A free bus service known as the Towson Loop Circulator stops at the Greater Baltimore Medical Center. Photo by Kristen Mosbrucker/WYPR.

Baltimore County leaders set aside millions for a free ride to get around Towson but not many riders are boarding the bus. The Towson Loop Circulator was launched with much fanfare in October 2021. Officials are now exploring how to get more people to take the free bus while considering expanding the service to other parts of the county.

Earlier this week Tamar McKnight was behind the wheel of a Loop bus. She was driving the purple route that goes north to south on York Road then swings west to the Greater Baltimore Medical Center. She’s been driving for the Loop since the service began.

McKnight said she loves her job but wishes there were more riders because “it makes the day go quicker.”

McKnight had two riders as she made her way through the early morning Towson rush hour.

“It depends on the time of day,” McKnight said. “I’d say the most I’ve gotten on the bus at once is about eight people.”’

That’s roughly one-third of the total bus capacity with two dozen seats.

Later that day, Shar Smith was catching a ride to work on the Loop’s busier orange route which runs east and west. Stops include Towson Place, Towson Town Center and The Shops at Kenilworth. There were several riders on board but Smith, who rides regularly, said she’s often the only passenger.

“I just think it’s a pretty solid way to get around if you’re going a short distance,” Smith said.

A nine month tally provided by the county shows about 30,000 riders have taken the bus so far. In 2020, a feasibility study forecasted that the bus would garner about 250,000 riders annually after a year or two and when the coronavirus pandemic restrictions subsided.

Read more (and listen) at WYPR.