For most of her 17 years working at Regency Drycleaning Service in the Lotte Plaza shopping center, Harris has left her Northeast Baltimore home before dawn each day to catch the first of three buses to the job in Ellicott City, arriving by 7 a.m.
The proposed changes, the topic of public hearings in Columbia tomorrow and Jessup on Tuesday, are part of the first systemwide Maryland Transit Administration restructuring of bus routes in 30 years. State officials want to use the savings to bolster service on heavily used routes
"What we are proposing to do is maximize service and make it as efficient as possible," said Flanagan, a former Howard County delegate. "Howard County has a responsibility. Employers have a responsibility to do problem-solving when it comes to transportation."
Under the state's proposal, commuter buses would no longer stop at the Broken Land Parkway park-and-ride lot, and one morning southbound and one afternoon northbound trip would be dropped from the No. 320 route. In addition, the No. 320 bus service would cease at Patuxent Range Road.
Without the MTA No. 150 bus, Harris said, she will have to quit a job she loves.
State officials say Harris is one of only about 143 riders a day on that route, which costs taxpayers a daily subsidy of $8.71 per rider. They want to end the route in October.
All three lines in jeopardy typically carry 15 to 17 riders per trip, instead of the maximum 55. Daily subsidies range from $6.50 to $10.80 per rider.
But Harris, who lives alone and has no car, said the service is crucial for her employment at Regency, where she makes $9.50 an hour plus benefits, and where she said she is treated like family.
"This is the only bus to get me here to work," Harris said.
Nancy Puls, owner of the 37-year-old family-owned cleaners, said employees like Harris are hard to find.
"It would be a big loss," Puls said about the possibility that Harris would have to quit her job. "It's very difficult to find employees."
Flanagan suggested that Harris could get to work by taking the No. 15 bus to downtown Baltimore, light rail from there to the Baltimore-Washington International station and then Howard Transit to Ellicott City.
Told later that if she boarded her first bus at Belair Road and Erdman Avenue at 5:12 a.m. she wouldn't arrive at Normandy Shopping Center -- where she boards a Howard Transit for Lotte Plaza -- until 8:31 a.m., he acknowledged that the trip is "not feasible."
"She's heroic in the effort she makes to get to work. We take that very seriously," Flanagan said. He said state planners are working to solve as many individual problems as they can.
Officials also have requested more time for public comment on the proposed changes -- something Flanagan indicated he will not do because he wants to put them into effect while weather is warm and before daylight-saving time ends.