposed changes.

A handful of students from Anne Arundel Community College testified about the usefulness of the Gold Line to get to their classes.

The Gold Line runs from the Sojourner-Douglass College campus in Edgewater to AACC. Other residents spoke about the need to continue to the Yellow Line, which starts from Westfield Annapolis mall and runs along Riva Road.

Under the city's proposal, fares on the Gold route would increase from $2 to $3 as weekday hours decreased. Yellow route fares would also increase from $2 to $3.

Daniele Prenatt, a 20-year-old Annapolis resident, told the board how her classes at the community college helped her cope with depression and familial problems. She implored the city not to cut the route.

"I would get up every day at 5 a.m. to get that bus from Edgewater to here to get my education," Prenatt said. "I will pay whatever you need me to pay."

Many residents echoed the remarks of Sean O'Neill, president of the Annapolis Business Association, who accused the city of having a myopic view of its transportation system.

Eliminating routes or altering specific lines due to cost concerns does not address the full picture of the transportation system, O'Neill said.

"This would be like looking at the Grand Canyon through a pinhole -- you just can't grasp it," O'Neill said.

Copyright 2014 - The Capital, Annapolis, Md.