« Boston St. to be closed at I-95 | Main | How new media and old can work together »

January 7, 2010

Charm City Circulator bus makes debut Monday


The Sun/Jed Kirschbaum

An early version of the city's Charm City Circulator bus is displayed at a 2008 news conference. 

The Charm City Circulator, Baltimore's long-awaited and long-delayed free downtown shuttle bus system, will make its debut Monday under less-than-festive circumstances.

One of the key initiatives of Mayor Sheila Dixon's transportation-minded administration, the Circulator will hit the streets just five days after the announcement that the mayor would step down from office next month as part of a plea bargain of in her public corruption case.

Before the announcement, the mayor had been expected to be the  headliner at a news conference to kick off the service.

Late Wednesday, just hours after the announcement, Dixon spokesman Scott Peterson said the mayor is still expected to show up Monday.

"She's still  the mayor and the Circulator was an accomplishment of this administration, so I hope she does," he said. "It's a big deal for the city."

Peterson said the event could actually be less awkward with Dixon's legal issues resolved and the mayor's lame-duck status  confirmed.

"Life is easier now," he said.

The Baltimore Transportation Department will launch the circulator by beginning service on its east-west Orange Route bettween Hollins Market and Harbor East via the Inner Harbor. It plans to start two other routes -- a north-south route between  Penn Station and Federal Hill and a route connecting Johns Hopkins Hospital with Harbor East and City Hall -- in the spring. Buses on the routes are scheduled to come at 10-minute intervals.

Transit buffs can get a "sneak preview" of the new hybrid-electric buses Friday from noon until 2 p.m. at Katyn Circle in Harbor East.

Peterson specifically requested that Washington-area media be alerted to the Circulator's debut, which he believes will have significant appeal to D.C. day visitors.

"For D.C. folks, Baltimore is Federal Hill, the Inner Harbor and Fells Point," he said.

So all you Washington media folks who drop in on this blog, consider yourself notified.



Posted by Michael Dresser at 7:00 AM | | Comments (13)
Categories: City bus service


I actually spotted one on Lombard street this morning (I'm guessing test runs) as I was walking from the Metro to the office.. The bus looks sleek and modern. Can't wait to give it a ride.

Michael, can you clarify the Hopkins route? Will it take you to the university (33rd & Charles area) or just to the hospital? If it is just to the hospital that is a very short route. I've long wanted a shuttle between Hampden and the Fells Point area and was hoping one of the circulator routes would solve this. Thanks!

COMMENT: Alas, the Circulator won''t serve the Homewood Campus or Hampden. Here's a map:
Hampden residents can connect with the Circulator Orange Rooute using either the Route #27 bus or the light rail. From 33rd & University, the No. 11 bus will get you to Fellls Point with no need to transfer.

Mr. Peterson, please ask the Baltimore Transportation Department to provide additional details:

1) How much more does a hybrid electric bus cost compared to a conventional diesel bus.

2) Please provide the Baltimore Transportation's Departments cost analysis prepared comparing operating expenses (diesel vs. hybrid)

3) please identify what city account will be footing the bill for this "FREE" service.

The Baltimore City Government will soon be announcing cuts in city services (police, fire, school, senior services) due to the economic downturn.
Who in the Baltimore Department of Transportation is responsible for this program. Can the Baltimore Sun provide specifics as to the actual costs of the operating budget for this program, the source(s) of funding and the duration of these funds.

We the tax payers need to know who to call since our convicted Mayor wont be around to answer our questions about one of her "key initiatives".

Taxpayers of Maryland write Gov. Martin O'Money in Annapolis and demand that Silver Spring, Rockville, Columbia, Germantown, Ellicott City all get a the same "Free" bus program.

I'm not sure why other areas should get this service because Baltimore has it.

Baltimore passed an increase in the parking tax specifically to fund a circulator service.

It's not exactly a mystery where the money is coming from, as it is spelled out in just about every article written about the service.

So, Tom, I guess taxpayers can demand O'Malley introduce this service in other areas, but they better be prepared to pay an increase in taxes to pay for it, like Baltimoreans have done.


Had you done your homework, you would know that Silver Spring has already had a free shuttle bus service for years called the Van Go.

Rockville does not, but Bethesda has also had one for quite some time as well, now called the Bethesda Trolley.

I'll believe it when I see it. It sounds like a great idea in theory but is it really going to follow through on all of the promises? Even if the circulator did come every ten minutes as it is supposed to, what will happen on Pratt and Lombard Streets? These through-ways have a lot of bus traffic - why would people pay to take the bus if they can hop on the circulator? Who is this bus really for? People that take public transit everyday or tourists from DC?

VanGo is absolutely terrible. It only runs on weekdays, and then, only until 7. The Bethesda Circulator is awesome, however, and a great example for what a free downtown shuttle should look like. But yeah, Tom, those places already have shuttles. Germantown doesn't need one, because where in Germantown is it supposed to serve? Milestone, MC, and the Town Center? That doesn't seem like enough to justify a shuttle. Likewise, apart from the Rockville Town Square, where in Rockville will I need to be shuttled to and from? I don't know enough about Columbia or Ellicott City to say anything about those locations.

And I don't get why people are complaining about the CCC before it even gets off the ground. Unlike most transit-related things in this state, the CCC has a dedicated source of funding. This (to me) shouldn't impact regular MTA service, because I'd guess that more people take the bus from outlying areas into the city than people who take the bus from one point in downtown to another.

All I can do Mike is say again to pass on thee importance of distance. It and you are going to help change the way we drive by doing so. It will save lives, eliminate accidents, traffic jams, and road rage

As a resident of Locust Point I was very excited to see that the shuttle will be running from Fells Point to Penn Station. I am a commuter to DC and ride the MARC train. I am a huge supporter of mass transit, and utilize it every day. However, my excitement evaporated once I saw the schedule. In order for me to reach DC's Union Station and to my office by 8:00 am I must be on a train leaving Penn Station by 6:17 am or the slightly later train departing at 6:25 am. Because the circulator doesn't begin service until 6:30 am I am out of luck (and so are the few thousand who commute to DC through Penn Station that early). I guess I'll continue my daily drive to BWI rail station and catch the train there.

I do continue to support the service and will utilize it when I can. This is definitely a huge step in the right direction for Baltimore.

I'd be interested to see a route map.
COMMENT: Here you go:

The circulator is a good example of a possible solution to the final half-mile problem that discourages riders from choosing transit. For more about these and other topics, you might want to visit this research Web site at the University of California, Berkeley:

Although its only one block, I cannot figure out why the Circulator headed towards Fells Points stops at Eutaw & in front of the old convention center but NOT at at Howard Street, you know, at the Convention Center Light Rail stop. Because of this there is no direct connection with the light rail (since Lombard at Howard stop is one block from the Baltimore St stop.
Didn't Baltimore learn its lesson when it built the Light Rail at Lexingotn Market two blocks from the metro stop?

So glad to see these buses are accessible. Our family congratulates the MTA.

COMMENT: Congratulations are due to the city Department of Transportation. The MTA does not operate the Circulator.

Post a comment

All comments must be approved by the blog author. Please do not resubmit comments if they do not immediately appear. You are not required to use your full name when posting, but you should use a real e-mail address. Comments may be republished in print, but we will not publish your e-mail address. Our full Terms of Service are available here.

Verification (needed to reduce spam):

About Michael Dresser
Michael Dresser has been an editor, reporter and columnist with The Sun longer than Baltimore's had a subway. He's covered retailing, telecommunications, state politics and wine. Since 2004, he's been The Sun's transportation writer. He lives in Ellicott City with his wife and travel companion, Cindy.

His Getting There column appears on Mondays. Mike's blog will be a forum for all who are interested in highways, transit and other transportation issues affecting Baltimore, Maryland and the region.

Live traffic updates
Most Recent Comments
Baltimore Sun coverage
Traffic and commuting news Subscribe to this feed
Michael Dresser's Getting There column Subscribe to this feed
Michael Dresser How-Tos

How to avoid Delaware traveling north
Obscure third route between Baltimore, D.C.
Better routes for I-95 north
How to avoid the Bay Bridge
Find cheaper gas
Check prices at area gas stations by ZIP code and find the lowest rates in the region with our new interactive gas map.

Baltimore-area lowest gas prices
Historical gas price charts
Sign up for FREE local news alerts
Get free Sun alerts sent to your mobile phone.*
Get free Baltimore Sun mobile alerts
Sign up for local news text alerts

Returning user? Update preferences.
Sign up for more Sun text alerts
*Standard message and data rates apply. Click here for Frequently Asked Questions.
  • Breaking News newsletter
When a big news event breaks, we'll e-mail you the basics with links to up-to-date details.
Sign up

Charm City Current
Traffic Resources
Baltimore Metropolitan Council (Regional transportation planning)
Maryland Department of Transportation (State transportation policy)
Maryland Transit Administration (Buses, light rail, Metro, Mobility)
State Highway Administration (Maintains numbered routes)
Motor Vehicle Administration (Licenses, permits, rules of the road)
Maryland Transportation Authority (Toll bridges, tunnels and highways)
Maryland Aviation Administration (BWI and Martin Airport)
AAA Daily Fuel Gauge Report (Track Maryland average gas prices.) (Find the lowest and highest prices.)
SafeRoadMaps (Find out where the crashes happen.)
Roads to the Future (Scott M. Kozel on Mid-Atlantic infrastructure.)
WMATA (Washington metropolitan buses and Metro)
Metropolitan Washington Council of Governments (D.C. regional planning)
U.S. Department of Transportation (federal transportation policy)
Stay connected