Bus stop concerns grow
Wednesday, 09 April 2014 13:12

The northbound bus stop at Dundalk Avenue and North Center Place has been temporarily discontinued since Feb. 10.    photo by Roland Dorsey

Final decision on permanent removal pending

by Nicole Rodman

Local residents and business owners are raising concerns over how the Maryland Transit Administration (MTA) has handled community complaints over the now-discontinued northbound bus stop at Dundalk Avenue and North Center Place.
    On Feb. 10, the MTA temporarily discontinued the stop, which serves bus routes 10 and 20, after receiving  complaints of disruptive and criminal activity at the stop.
    In e-mails obtained by The Eagle, a number of local business owners complain that problems such as public urination, trash accumulation, drug use, drunkenness, fighting and use of offensive language have become common at the bus stop.
    In the wake of public outcry, the MTA announced that the bus stop would be temporarily discontinued while officials solicited public comment on whether or not to permanently remove the stop.
    Those wishing to comment on the bus stop were asked to call an MTA hotline to register their opinion.
    Some residents and business owners, however, are raising concerns over the operation of that hotline.
    A number of local business owners have reported that they called the MTA hotline attempting to speak against reopening the stop only to be faced with arguments from an MTA employee identified only as “Tamara.”
    “Every time I opened my mouth to explain all of the problems that we deal with on a daily basis, she defended the riders,” one business owner wrote of her interaction with “Tamara.”
    “Having spoken to others who were able to reach her, I was informed that she grilled them as well, and was very biased in favor of the stop remaining,” the business owner added.
    Those attempting to call the MTA hotline also raised concerns that the phone was rarely answered and calls left on voicemail were not being returned.
    While MTA deputy chief public information officer Paul Shepard did not address concerns over bias among hotline staff in his response to The Eagle, he did respond to concerns that calls were not being returned.
    “MTA Service Development personnel reports that we returned most calls where callers left numbers,” he said.         “In some cases, the callers were very detailed on the voice message, and we were able to include their comments and contact information on the feedback chart,” Shepard continued, adding, “However, some callers declined to give their names/addresses/contact numbers, and just wanted our personnel to listen and record their comments. In those cases, we declined to take their information since this could have been a repeat caller.”
    According to Shepard, the MTA logged 14 calls during the period that the hotline was active.
    Among those calling, five people called in favor of retaining the stop while nine people called in favor of removing the stop.
    “Our final decision will be based on both the quantity and content of the comments received, not solely on the numbers for or against,” Shepard explained. “We believe that is [the] best way we can deliver the quality of service our customers deserve.”
    Local residents and business owners have also raised concerns over the fact that the stop, despite being discontinued in February, appears to be at least semi-operational.
    According to individuals living and working near the stop, bus drivers have continued to drop off and pick up riders at the stop since it was discontinued two months ago.
    “The MTA will re-issue the transportation notice to MTA bus operators to remind them not to stop at this discontinued bus stop location until a final decision is made,” Shep-ard said in response to concerns.
    He continued, “However ... if a driver has an elderly or disabled patron who requests to get off at that [Dundalk-North Center] stop, and bringing that patron to a stop further away from the requested stop in some way endangers them, the driver is put in a very difficult position and must consider the safety of his or her passenger first.”
    A final decision on whether or not to permanently remove the stop is pending. MTA officials have not indicated when a decision will be announced.