Monday, September 26, 2016

Another bus shuttle comes to downtown

On any given day on Baltimore's Charles Street one can see MTA buses, Charm City Circulators, Hopkins buses, UB buses and UM buses thundering up the street. While having a lot of transit options, one really has to wonder if this multitude really makes sense or merely adds congestion and fumes. Starting today there will be another shuttle, this for Exelon workers and run by the Waterfront Partnership. It, too will overlap with public buses.
The route of the new Horseshoe  Casino to Exelon bus shuttle
(Waterfront Partnership)
 Starting September 26, the new Point East Shuttle will take employees from Horseshoe Casino to Harbor East and Harbor Point with stops at Camden Station and Pratt Street at President Street. See below for the shuttle route and timing. Once the shuttle is operating, you will be able to track when the next shuttle will arrive at your stop both on this site and through a downloaded app called Trans Loc Riders. Information regarding this service will be emailed out to registered users for their convenience. Employees can choose to ride from the following options:
  • Option 1: Park and Ride from Horseshoe Casino
  • Cost: $50/month includes parking
  • Ideal For: I-95S commuters and those coming from Southwest of the City
  • Registration Requred
  • Option 2: Ride from Camden Station
  • Cost: Free with proof of purchase of a current and valid MTA transit pass
  • Ideal For: MARC and Light Rail riders
  • Please use this registration form if you plan to use a valid MTA pass to ride the Point East Shuttle from Camden Station.
  • Option 3: Ride from Pratt Street
  • Cost: $20/month excludes parking
  • Ideal For: Exelon employees wishing to retain their current parking along Pratt Street
  • Registration Required. Please use this registration form if you plan to use a valid MTA pass to ride the Point East Shuttle from Pratt Street.
Circulator bus on the newly painted bus lane on
Pratt Street (Photo ArchPlan Inc.)
Given HarborPoint's precarious access situation and the fact that there won't be a Red Line, a quickly cobbled together transit operation may make sense. But on second thought, HarborPoint has been long enough in the making that more integrated transit solutions could have been considered: Certainly a robust water taxi service starting at Canton Crossing where opportunities for commuter parking exist. COPT is actually looking for interim users of the their large parking facilities.

Without rail serving Harbor East and HarborPoint, additional bus service should be a given. One doesn't get the sense that Beatty development is seriously engaged in the Link Bus routing discussion with the goal to bring excellent service to Harbor East and HarborPoint. That leaves the Circulator which is currently serving Harbor East and HarborPoint. It is hard to understand why the Waterfront Partnership decided to run another show, in parts on the same route. as the Circulator.
UB shuttle on the same corridor as the Circulator and the MTA
(photo: ArchPlan In.c)

A bus can hold 40 people, that's way better than 40 cars with one person in each, but that isn't the alternative here. Because these shuttles are not demand based but run on a fixed schedule, whether anybody wants to use them or not, they often run empty or nearly so, which makes for a much less positive balance on the emissions chart.

The proliferation of shuttles is not only a Baltimore problem. The San Francisco Metropolitan Transportation Commission commissioned an entire shuttle census to understand what is on the road. However, the focus of that study was the urban-exurban shuttle, less the downtown circulator variety which is less known in San Francisco thanks to excellent transit services there with streetcars, light rail, cable car and subway. The findings of the commission regarding the commuter shuttles sound rather positive:
The Bay Area’s shuttle fleet contributes to reducing congestion on the region’s roads and to reduced CO2 emissions by reducing total vehicle miles traveled. In addition, many shuttles complement regional transit services by providing critical “last mile” connections to destinations from transit hubs. MTC hopes to more precisely quantify CO2 emission impacts in the next Shuttle Census
The Baltimore situation cannot be judged that kindly. It simply doesn't make sense to have so many private and exclusive shuttles running on the same routes as public MTA buses and the Circulator. In other words, wouldn't it be much better if all these institutions would fund and enhance the public municipal system which is bleeding red ink?

Klaus Philipsen, FAIA

Waterfront Partnership Shuttle announcement

Waterfront Partnership shuttle plans (Baltimore SUN, 2015)

Bay Area shuttle census, a Report of the San Francisco Metropolitan Transportation Commission 9/2/16