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Class helps city study downtown bus ridership

May 30, 2007|by ANDREW SCHOTZ

HAGERSTOWN - At the city of Hagerstown's request, a local college class surveyed about 100 people in Public Square on Tuesday, mainly about their use of public buses.

Michael Parsons' sociology class at Hagerstown Community College did the interviews as part of a study of public transportation and people congregating in the square, said Cindy Blackstock, the city's community development coordinator.

A lingering question about loitering prompted the study, said Kevin Cerrone, the director of Washington County's County Commuter bus service.

Four years ago, Dominick Perini, whose company owned the art deco building on the southwest corner of Public Square, lobbied to move a bus stop on West Washington Street away from his building.

People waiting for County Commuter buses often sit on the steps and the edge of a ramp in front of the office building. If it's raining or snowing, they often wait under an overhang.

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Some people congregate there in the evening and at night, after the buses have stopped running.

Perini's company sold the building for $1.5 million in March to a limited liability company based in Silver Spring, Md., according to state property records.

Nick Margas, of the new ownership, has expressed the same concern Perini had, about people blocking the building, Cerrone said.

Margas couldn't be reached for comment on Tuesday.

The city's confidential survey asked County Commuter bus riders nine questions, such as how far they traveled to get to Public Square, the purpose of their trip and what amenities they would like added to the bus stop.

People who were not riding the bus on Tuesday were asked how far away they live and why they were in Public Square.

Blackstock said there needs to be a balance between bus-stop crowds and passable sidewalks.

"We definitely want the downtown area to be walkable," she said.

Those who completed the survey were offered a free ride on a County Commuter bus, Cerrone said.

Blackstock said Parsons' class expects to take two weeks to compile the results, then will give her the responses.

Parsons couldn't be reached for comment on Tuesday afternoon at his office.

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