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Baltimore Bus System Redesign Leaves Advocates Wanting More

A local bus and transit advocate pushes for more improvements to the Maryland Transit Administration's bus system in the city of Baltimore.
January 15, 2019, 10am PST | James Brasuell | @CasualBrasuell
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Danielle Sweeney checks in with the outcomes of BaltimoreLink, the first substantial redesign of Baltimore's bus system in 50 years, as implemented in June 2017.

According to Sweeney, the redesigned bus system promised "a high-frequency grid, dedicated bus lanes, and transit signal priority corridors that would dramatically improve service." Also, [t]he revamped system was supposed to give more Baltimoreans access to jobs and better connect residents of this high-poverty city to opportunities." Baltimore Mayor Catherine Pugh also "promised that BaltimoreLink would play a key role in the city’s future economic growth."

Initial findings, reported at the end of 2017 and again a year after the system opened, didn't exactly exude positive outcomes. Sweeney's current evaluation continues that theme:

Just before the bus reboot launched in June 2017, I started a Facebook group where riders could document their experiences with the new system. Before I archived it, after 15 months of comments, my group, “Where’s the Bus, Baltimore?” had more than 500 members, including MTA operators, management, and elected officials.

Overall, reviews of the new reboot have been less-than-stellar. Service quality has been all over the road, ridership is flat, and on-time improvements mixed. If you visit Charm City today, you’re likely to experience poorly enforced dedicated bus lanesbuses blamed for the city’s traffic problems, and riders complaining about no-show buses. Many of the dedicated lanes themselves are so faded they are almost invisible, and the MTA and Baltimore’s City’s Department of Transportation have yet to hammer out an agreement for maintaining them. So far, the so-called “transformative” bus system itself has few enthusiasts.

Sweeney provides additional details on the changes made by the BaltimoreLink redesign, a lot more data on whether the program achieved its stated goals, and opinions from local and national transit advocates on the current state of the system and how it could be improved.

Full Story:
Published on Monday, January 14, 2019 in CityLab
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