Sunday, October 24 2010 @ 11:42 AM EDT
Contributed by: B' Spokes
By Larry Carson, The Baltimore Sun
Getting around Howard County on a public bus has been slow since 41-year-old David Bittner was a kid. Back then, he knew that his bicycle was a faster way to get to the town's shopping mall from Owen Brown than the old Rouse Co. Columbus system. Suburbia, after all, wasn't designed for mass transit.
"It's kind of a system of last resort," Bittner told the advocates group, who have been pushing for better public transit for a decade.
Bus service is important for economic development, the county's chamber of commerce has said. "The success of our business community requires transportation options," including "improved level of transit service," according to the chamber of commerce's legislative action issues statement for 2011.
Republican county executive candidate Trent Kittleman talked about being ready "to accommodate people who don't drive cars" at an Oct. 13 chamber candidates forum when a transportation question was asked.
One problem, Ulman said at the forum, is "we're left out of the mass-transit world," except for MARC train service at the county's eastern edge. Prospects of Columbia getting service from either Washington's Metro system or Baltimore's light rail line are nil, officials have said, because Howard doesn't have the volume of riders to make it worthwhile.
"We're in this doughnut hole between the large public entities," said Paul Farragut, commission co-chairman and a former executive director of the Baltimore Metropolitan Council. Allen Cornell, a former board president of Corridor Transportation Corp., now CMRT, is the other co-chairman.
But as county roads become more congested, and with thousands of federal defense workers, contractors and now cybersecurity jobs on the way, better transit and development planning must be part of the mix, officials say.
That's why options such as walking and cycling were important in planning for Columbia's new downtown, and why the county has supported building homes mixed with stores and offices near the three commuter train stations in the county, he said.