Revised bus route plan still draws some critics

The Ehrlich administration might have appeased some critics by tabling much of its plan for new bus routes, but others are saying the scaled-back measure has serious flaws.

The head of the union representing bus drivers and the Baltimore NAACP president are among those calling for a delay in the scheduled Oct. 23 implementation of the Maryland Transit Administration's revised route restructuring plan.

While the changes Transportation Secretary Robert L. Flanagan announced last week satisfied some transit advocates, Deoleous Bridges, president of Amalgamated Transit Union Local 1300, says some riders will not be able to get to work as a result of the revised plan. He predicted passengers would "vent all their anger on the bus drivers, and I guarantee they will get in confrontations and assaults."

Bridges also criticized plans to shift the busy No. 13 line from Wolfe Street to Patterson Park Avenue, saying it would force some riders who are now about two blocks from a stop to walk six blocks. "You have seniors and the disabled," he said.

Marvin "Doc" Cheatham, president of the Baltimore chapter of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, said the MTA is moving too fast. "The community should have another opportunity to respond to what is being issued as Phase 1," he said.

Cheatham said the MTA did "an awful job" in coming up with its original proposal, and he expressed suspicion about the revised plan. "We're not going to let them pull the wool over our eyes and just accept anything that they give us," he said.

Other transit advocates have been more positive. Stuart Goldstone, chairman of the Transit Riders League, welcomed the MTA's response and agreed with Flanagan that the Phase 1 changes are "relatively noncontroversial."

The restructuring is known as the Greater Baltimore Bus Initiative. The original plan, released in May, would have affected almost every route. It drew an angry reaction at hearings in June. In response, Flanagan announced last week that the MTA would implement only 40 percent of that proposal and defer other changes until a consensus could be achieved.

Flanagan says he is continuing to consider suggestions for improvements to the plan, but is not open to delay. "If we're going to make changes we wanted to make them while we still have good weather and we're still in daylight-saving time," he said.

The revised approach satisfied many critics of the original plan, including Rep. Elijah E. Cummings, who has praised Flanagan for his response.

Edward Cohen, who broke away from the Transit Riders League to help form the Transit Riders Action Council, said the revised plan still prevents some people from getting to their jobs, but said he regards the proposal as "correctable."

Flanagan would not comment on specific suggestions but said the MTA is working with employers in far-flung areas. "It's a question of coming up with a new system of partnering with the private sector to get people to jobs more efficiently," he said.