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Central Maryland Transit Plans Big on Buses

Residents of Central Maryland can now get a glimpse of how their area’s transportation system will evolve over the next five years, and it appears that expanding and improving bus service will remain a priority.

Officials in Anne Arundel, Northern Prince George’s, and Howard counties, as well as the city of Laurel, have released a draft of the Central Maryland Transit Development Plan, which outlines the transportation priorities for each jurisdiction in the near term.

The draft report comes after more than a year of meetings with local residents and other stakeholders. The Maryland Transit Administration requires this kind of review every five years, but this is the first time that local counties and cities have worked together to publish a plan that examines the region as a whole.

Big On Buses

The draft plan was heavy on analysis of local bus routes in the region, and indicates that bus service will continue to be a be part of the public transit system in this part of Maryland. Already there are dozens of bus routes serving Howard, Prince George’s and Anne Arundel County, with most offered by the Regional Transit Agency of Central Maryland (RTA.) But public feedback suggested there is still a need for more, especially between major employment and population centers.

The draft report said there was “overwhelming demand” for more buses, and for buses to run more often and on time. In addition, residents requested more service on weekends.

In each county, there were more than a dozen proposed changes to local bus routes.

  • In Anne Arundel County, there were 13 proposed changes to routes or service frequency plus 10 changes that would expand service.
  • In Howard County, officials recommended 14 changes, plus four new bus routes. The plan also calls for three expansion routes to serve Three expansion routes were also proposed to provide service in unserved areas including Maple Lawn, Clarksville, and Turf Valley.

Looking Ahead

While the draft plan is designed to examine transit service over the next five years, officials did dedicate space to developments that may take place further out in the future. Based on this report, longer term priorities for transit in Central Maryland include:

  • Bus rapid transit in Howard and Montgomery Counties. These two jurisdictions are expected to collaborate on BRT service along the Route 29 corridor. Montgomery County could have its service in place by 2020, with Howard soon to follow.
  • Howard County is envisioning the development of a East-West transit network linking most of higher density residential and employment locations in Howard County. Some concepts have called for “minibuses” operating separate from the street network, though it’s more likely that current roads can be used, with buses receiving priority at signals and on shoulders.
  • Howard County is also calling for a circular bus for Downtown Columbia, as well as a new Downtown Columbia transit center.
  • Anne Arundel County has called for a high-frequency shuttle between Arundel Mills and BWI Airport. In addition, it’s long-term plans call for premium transit routes along Route 2, Route 3, Route 32, Route 100 and I-97.

The public can read the full draft transit plan, and attend a series of public meetings in the coming months. Upcoming meetings include:

  • Dec. 13 at 6:30 p.m.: Anne Arundel County Transportation Commission, 2664 Riva Road, Annapolis, Md. 21401
  • Jan. 16, 2018 (tentative): Howard County Council, George Howard Building, 3430 Court House Drive, Ellicott City, Md. 21043
  • Date TBD: Upcoming Anne Arundel County Council meeting

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