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Panel wants to triple bus use by 2020

September 29, 1999|By SCOTT BUTKI

A state panel wants to triple public transportation ridership in Western Maryland by 2020 but the Washington County Transportation director and the president of the County Commissioners say they doubt the county can meet that goal.

They say the County Commuter may be able to meet another Transit Advisory Panel goal of nearly doubling ridership by 2020.

The panel, in a report issued earlier this year, said it wants 1 million people a day to use public transportation by 2020, an 83 percent increase over the current ridership of 570,000 daily.

"I may foresee doubling. But tripling, unless something major changes, I can't see that happening," Transportation Director Kevin Cerrone said Wednesday.

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If routes were added, perhaps to business parks in Hopewell Valley, it might be possible to double ridership, Commissioners President Gregory I. Snook said.

"We'll give it a shot, that's for sure," he said.

The panel, made up of residents and government employees, picked Western Maryland, the Eastern Shore and Southern Maryland as places where they want to triple transit service ridership.

The panel's report mentions Hagerstown as a place where a "more intensive travel system will be needed" to meet the goal.

County Commuter ridership has been increasing annually in recent years, from 292,000 in fiscal year 1994 to 346,000 in fiscal year 1999, which ended June 30.

Ridership peaked in 1990 at 538,000 but dropped due to fare hikes and the elimination of some routes, Cerrone said.

Ridership jumped earlier this month when all rides on the bus and paratransit service were free from Sept. 13 to Sept. 18. Ridership was 59 percent higher than the same week the previous year when rides weren't free, Cerrone said. Last week the service returned to its usual fares and ridership was up 9 percent over the same week last year, he said.

The two most popular of the County Commuter's 18 routes are those to the Valley Mall and Hagerstown Community College, Cerrone said. The mall route may become more popular as the mall expands, he said. A route to the Centre of Hagerstown when it opens might also be popular, he said.

Commissioner Bert L. Iseminger said a growing percentage of Washington County residents will be elderly during the next 20 years and would be more likely to ride the bus.

Iseminger said the tripling goal is reachable.

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