Administration Walks Back Proposal to Cut MTA Bus Lines, County Leaders React

The Maryland Department of Transportation Maryland Transit Administration (MDOT MTA) has cancelled a proposal to permanently eliminate 25 MTA bus lines and reduce service on others and will instead reduce MARC and commuter bus service.

Following heavy criticism, administration officials canceled a proposal to cut MDOT MTA bus service in the Baltimore region next year, and instead will offer reduced service for the agency’s commuter buses and MARC trains, beginning in November. As previously reported on Conduit Street, local leaders from Baltimore City, Baltimore County, Howard County, and Anne Arundel County issued a joint statement to express concerns over the proposal as well as a statement on the reversal of the cuts.

The MDOT MTA proposal would have realigned local bus routes in the Baltimore region leading to a total service reduction of nearly 20%, citing a large decline in ridership due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Now, instead of cutting local bus routes, starting November 2 there will be “temporary, strategic service reductions to MARC and Commuter Bus while continuing to operate core Local Bus on current schedules.”

From the press release:

“With the ongoing review of all transit ridership and public feedback, it became clear that preserving core bus service is essential,” said Transportation Secretary Gregory Slater. “The data shows more choice riders use MARC and Commuter Bus. These temporary reductions allow us to preserve our MARC train slots with CSX and Amtrak and our contracts with Commuter Bus providers. This plan allows us to respond nimbly as Maryland’s economy recovers and more choice riders cease teleworking or return to transit. It is very important to me that we work collaboratively and listen openly to all perspectives. This reflects that approach.”

While employers continue to support telework options and customers limit their use of transit to essential travel, the data outlines how ridership on commuter services continues to rebound slower than expected. In the fourth week of September, ridership across all MDOT MTA transit modes was down 60% overall, with MARC down 89%, Commuter Bus down 87% and Core Local Bus down 51%.

Comparing 2019 to 2020:

  • average daily Commuter Bus boardings decreased from 14,188 to 1,650 in August and from 14,475 to 1,927 in September. (For 2020, total reflects September 1-24.)
  • average weekday MARC boardings decreased from 35,410 to 3,076 in August and from 35,401 to 3,341 in September. (For 2020, total reflects September 1-24.)
  • Commuter Bus average riders per trip: for Baltimore-area routes decreased from 14 to 6; Washington-area routes decreased from 24 to 2; and the ICC routes decreased from 16 to 2.

See full press release.

See previous Conduit Street coverage: County Leaders Express Concerns Over MTA Proposal to Slash Bus, MARC Service

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