Ahead of the launch of Towson’s new free circulator buses Tuesday, Baltimore County Executive Johnny Olszewski Jr. signaled that the Towson Loop project will be the first of many improvements to the county’s transportation services.
“We know the Towson Loop will be a model for success, and we’re confident it will serve as a model for future expansions,” Olszewski said during a press conference. “This is just the first in building a stronger local transit system that will carry us into the future. Together, we’ll build a 21st century transportation system that better connects our residents where they live, work, study and play.”
Olszewski said county officials are exploring other areas of the county that would be “well-suited” for similar circulator services.
D’Andrea Walker, acting director of the county’s Department of Public Works and Transportation, said Owings Mills and Catonsville could be potential communities for future circulators.
Walker said the Towson Loop will be “an amazing asset to the entire community.”
“It will keep the cars off the roads, it will provide a free alternative to other modes of travel, and it will better connect residents with key anchors,” she said.
In 2019, Baltimore County secured a $1.65 million federal grant to purchase a fleet of 12 buses for the Towson Loop.
The network will cost $3.4 million yearly to operate. Walker said the expense is currently included in Baltimore County’s budget, but that the county is applying for state funding and seeking resources from anchor institutions.
The Towson Loop, which is free to ride, includes a north-south Purple Loop and an east-west Orange Loop, intersecting at Towson Town Center.
The Orange Loop will run from the Shops at Kenilworth to the Towson Place Shopping Center.
The Purple Loop will connect colleges and hospitals, including Goucher College, Towson University, St. Joseph Medical Center, Sheppard Pratt and the Greater Baltimore Medical Center.
Dillon’s Bus Service, a subsidiary of Coach USA, will operate the buses, which are scheduled to arrive every 15-20 minutes.
Service will run from 6 a.m. to 12 a.m. Monday through Friday, and from 10 a.m. to 12 a.m. on Saturdays.
Each bus is air-conditioned and has room for 25 passengers, with room for wheelchairs, bicycles and strollers.
Planning for the Towson Loop has been in the works for nearly a decade. Now, Towson is finally seeing that vision come to fruition, Olzewski said.
“This is a realization of a long-awaited dream for Baltimore County,” he said.
While Olszewski was running for county executive in 2018, he pledged to improve Baltimore County’s infrastructure and transportation.
“From day one, I have been committed to improving transit opportunities across Baltimore County so that our residents can more easily move around, and so that we reduce our impact on the planet,” Olszewski said Tuesday.
U.S. Sen. Chris Van Hollen said the Towson Loop will allow residents to “get around to life’s big things.”
“This is going to make Towson — which is already a dynamic place — even more vital,” Van Hollen said. “It’s going to make sure that people can get where they want to go, when they want to get there.”
U.S. Rep. John Sarbanes said the new bus service will make it easier for Towson residents to reach the resources they want and need.
“This is going to allow people to connect all across the Towson area,” Sarbanes said. “It’s about economic opportunity. It’s about convenience. We’ve got a lot of students in this area who we know will take advantage of this opportunity.”
Baltimore County Council Chairman Julian Jones said the Loop buses will reduce the need for using a car to get around Towson.
“It will enable people to go to shop, go to eat, without having to worry about moving a car or finding a parking space,” Jones said.
Greg Slater, secretary of Maryland’s transportation department, said “people don’t care whether their transit services or their transportation services are provided by the local government or the state…What they care about is that it’s reliable, it’s integrated, and it’s safe and they can get where they want to get to. That’s what the Loop does.”
Slater said the state is studying two new transit corridors, including a north-south system from Towson to Downtown Baltimore, as well as an east-west system from the Social Security Administration offices in Woodlawn to Johns Hopkins Bayview Medical Center.