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Consultant recommends expanding transit to outlying communities

July 13, 2009|By HEATHER KEELS

WASHINGTON COUNTY -- A consulting company studying Washington County's public transit system has issued preliminary recommendations to consolidate the current County Commuter routes for greater efficiency, and introduce bus service to Boonsboro, Hancock, Sharpsburg and Fort Ritchie at Cascade.

That scenario is one of a wide variety of alternatives detailed in a June 25 report by LSC Transportation Consultants Inc., the Colorado-based company contracted by the Hagerstown/Eastern Panhandle Metropolitan Planning Organization to prepare an updated transit development plan for the county.

All of the options described in the report are still on the table for consideration, consultant Michael Felschow said.

LSC staff will seek public input on the options at two public meetings this week, then present the options and the public's feedback to a technical group that will decide on the final recommendation, Felschow said.

Consultants will release another report in mid-August presenting a more detailed plan for how the recommended system would work and how to implement it, and another public meeting will be held in early September to discuss that report, he said.

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LSC's preliminary recommendation comes in two parts.

The first part would overhaul the existing routes to reduce duplication, cut down on transfers and decrease the time between buses during peak hours.

The nine current County Commuter routes would be consolidated into five, with part of the Maugansville route replaced by a dial-a-ride zone, where riders would have to call ahead to schedule door-to-door transit service.

The Pennsylvania Avenue leg of the current Maugansville route would be combined with the current Williamsport route to make one long north-south route. Similarly, Salem Avenue and Robinwood would be merged into one route, and Eastern Boulevard and Northern Avenue would be served by the same route as Valley Mall and Prime Outlets.

In addition, the recommended system would allow riders to call in to request special pickups throughout most of Hagerstown by making two of the routes "deviation routes." On those routes, buses could leave the route for special stops, but would be required to return to the route within one block of the point of deviation to ensure all intersections along the route are served. This option makes transit more flexible, but also less reliable, the report says. The bus would be considered "on time" as long as it arrived at a given stop within a 10- to 15-minute window, the report says.

The second part of the company's preliminary recommendation is for the addition of four rural routes that would each run four round-trips a day. One would serve Hancock by way of Clear Spring, another would serve Sharpsburg, a third would serve Keedysville by way of Boonsboro, and the fourth would extend the Smithsburg route to Fort Ritchie.

Those routes would provide for deviation for special stops scheduled at least 24 hours in advance within each community through which they pass, the report says.

The first part of the recommendation, the overhauled system for the Hagerstown metropolitan area, would cost $2.68 million per year to operate, or $280,000 more than the existing costs, the report says.

The new rural routes would cost about $273,770 per year to operate, the report says.

The company's report is available online at www.LSCCS.com/projects/washingtonco/index.htm

under Technical Memorandum #2. Residents may e-mail comments to washco@LSCCS.com.




If you go ...



Two meetings are scheduled this week to gather public input on transportation needs in Washington County.

What: Transit input meeting one

When: Wednesday at 7 p.m.

Where: Aspiring to Serve building, 140 W. Franklin St., fourth floor, Commission on Aging offices

What: Transit input meeting two

When: Thursday at 6 p.m.

Where: Boonsboro Library branch, 401 Potomac St., Boonsboro

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