Following a comprehensive review of Baltimore’s Local Bus system, which included extensive outreach and input from riders and other stakeholders, the Maryland Transit Administration (MTA) July 14 announced a series of improvements to better meet the needs of customers by enhancing bus service reliability, increasing efficiency, providing real-time notification and connecting customers to new job centers.
The improvements, which will start this August, are the first phase of a comprehensive plan to build a better bus system that will conveniently connect customers to where they want to go. Work on the multi-year plan, known as the Bus Network Improvement Project (BNIP), began in summer 2013 with the goal of delivering meaningful and substantive improvements to MTA’s Local Bus system that serves downtown Baltimore and the surrounding metropolitan region with 57 bus routes.
“The purpose of the Bus Network Improvement Project is to ensure that our bus customers can count on us to take them where they want to go – quickly, efficiently and reliably,” said Transportation Secretary James T. Smith, Jr. “This top-to-bottom review is crucial to our efforts to help us meet the O’Malley-Brown Administration’s goal of doubling transit ridership by 2020 and to ensure that current and future bus service aligns with housing, job growth and development plans in Baltimore City and the surrounding region. While we are still in the early stages of this multi-year study, we are pleased this review has already generated several key improvements that we can start this summer.”
“Our bus network is an integral part of a comprehensive and connected transit system, along with Metro Subway, Light Rail, MARC Train, and Commuter Bus,” said MTA Administrator & CEO Robert Smith. “It’s imperative that the system runs as efficiently and reliably as possible, and this comprehensive review will help us achieve that goal. We will continue to work closely with riders, residents, businesses, elected officials, civic leaders and transit advocates to complete the Bus Network Improvement Project and to deliver an efficient bus network that residents can count on.”
Beginning this August and continuing through 2015, MTA will launch a series of enhancements to improve the Local Bus system in the following categories: reliability, efficiency, real-time notification and connections to new job centers.
To improve reliability, MTA is enhancing its on-street monitoring process this fall. By strategically placing supervisory staff along bus routes, improving the use of technology and streamlining processes for real-time management, MTA will be better able to ensure buses are on time and any delays are quickly addressed.
MTA also plans to initiate a major bus schedule overhaul to ensure schedules more accurately reflect traffic and ridership patterns. Updated bus schedules for some routes will be available on August 24, with more revisions coming with each schedule change, approximately three times per year.
Starting this August, MTA will launch a Bus Stop Optimization pilot program on four bus lines. The goal of the program is to ensure bus stops are adequately spaced apart to increase bus efficiency by reducing the number of stops a bus makes. Careful consideration will be taken to ensure bus stops are not spaced too far apart to decrease ridership. Data from this pilot program will be used when making future changes to bus stop locations. Customers will be made aware well in advance of any changes made to their bus stop locations and will have an opportunity to comment about the changes by calling 410-454-1929 or emailing their comments to BusStopModification@mta.maryland.gov. The email address and phone number for customer comments about bus stop changes will be posted on bus stop signs and at mta.maryland.gov. The lines that will be part of the Bus Stop Optimization pilot program are:
- Local Bus Line No. 50 (Erdman Avenue & Belair Road)
- Local Bus Line No. 53 (Old Court Metro Station to Mondawmin Metro Station)
- Local Bus Line No. 56 (Glyndon to Owings Mills Town Center)
- Local Bus Line No. 59 (Owings Mills Transit Center/Redland Court to Reisterstown Plaza Metro Station).
Beginning this fall, MTA will implement a real-time bus tracking system for the entire Local Bus system. Real-time bus information is one of the items most requested by bus riders and will give customers the ability to access real-time bus information 24/7 from their mobile devices, computers or MTA’s customer information line. Once the bus tracking system goes live, customers may visit the website to access the real-time bus-tracking system. The online system will be similar to MTA’s real-time Light Rail tracking system that launched this past May.
Connections to Job Centers
Two important service changes will take place to better connect residents with new job opportunities within Baltimore City, specifically Horseshoe Casino Baltimore on Russell Street and the Amazon Distribution Center on Broening Highway. To better serve the Casino, on August 24, 2014, MTA will re-align the No. 51 line, which will connect residents from neighborhoods in west and southwest Baltimore to job opportunities at the Casino as well as provide additional connections from both the Light Rail and Metro Subway. To service the Amazon Distribution Center, effective February 2015, MTA plans on adding a new route and realigning several services in the area.
“Phase one of BNIP gets us one step closer to realizing the Central Maryland Transportation Alliance’s vision of convenient, interconnected mass transit options that connect job-ready residents to key employment centers with increased efficiency and reliability,” said Brian O’Malley, President & CEO of the Central Maryland Transportation Alliance.