Thursday, Aug. 14, 2008

Shuttle service to open in September

City officials, student leaders hail collaborative effort on free bus program

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Starting on Sept. 2, up to 500 College Park residents will be able to take advantage of a local bus service, free of charge.

The College Park City Council unanimously voted Tuesday to sign an agreement with Shuttle UM to allow city residents to use the service, which had previously only been available to University of Maryland, College Park, students.

Residents must obtain a pass from city hall in order to ride the shuttle and will not be permitted on the bus without presenting it.

Shuttle UM passes will be free to the first 500 people who request one, starting on Monday at City Hall. Anyone wishing to use the Shuttle UM service must show proof of residency to obtain a pass.

As part of the agreement, the city will pay $10,000 to the University of Maryland Department of Transportation Services to cover the 500 passes.

Mayor Stephen Brayman praised University of Maryland students for their support of the agreement and for opening up to the idea of having non-students on the bus.

"I think they have truly shown responsibility and leadership," he said. "I would just like to thank the student body for their support."

Shuttle UM currently offers 24-hour service to students around campus as well as daily service to the College Park Metro and various locations in Greenbelt, University Town Center, Bethesda and Bowie.

Dan Hartinger, City Council student liaison, said safety was the only concern students had about the agreement.

"Once it was explained clearly to students that there wouldn't be an increased safety problem, they were very agreeable," he said. "I think the fact that residents have to register to get these passes, and show identification just like students would, was it. There's less of a risk when people are getting on a bus supervised."

Councilman Patrick Wojahn (Dist. 1) said entering into the Memorandum of Understanding allowing residents to ride the bus is an effective way for the city to cut down on traffic on Route 1.

"I appreciate the student body welcoming us on their buses," he said. "This is part of a broader strategy, and our work is far from done in facing traffic problems in the area. I'm looking for other ways to get people out of their cars and talking public transportation. This is a good first step."

Both Councilman Jack Perry (Dist. 2) and Councilwoman Mary Cook (Dist. 4) warned that in order for the city and university to continue the partnership beyond the first year, residents must take constant advantage of it.

"I want to see tons of citizens standing with the kids and waiting at the bus stop," Perry said.

Hartinger also said that the good faith shown by both the council and student body in this agreement will lead to a better relationship between the city and the university.

In the past, the city and school have had differing opinions on noise violations, off campus housing developments and strategic plans.

"I think that this discussion has shown that they can come to the table and be very cordial with each other," Hartinger said. "I think there have been great strides in city-student relationship on this issue. I hope they can kind of follow that on other issues."

E-mail Jonah Schuman at