The Maryland Transit Administration is launching a public survey to better understand what changes riders would like to see in Baltimore bus service.

The agency is gathering public input as part of BMORE BUS, an effort to modify and improve the Baltimore region’s bus system in the coming years. In addition to rider feedback, the agency will base future changes on travel data and its available budget.

The agency is considering more frequent service, modifications to where routes and bus stops go, increasing the number of limited-stop express routes and more. Riders must complete the survey by May 31.

The MTA modifies bus routes each fall to react to short-term changes in rider demand and travel patterns; the BMORE BUS campaign will inform these annual changes and serve as a “proactive and comprehensive look at what bus service improvements should be prioritized over the next five to ten years of annual service planning,” according to the campaign website.

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“Most of MTA’s riders get to their destinations through our local bus network and the BMORE BUS initiative gives them the chance to directly impact how our system grows,” said Maryland Transit Administrator Holly Arnold in an emailed release. “By partnering with riders, we can better understand the service improvements that they want to see.”

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But improvements will be subject to budgetary constraints and other factors.

Canceled and no-show buses have been a lingering problem, dating back to a shortage of drivers spawned by the COVID pandemic. The MTA and the union representing its drivers and workers agreed on salary bumps to help boost hiring, and the vacancy rate for drivers has come down from 5% at this time last year to just 1% today. The agency’s overall vacancy rate is 4.3%, down from nearly 9% in March of last year.

At last month’s meeting of the Baltimore Regional Transit Commission, Arnold told committee members that her agency’s struggles in hiring other support and planning staff were also holding them back from making some improvements. Maryland’s hiring system has forced the agency to rely heavily on pricey outside consultants.

Arnold told committee members that a boost in funding would go a long way toward improving Baltimore transit service. If the state provided an additional $260 million in operating funds, in part to cover salaries for 400 new agency employees, Baltimore transit riders could see numerous improvements — more attendants at stations, increased light rail and metro service, and more frequent buses, she said.

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She also presented a 10-year vision that included four additional QuickLink express bus routes that would utilize the city’s growing network of dedicated bus lanes, 10 additional local routes and more frequent service on all bus lines.

The MTA’s operating budget for the current fiscal year is just north of $1.1 billion.

Learn more about the BMORE BUS campaign here. The public survey can be taken online or in person at one of four pop-up events hosted by the agency around the region in May.

Daniel Zawodny covers transportation for the The Baltimore Banner as a corps member with Report For America. He is a Baltimore area native and graduated with his master's degree in journalism from American University in 2021. He is bilingual in English and Spanish and previously covered immigration issues.

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