Smaller buses favored

June 23, 1997


Staff Writer

After 25 years of service, the Washington County Commuter could be in for a diet.

The county owned and operated bus service is looking to sell five 30-seat buses purchased in 1986 if it receives a state grant to replace them with three 16- to 18-seat buses.

County Commuter Transit Supervisor Kevin Cerrone said the mid-size buses would make sense because the 30-seat buses are rarely full and ridership has been flat - at about 1,000 riders a day - for the past three years.

The smaller buses also come with a smaller price tag; they're about $90,000, instead of the $190,000 the 30-seat buses cost, Cerrone said.


Cerrone said two 30-seat buses aren't needed because the service only uses nine buses a day but has a fleet of 14.

Cerrone said profits from the sale of the five buses will go into county coffers.

Cerrone said County Commuter has 39 workers and a $1.31 million budget.

Fares pay for about 20 percent of the cost. Adult fares are $1.25, seniors and the disabled pay 95 cents, or pay 60 cents between 9:45 a.m. and 2:30 p.m. Students pay 85 cents.

The county pays for 17 percent of the cost, the federal government pays 32 percent, the state pays 18 percent, advertising pays 1.5 percent and miscellaneous revenue makes up the rest, Cerrone said.

Cerrone joined County Commuter about a year and a half ago. He had been manager of the Rickel store on Northern Avenue before it was closed.

"It's a whole different career change for me," he said. "I love it. When you spend 17 years in retail you get a little stagnant."

The service started in 1972, six months after the privately-owned Antietam Transit Co. cancelled service.

Driver Jane Taylor has been with the service for 18 of its 25 years and said she loves her job.

"You get to know people," she said. "I've seen kids grow up," she said. "They feed me, they take care of me."

Part-time driver Buddy Butts said that whenever he substitutes for Taylor, the regulars miss her.

"It's always, 'where's Janey?'"

Cerrone said he hopes to increase advertising. He said ads that cover the whole bus bring in a net of $4,000 a year per bus.

Cerrone said he also has high hopes for the County Commuter's paratransit curb-to-curb service for people with disabilities.

Cerrone said only 40 people have signed up for the service since it became available last summer, but hopes to increase awareness of the service and usage. About six to eight people use the service a day, he said. People have to meet strict criteria, such as living withing half a mile of a regular bus route, to be eligible, Cerrone said.

The county has two new minibuses paid for by grant money sitting on its lot for use in the paratransit service.

Other new developments for County Commuter in the coming year include new software which will allow the service to measure ridership electronically through the farebox rather than by hand, and a system that will track fuel usage electronically.

Cerrone said one of the biggest barriers to increasing ridership is that many people don't know how to navigate the system of buses. Cerrone said he plans to send staff to places where seniors live and elsewhere to educate them on the routes. About 80 percent of the system's ridership is seniors and disabled people, he said.

For more information on County Commuter, including routes and fares, call 301-791-3047.

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