Bus riders protest service cuts

January 15, 1998


Staff Writer

About 15 loyal riders of commuter buses that run from Hagerstown to the Shady Grove Metrorail station strongly objected Wednesday to a proposal to cut two of five lines in each direction.

The proposal, which Maryland Mass Transit Administration officials estimate would save about $91,000 per year, would take effect Feb. 1.

"It just totally befuddles me that in a state where we can afford to build stadiums to make sports owners richer, we can't afford to run bus service to get people back and forth to their jobs," said Hagerstown resident Dave Bennett.

Rob Brna, whose daily commute into Chinatown in Washington, D.C. takes about 2 hours and 20 minutes, said the cuts could force him to wait for almost an hour for the bus.


"All you're doing is adding more and more hours we have to commute and be away from our families," he said.

Keith Rawlinson, MTA chief of special services, said low ridership has forced the proposal. The lines slated for elimination did not average more than eight riders to and from Frederick, Md., where the bus makes a stop.

"We can't justify spending the money we're spending for eight people to ride on it," he said.

The lines that would be eliminated are:

* The buses that leave the Hagerstown park-and-ride at 5:30 a.m. and 6:20 a.m.

* The buses that arrive in Hagerstown at 6:25 p.m. and 7:15 p.m.

Several people suggested alternatives, including better marketing of the service, switching to smaller and cheaper vans and giving fare reductions to regular users.

Rawlinson said he would take those ideas back to the MTA administrator, who will make the final decision. He said similar proposals have been scrapped in the past.

Jerry Korzybski, a customer services officer with the administration, said he plans to aggressively lobby for more advertising to boost ridership.

Rawlinson said the lines were selected "strictly on the numbers," but some people said more Frederick-area riders have left the system.

Officials said ridership dropped when MTA phased in higher fares in March 1996 and last January, although they did not have specific figures Wednesday night.

"You're putting more cars on the road," Hagerstown resident Joni Hodgson said. "Marketing is the answer."

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