Free downtown Baltimore shuttle bus service slated for July 2009

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A request for proposal has been issued by Baltimore City to operate a free shuttle bus in downtown Baltimore, with service beginning July 1, 2009, according to the Baltimore City Department of Transportation.

The new shuttle bus, or circulator, will operate on a five-year contract, with three initial routes: South Baltimore to Penn Station; University of Maryland BioPark to Harbor East; and Marketplace Metro Station to Harbor East, Fells Point. The city anticipates having a vendor selected by October 2008.

“What we need to provide is a premium service that is fast, easy to use and fare-free,” Baltimore City Department of Transportation Deputy Director Jamie Kendrick told GBC members at a recent hospitality and tourism committee meeting.

More than 18 buses holding 30 passengers each will operate every 10 minutes and provide direct connections to the metro, Light Rail, Amtrak/MARC lines and the Broadway Pier water taxi in Fells Point, said Kendrick.

The city’s Department of Transportation also plans to designate bus lanes on Pratt and Lombard streets in an effort to maintain the 10-minute headway during peak traffic hours.

Baltimore city estimates that the new shuttle service will cost between $4.5 million and $6 million annually.

Funding for the free circulator will come from developer traffic mitigation fees, revenue generated through advertising and sponsorships, and increasing the parking tax to 15.5 percent, introduced in the Baltimore City Council on August 12. Mayor Dixon has also included an additional $3.25 million in the city’s proposed 2009 Capital Improvement Program to assist in purchasing vehicles, said Kendrick.

With the new proposed parking tax, hourly parkers can expect to see an increase of less than $1 per day, while monthly parkers could see a maximum increase of $5 per month. “The circulator is designed to take advantage of cheaper parking outside of downtown,” said Kendrick.

The free shuttle bus service is estimated to carry more than 6,600 riders per day, according to the Baltimore Metropolitan Council.

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