County Comment: County Commuter Transfer Point Relocation Study Presented

County Comment
County Commuter Transfer Point Relocation Study Presented
by Norman Bassett, Public Information Officer
Washington County, Maryland

In its regular meeting on March 25th, the Washington County Board of County Commissioners heard a report on possible relocation of the County Commuter "transfer point".
Transit Director Kevin Cerrone, along with Lib Fetting and Jason Quan of KFH Group consultants gave report for information purposes, and input from the Commissioners on the matter was requested.
The Washington County Transit Department operates County Commuter and is under the County's Division of Public Works. The transit system has been providing local public transit bus service in the County for over 35 years.
The system operates ten fixed routes, the Jobs Opportunity Bus Shuttle (JOBS), the Hopewell Express, the Statewide Special Transportation Assistance Program (SSTAP), and Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) complementary Paratransit service.
County Commuter has been committed to meeting the mobility needs and improving the quality of bus service in the community. As part of that commitment, County Commuter is looking to relocate the current transfer point to a more convenient, user- friendly, and safe location.
The transfer point was originally located at Public Square. As downtown Hagerstown became redeveloped and revitalized there was pressure from downtown merchants and City officials to relocate the transfer point out of Public Square. In 1996 the transfer point was relocated to the 300 block of West Washington Street, a third of a mile from downtown. This on-street transfer point, located below a railroad overpass, is in a non-user-friendly location and is considered a detriment to the transit system's ability to serve its customers.
The 2003 Transportation Development Plan for the WCTD recommended developing a new transfer facility that would be more centrally located, located near a major trip generator or other destination, and provide a more pleasant and secure environment for customers. Since 2005, County staff has worked with City of Hagerstown staff to identify potential new locations within the City. Sixteen possible locations were identified. Many of the locations were subsequently eliminated from the list due to operational issues stemming from being on street and/or on a one-way street, narrow streets, or steep grades. Others were eliminated because the site was part of future development or redevelopment.
Criteria that factor into the choice of a new site include real estate availability, impact on ridership, bus schedules, traffic, security, the ability to provide passenger amenities and the potential for partnerships to reduce costs or provide additional services.
The report assessed the current location and condition of the transfer point, identified possible locations for a new transfer center, documented the operational, facility and amenity needs of the new transfer center, estimated the minimum space requirements, and ranked the potential locations.
Possible locations included the Former Ames Shopping Center, a former Wendy's Site on Dual Highway, the former Hoffman's Affordable Vehicles lot on Dual Highway, the 300 Block of East Antietam Street, the former Greyhound Station, a Gravel Lot adjacent to the Herald Mail, the County Administration Annex at 80 West Baltimore Street, the Market House Parking Lot, the 200 Block of West Franklin Street, the South End Shopping Center, the Greyhound Station on Maryland Route 65, the MTA Commuter Bus Park and Ride Lot in that same general area, Longmeadow Shopping Center, the Former Giant Eagle Shopping Center, First Data Auxiliary Parking Lot on Western Maryland Parkway, and Valley Mall.
In order to guide the decision-making process, the 16 sites were ranked based on criteria including size of lot, availability, vehicle access, pedestrian access, proximity to activity centers, proximity to downtown, impact on routes, and compatibility with adjacent land use. The size and availability of the site were weighted the most, followed by vehicle access.
Two locations with the initial highest ranking were 80 West Baltimore Street and the 300 block of East Antietam. Both locations are adequate in size. 80 West Baltimore Street is County-owned, consists of 1.1 acres and includes a 12,500 square foot facility on the lot, which is occupied by several County departments. The 300 block of East Antietam Street is a surface parking lot only, owned privately.
If the 80-West Baltimore Street location was to become available, County Commuter could utilize the existing lot and/or building as their new transfer center. With the County already owning the lot, there would be no acquisition cost and the appraised value of the lot could be used as the local match for Federal and State funds. In addition, all of the necessary utilities and infrastructure are already on site, the report indicated.
With the recent proposal to purchase properties in the downtown core area, the 200 block of West Franklin Street would rise in the rankings, becoming equal to the top two ranked locations. The site would have easy access to Franklin Street, could utilize an existing structure for passenger and driver amenities, and would have the necessary parking for transit vehicles.
The Commissioners will review the information, and discuss the possibilities for relocating the transfer point at a later date.