Service adjustments have been proposed by the Maryland Department of Transportation (MDOT) Maryland Transit Administration (MDOT MTA) as the organization faces an unprecedented decline of transportation revenues due to the pandemic.
Adjustments were proposed for MARC, commuter bus and local bus route realignments to optimize transit service for core bus riders, especially transit-dependent households. As one of six agencies funded by the Transportation Trust Fund, MDOT MTA's transit route changes are part of MDOT's multi-faceted approach across the department to manage the fiscal impact of COVID-19 through operating and capital budget reductions.
"The financial impact created by the COVID-19 crisis has created an unparalleled challenge for transit agencies across the U.S. and many are facing difficult decisions," said Kevin Quinn, MDOT MTA administrator. "MDOT MTA will continue to strive for a safe, reliable and equitable transit system that provides opportunity to all citizens in the Baltimore region."
MDOT MTA will hold 10 virtual public hearings for local bus between Oct. 5 and Oct. 16 about the proposed changes as part of a 30-day public review and comment period that ends Nov. 15. The proposal would affect approximately 3.6 percent of riders and would go into effect Jan. 3, 2021. MARC and commuter bus public hearings and effective dates will be announced this fall.
With a focus on essential travel and employers continuing to support telework options, MDOT MTA says ridership has decreased dramatically since mid-March. During the peak of the stay-at-home order, transportation volumes were down across the network in the second week of April compared to the same week a year ago: all MTA transit – down 70 percent with MARC – down 97 percent, commuter bus – down 95 percent and core local bus – down 61 percent. In the third week of August compared to the same week a year ago, transportation volumes were ramping back up: all MTA transit – down 55 percent with MARC – down 91 percent, commuter bus – down 87 percent and core local bus – down 47 percent.
While funding from Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security Act has been critical to maintaining service for essential employees throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, MDOT MTA says it anticipates fully expending these funds by September 2020.
The proposed local bus network changes focus on connecting Baltimore City and major job centers and would have fewer suburban routes in Baltimore and Anne Arundel counties. MDOT MTA says it used ridership data and trend analysis to ensure riders have access to employment hubs, educational systems and other essential services. As a result of the changes, an additional six percent of the population and an additional four percent of jobs within the service area would have increased access to frequent transit within 1/4 mile.
These local bus route realignments would result in an overall service reduction of about 20 percent, affecting routes that have lower ridership and/or overlapping service with other routes. Of the approximately 3.6 percent of riders who would be affected, more than half of those riders would still have access to transit within 1/4 mile.
A full list of proposed service adjustments can be viewed on MDOT MTA’s website.