Partnership staff (from left) Cynthia Dawson, Ronny Nadiv, Peach Dolar and Executive Director Gina Stewart. Photo by Emily Calkins.

For Gina Stewart, hearing the recent news concerning the Maryland Transit Administration’s (MTA) proposal to cut several bus routes because of funding constraints due to the COVID-19 pandemic was not surprising.

But while the heads of some organizations might have met that news with a public reaction, Stewart, executive director of the BWI Business Partnership, an economic and transportation management association, takes a two-pronged approach: first, educating the membership about how the proposed cuts would affect service in Central Maryland, where most of these companies do business; and second, using a team approach to address any issues.

“We quickly relayed the information to our members,” she said. “At this point, we’re not sure what the MTA will decide to cut or the extent the planned changes will affect the riding public, as the proposed route cuts are up for public discussion,” noting the Maryland Department of Transportation (MDOT) MTA will conduct a public review and comment period.

Getting Around

The Partnership is involved in promoting various transportation options to its members.

It manages the free County Connector Shuttle, sponsored by the Local Development Council (LDC) and Anne Arundel County, which stops at the BWI Light Rail Station, BWI MARC Station, Arundel Mills/Live! Casino & Hotel, Arundel Preserve and Dorchester Woods.

When COVID-19 hit and other public transit were reducing service, the Partnership implemented an Express Route to assist the public with their essential travel.

Despite the reduced service that began in late March, “We’ve still been able to increase ridership each of three years since the program began, up until the pandemic hit,” Stewart said.

Despite the sharp drop in ridership in due to COVID-19, total ridership still increased by 13 percent year-over-year, from fiscal 2019 (89,338 passengers) to fiscal 2020 (100,939 passengers).

She said, “Our average monthly ridership also rose during that span by 13 percent (from 7,445 to 8,412).”

She added that on Oct. 5, the shuttle will run on a revised schedule. “The route will stay the same, but we’re extending it to later in the evening to help the casino workers. That’s the main change,” she said. “We’ll still have the two shuttles during the peak periods, but the changes make it more efficient and we’ll offer later hours on weekdays and Sunday/holidays.”

That means the last drop off during the week is 11:55 p.m.; on Saturday, the last is 11:45 p.m.; and on Sundays/holidays, it’s at 10:30 p.m. Morning start times will stay the same, at 5:30 a.m. weekdays, 7:15 a.m. on Saturdays and 8:15 a.m. on Sundays/holidays.

At the Airport

Getting around the BWI Business District is key for the Partnership, as is flying in/out of its main economic generator.

While passenger traffic remained well below the figures posted during a typical summer, BWI Thurgood Marshall Airport has posted more encouraging numbers of late, including “improving numbers in recent weeks,” said spokesperson Jonathan Dean.

For example, BWI Marshall had a busy Labor Day weekend. On Sept. 3, 13,257 departing passengers passed through the airport’s security checkpoints, the most since the July 4 weekend.

On Friday, Sept. 4, there were more than 15,125 departing passengers,  the most since March 14, the first Saturday after the shutdown was announced.

And BWI Marshall remains the busiest airport in the Baltimore-Washington region, with total passenger traffic in June totaling more than Dulles International and Reagan National airports combined.

And with the uptick in recent passenger traffic during the COVID-19 recovery, about 52 percent of food and retail outlets at BWI Marshall have reopened.

Playing It Safe

Passengers and employees on premises at BWI Marshall are required to wear face coverings, which are available for purchase at some airport stores and from several vending machines in the terminal and rental car facility.

Masks are also provided by the airport and its airline partners, if needed.

The airport “continues to utilize enhanced cleaning and advanced technologies to help ensure a safe, healthy airport for customers and employees,” said Dean. Protective shields are in place at document checking stations, ticket counters and information desks. The airport provides hand sanitizer stations throughout the terminal.

“We know airline and passenger traffic will rebound,” he said, “and BWI Marshall Airport is working to be prepared when the industry recovers.”

By Mark R. Smith | Senior Writer | The Business Monthly | October Issue