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As Maryland Debates Bus Service Cuts, Critics Say That ICC Wasn't Needed

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Fewer buses may soon travel the length of the 18-mile Intercounty Connector.
WAMU/Jessica Jordan
Fewer buses may soon travel the length of the 18-mile Intercounty Connector.

The full length of the 18-mile Intercounty Connector has been open only since November 2011, but three of its commuter bus lines are already on the chopping block. At a hearing yesterday, Maryland officials explained why 60 percent of bus service along the roadway should be cut.

The light attendance at the hearing inside the Maryland Transit Administration's College Park office might be an indication why three bus routes, the 202, 203, and 205 are targeted for elimination.

"We've taken a look at the ridership numbers on the ICC commuter bus routes and our commuter bus team came up with a proposal to roll back some of those lines based on the ridership numbers," said Terry Owens, a spokesman for MTA.

The possible cuts have opened the state to criticism that the $2 Billion Intercounty Connector was not intended to be a multi-modal highway from the start.

"Maybe the road was a bad idea to begin with," said Bill Orleans of Greenbelt, who argued that it was and is for cars.

But critics say the ICC isn't working out for cars either. In 2011 the consulting firm Wilbur Smith projected 22.8 million trips this fiscal year. The actual number of trips may be closer to 17 million on the ICC by the end of the fiscal year, based on state data.

Orleans says the elimination of bus routes won't help the state's case that the highway was needed. "I believe it was always intended to be a vehicle for the automobile, pun intended."

Owens says it may not make sense to keep the routes open. The 205 averages just a couple of passengers per trip during rush hour.

"If these routes are not the most effective use of the dollars, then we will have to take a look at them. But if an argument can be made that some of them should be preserved we will certainly hear those arguments and make a decision over how to go forward. An investment was made to try to put ICC commuter bus service on the road. At some point you have to evaluate whether or not its being as effective as you hoped it would be," he said.

Owens added that if the bus routes are cut, the resources can be transferred to other places in Maryland where there is a demand for public transit.

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