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County transit plan would add bus service

November 04, 2009|By HEATHER KEELS

WASHINGTON COUNTY -- More frequent buses, more direct routes and the eventual addition of service to Hancock, Sharpsburg and Boonsboro/Keedysville are among the transit system changes a consulting company has decided to recommend to the Washington County Commissioners, consultant Michael Felschow said Wednesday.

Colorado-based LSC Transportation Consultants Inc. narrowed a variety of potential alternatives to one recommended plan, which it detailed in a Sept. 30 report. This week, the company has been holding meetings to solicit public feedback on that plan.

A Wednesday afternoon meeting in Boonsboro attracted about five people, who were pleased with the recommendation for a Boonsboro route but suggested several changes, such as running the route to the Robinwood area instead of to downtown Hagerstown, Felschow said.

Only one person attended a Wednesday night meeting at Elgin Station in Hagerstown, but Felschow said he expects higher turnout at a third public meeting today at 6 p.m. at the Commission on Aging office at 140 W. Washington St.

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Felschow said it is difficult for many public transit users to attend public meetings because of their work schedules, but the company did solicit rider feedback through an onboard survey in the spring, and riders are welcome to e-mail comments to washco@LSCCS.com.

The major changes the company recommended are:

o Decreasing the "headway," or time between busses, to 30 minutes during peak hours on most routes. Currently, most routes have buses every hour, which leads to crowding and causes stops to take longer, Felschow said.

o Changing the Funkstown route from a loop to an out-and-back route that will continue to Robinwood. This will give Funkstown residents a more-direct route to Hagerstown if they board a downtown-bound bus and give them direct access to Robinwood Medical Center if they board an out-bound bus, he said.

o Extending the Prime Outlets route to stop at the Maryland Transit Administration bus station. The route will be coordinated with the schedule for MTA's commuter buses that connect Hagerstown to the Washington, D.C., Metro system, Felschow said.

o Combining the Williamsport and Valley Mall routes so Williamsport residents can go straight to the mall and to make the trip between Hagerstown and the mall more direct.

o Adding a route that will run between the Fed Ex facility, Valley Mall and Prime Outlets

o Replacing the seldom-used Eastern Boulevard leg of the Longmeadow route with "deviation service," in which the bus will change its route if someone calls in with a special request.

o Adding rural routes to Hancock, Sharpsburg and Boonsboro/Keedysville. Those routes would run two to four trips a day.

The company's Sept. 30 report shows the changes being implemented in three phases over the next six years, but Felschow said he had since learned the county would not be able to increase its transit budget at all for at least the next two or three years.

The county could go ahead and make the few changes that have no associated cost, but any changes that require increased funding will have to be pushed back until that funding becomes available, Felschow said.

The report shows that when fully implemented, the recommended transit system would cost about $4.7 million per year to operate. That's more than double the 2008 operating cost of $2.2 million.

In addition, the report shows $3.8 million worth of capital expenses over the course of implementing the recommended changes, most of which could come from state and federal grants.

If you go...



What: Transit study public meeting

When: Today, 6 p.m.

Where: Commission on Aging office, fourth floor of the Aspiring to Serve building, 140 W. Franklin St., Hagerstown

Online...



View the report at http://LSSCS.com/projects/washingtonco/tm3.htm

E-mail comments to washco@LSCCS.com

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