Backing off a more sweeping series of proposed cutbacks, state Transportation Secretary Robert L. Flanagan unveiled yesterday a pared-down list of 30 Maryland Transit Administration bus route changes that will go into effect in October.
In a news conference at Johns Hopkins Bayview Medical Center in East Baltimore, Flanagan said the Ehrlich administration had taken into account concerns expressed by the public at hearings last month on the MTA’s original version of its Greater Baltimore Bus Initiative.
Most of the unpopular features of the original plan have been postponed or jettisoned, but the remaining changes in the initiative’s first phase are expected to affect more than 100,000 riders each day when they are implemented Oct. 23.
“This is the beginning, not the end, of improvements,” Flanagan said. “It is the beginning, not the end, of our listening.”
The original plan, released in May, would have cut an estimated $5 million a year from the MTA budget through a sweeping set of changes that included the elimination of service to many far-flung suburban employment centers.
Flanagan said yesterday that the revised plan would save a little more than $1 million. He said he could not say how much might be saved in future phases and would not rule out a fare increase in the next few years.
Flanagan chose Bayview as the site for the announcement because it is an example of an employment center that would receive enhanced service under the new plan. Under the MTA’s changes, the No. 23 bus would turn onto Bayview Boulevard instead of letting hospital-bound passengers off on Eastern Avenue, to walk up a steep hill.
The transportation chief had outlined some of the changes from the revised plan in an interview Wednesday night.
MTA officials pointed to several changes to the original plan in response to public outcry:
Scrapping a plan to consolidate the No. 20 route on Edmondson Avenue and end service on Old Frederick Road. Residents complained they would have had to walk up a steep hill to Edmondson - where many did not feel safe.
Continuing to serve Armistead Gardens by extending the No. 33 in response to elderly residents who didn’t want to have to walk to Pulaski Highway.
Keeping direct service to Blind Industries on Washington Boulevard via the No. 331.
Dropping a plan to run the M8 bus through residential areas of Randallstown.
Retaining current service on the and Mondawmin shuttles.
Flanagan acknowledged the difficulty of overhauling something as vital to people as bus service and the vehemence of the response to the MTA’s first proposal.
“There is a political challenge to doing this,” he said. “It is still a formidable task.”
His decision to go forward with a first phase with less than half the changes originally proposed drew mixed reactions.
Sen. Nathaniel J. McFadden, an East Baltimore Democrat who publicly advocated a more gradual approach at a hearing last month, called the new plan “a step in the right direction.”
Del. Samuel I. Rosenberg, a Northwest Baltimore Democrat, said he was pleased to see the No. 61 route to - which had been proposed for abolition - and the leg of the No. 23 that serves Wildwood Parkway spared for now, but was wary about future phases.
Democratic Del. Salima Siler Marriott, who also represents Northwest Baltimore, was less satisfied: “I’m still not seeing a vision for the Northwest corridor that enables a person to get downtown without transferring.”
For a complete list of bus route changes, go to www.baltimoresun.com/bus.