Photo by Scott218, via Wikimedia Commons

One week out from the launch of BaltimoreLink, the state says its $135 million revamped bus system is already saving time for buses slogging through downtown.

A key fix is the dedicated bus lanes, according to the Maryland Transit Administration. The agency installed nine more of them downtown this spring ahead of the launch of the new color-coded, 12-line bus system, adding to the one that had already been painted on Pratt Street in front of the Baltimore Convention Center.

According to a before-and-after analysis by the agency, dedicated bus lanes on Pratt Street have cut commute times by seven percent. That savings jumps to 17 percent in the most congested areas from 3-6 p.m.

Lombard Street bus commuters have seen time savings of 25 percent during the morning hours in the most congested areas, according to the analysis. An MTA spokesperson hasn’t responded to queries about where exactly those areas are, or about the timeframe for the analysis.

BaltimoreLink – Gov. Larry Hogan’s administration’s answer for all who seek a better-connected and more accessible transit system in Central Maryland – has earned mixed reviews after one week. WBAL-TV talked to riders at Mondawmin who found the new color-coded lines confusing; the Baltimore Sun heard from commuters who were perplexed when their driver suddenly turned around in North Baltimore while trying to make sense of his new route.

Plenty of others have welcomed the changes, saying the new system cut their commute times and number of transfers. The agency has also been helping its customers, putting outreach teams at certain stops to direct commuters and, as a bonus, making all rides on city buses, light rail and the subway free through this Friday.

Weeks before BaltimoreLink’s launch, WBAL-TV’s Jayne Miller took a prolonged bus trip from just south of Sandtown-Winchester to Southeast Baltimore’s Amazon Fulfillment Center, about seven miles away. It took her 95 minutes, long enough make her late for a hypothetical 7 a.m. shift.

The MTA seized on that report to show that BaltimoreLink is better. The agency sent its in-house TV person, Joanna Campbell, out to complete the same task using the new CityLink Navy and LocalLink 65 lines. Her experience took about 50 minutes.

“If we were trying to get to work by 7 o’clock, we’d be early and time for a cup of coffee,” she concluded.

The agency is still making tweaks. To meet rider demand, officials today announced new morning stops on three lines:

  • The Orange line, running from West Baltimore to Essex, will now have additional westbound trips starting in Essex at 4:30 and 5:30 a.m., and additional eastbound trips at those same time time slots starting at the West Baltimore MARC station.
  • The Pink Line, traveling from the West Baltimore MARC station to Cedonia in Northeast Baltimore, will now have earlier buses leaving from Cedonia at 3:15 and 4:15 a.m.
  • The Blue line, stretching from Hopkins Bayview to the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services in Woodlawn, will have new trips starting eastbound from the county at 3:45 a.m. and westbound from Bayview at 4 a.m.

Ethan McLeod is a freelance reporter in Baltimore. He previously worked as an editor for the Baltimore Business Journal and Baltimore Fishbowl. His work has appeared in Bloomberg CityLab, Next City and...