[IMAGE]MET2news-mtamaryland-2.jpg[/IMAGE]The Maryland Transit Administration (MTA) will begin offering a new commuter bus service in late February, using Motor Coach Industries' (MCI) Commuter Coaches, which will travel the Intercounty Connector (ICC), a new toll roadway that will connect Montgomery County to Baltimore/Washington International Thurgood Marshall (BWI) Airport and Fort Meade in Anne Arundel County.
The roadway provides a much-needed connection between the East side and the West Side of the Beltway, with a state-of-the-art, multi-modal east-west highway that limits access and accommodates the movement of passengers and goods, Terry Owens, director of media relations, said. The new transit route will open up more employment opportunities at the base, he added.
In early 2010, the agency purchased 18 coaches, at slightly more than $9 million, for use on the ICC project.
MTA will roll out the bus service in two phases. Phase one, Owens explained, will run along a seven-mile stretch from I-370 to Georgia Avenue/Maryland 97, and will include two routes: The 201 and 202. Both will link Gaithersburg, located in Montgomery County, to job and transportation centers at Ft. Meade and BWI Airport.
Commuter bus route 201 will operate seven days a week, with a seven-stop route. It will offer hourly service and 14 round trips.
Commuter bus route 202 is designed to serve employees working at the National Security Administration and Fort Meade. The route will offer six stops operating Monday through Friday between Gaithersburg and Ft. Meade.
Phase two of the project will entail add-ing three more routes once the Intercounty Connector is complete, Owens said.
In addition to alleviating traffic congestion, Owens explained, the new roadway also was desperately needed to link riders to employment. An estimated 40,000 to 60,000 new jobs will come to Maryland over the next six to 10 years, due to the Ft. Meade base realignment and closure. The commuter service was primarily created to serve those workers.
All 18 of the new commuter coaches will be assigned to the routes, which MTA manages through contracts with local independent operators.
The MCI Commuter Coach is based on the manufacturer's D-Series model and comes with safety and performance features, including an Amerex Fire Suppression system and passenger amenities, including plush seating, individual parcel racks, and overhead reading lights and airflow controls. MTA's new coaches are equipped with wheelchair lifts and powered by a Cummins engine and Allison transmission, featuring clean-diesel engine technology. MTA will also wrap the exterior of its new Commuter Coaches with an ICC logo decal.
MTA already has a fleet of 50 MCI Commuter Coaches on other routes. According to John Lanocha, chief mechanical officer, the vehicles will be painted and decaled to give the fleet a like-new look.