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Class Helps Frustrated Baltimore Commuters Make a Difference

In 2017, Baltimore overhauled its bus system, but studies show it didn't help buses move faster. (Wikimedia Commons)
In 2017, Baltimore overhauled its bus system, but studies show it didn't help buses move faster. (Wikimedia Commons)
September 11, 2019

BALTIMORE - Many in Baltimore face transportation barriers that make it hard to get to work and school, but there's also something unique they can do about it.

A class to help people support better transportation access in the area is being offered by the Central Maryland Transportation Alliance, a group funded by the Baltimore Community Foundation. Eric Norton, who organizes the "Transportation 101" classes for the alliance, said studies show that people in Baltimore spend long hours commuting.

"Some people come to us because they're frustrated - because the transit system is unreliable and the buses are late," he said, "so they get frustrated with that, and they want to know, 'How can I get engaged and improve that part of their life?'"

Norton said the deadline is Sept. 18 to apply for the next free, seven-week class, which starts Oct. 9.

The Baltimore bus system got an overhaul in 2017 for the first time in 50 years, but maintained its on-time status only about one-third of the time, according to a May 2018 study by the alliance. That perplexed writer and transit advocate Danielle Sweeney, who took the Transportation 101 class to address the "BaltimoreLink" service lapses. She set up a Facebook group of hundreds of bus riders, officials and Maryland Transit Administration staff. For 15 months, they shared their experiences with issues such as reliability, labor problems, accommodations for riders with disabilities and more.

"I was told by MTA leadership that because of the Facebook group, the MTA got some real insight into the service that was happening on the street as it was happening," she said. "And so, they were aware of problems in real time, and they had a little more control over them; and they could fix things that they just couldn't fix before - and things that they didn't know about before."

Despite the revamp, Sweeney said, ridership was down from about 6 million rides per month in June 2017 to about 5.5 million in September 2018. She said taking the transportation class gave her the idea and the tools to launch the Facebook page.

The Central Maryland Transportation Alliance study is online at

Disclosure: Baltimore Community Foundation contributes to our fund for reporting. If you would like to help support news in the public interest, click here.
Diane Bernard, Public News Service - MD