Olszewski administration wants feedback on transportation needs, challenges

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A bus stop on Loch Raven Boulevard in Towson. Photo by Elvert Barnes, via Flickr.

With plans to improve transportation in Baltimore County, including the pursuit of a free circulator bus in Towson and the jurisdiction’s first earmarked funds specifically for bike lanes, the Olszewski administration is now asking residents for their thoughts on getting around.

An online survey released today offers 21 questions for residents about how and when they travel, what they would want to use if it were more available, their impression of public transit’s reliability and effectiveness, and more.

“This survey is really an effort to inform how we move forward in better serving residents with transit, and generally with transportation policy,” said Olszewski’s director of communications, Dori Henry.

The survey announcement notes Olszewski has taken steps to better prioritize transportation, including the creation of a new lead transportation planner post (now filled), and plan to finance a circulator bus for Towson, as well as the county’s first-ever allocation in fiscal 2020 for “bikeways and pedestrian access.” The approved budget included $1 million this fiscal year, and mentions plans to fund $800,000 more by fiscal 2025.

Henry said the county has applied for federal grant funding for the Towson circulator project, a free bus line with two routes sought by Councilman David Marks. “The intention is to use that pilot to then inform a larger transit strategy, hopefully expand to other commercial corridors in the county.”

One of the survey questions asks which forms of transportation residents would be “likely to use more often if they were more readily available,” and includes checkable boxes for e-scooters and bike share. Asked if the county is considering testing out those rides, Henry said, “we’re definitely looking” at “all the different options that are out there.”

On the campaign trail last year, Olszewski called for the creation of a standalone transportation department for the county. Presently, transportation planning is still housed within the Public Works Bureau. Today’s announcement said he’s “taken steps to build a transportation bureau within the department.”

He also said while running for office that he wants more collaboration between jurisdictions and with the state to improve public transit. Residents rely on the Maryland Transit Administration, which runs buses and operates the single-line subway and light rail, plus an on-call CountyRide bus for those age 60 or older, adults with disabilities and rural dwellers. Henry characterized CountyRide as a “limited system.”

“How easily people can get around has a major impact on quality of life, but for too long Baltimore County has been focused on roads alone,” Olszewski said in a statement. “We’re changing the narrative by investing in things like transit and bike lanes and looking for innovations that can better serve county residents.”

Those who want to chime in for the survey can take it here.

Ethan McLeod
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