Public transportation in Central Maryland simply is not finishing the job it starts, a recent study has found.
The final report of the Last Mile Project, prepared by the Central Maryland Transportation Alliance, points out some of the shortcomings of public transportation options near Arundel Mills, Fort Meade and the Baltimore-Washington International Thurgood Marshall Airport.
“There’s a lot of job growth there and a lot of opportunity in industries that offer family-supporting wages and opportunities for career advancement,” said Brian O’Malley, president and CEO of CMTA. But the alliance was hearing from employees and employers in those locations about transit problems.
The report relied on interviews with employers in those areas and workforce development experts, as well as surveys of employees. It highlighted a number of broad problems that the employees face when commuting.
“We have a lot of transportation infrastructure going through that corridor,” said O’Malley, such as highways, light rail, buses and MARC trains. “We have all these backbones that move people, but we’re not quite there.”
The main problem the report highlighted, for which the project was named, is the last mile of the commute, which surveys showed was often the most challenging and inefficient leg of a worker’s trip.
According to the survey results among workers who use public transportation in those areas, only 27 percent said their final transit stop was within a quarter-mile of their workplace. Nearly half of them must travel at least a mile from public transportation to their workplace. Many traverse the last leg of their commute by walking.
“I think, in some ways, it’s an affirmation of what we sort of anecdotally knew to be the case,” said Linda Greene, executive director of the BWI Business Partnership Inc., which partnered with CMTA to help fund the project. “I can see people walking up the hill from a light rail stop to get to their place of employment.”
Other problems included the transit schedule and frequency of service. For instance, one worker surveyed said that the No. 17 MTA bus came too infrequently and was unreliable in its timing, to the point where “I don’t consider it an option.”
While the study illustrated broad problems with the studied areas’ transit options, it offered a plethora of specific solutions, which O’Malley said should be relatively inexpensive to implement, compared to creating entirely new methods of transportation.
The suggested solutions include adding light rail service so it is more accessible for weekend workers, adding runs on the MARC Penn line, eliminating some MTA bus stops for faster trips and providing free circulator buses in some locations to provide transport in the last mile.
Michael Walk of the Maryland Transit Administration said that MTA hopes to address some of the gaps in public transportation with its Bus Network Improvement Project and plans to discuss the Last Mile Project with CMTA.
“We’re not just complaining or pointing out problems,” said O’Malley. “We think this is a report that could lead to solutions.”