Annapolis Circulator Celebrates One Year of Service
Politicians and business leaders weigh in on the free shuttle service as it marks one year.
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The Circulator, a free shuttle service that takes people around downtown Annapolis, turned a year old on July 1.
Ridership has nearly doubled since service began, as the circulator carried 11,818 passengers in June of this year. And it looks like July 2012 may boast even higher numbers.
In the first four days of the month, 3,079 people rode the Circulator—that's more than 50 percent of what ridership was for the whole month of July 2011.
Mayor Josh Cohen said the Circulator represents part of a long-term commitment by the city to transform downtown into more of pedestrian destination. He thinks people are finally starting to catch on to the idea.
Alderman Ian Pfeiffer (D-Ward 7) said he's been supportive of the Circulator, but thinks the city has poorly marketed the service.
"We sort of started it without unveiling it," Pfeiffer said.
Alderman Fred Paone (R-Ward 2) seconded Pfeiffer's opinion and said, "It's a good idea in principle, but it is expensive to operate. I don't know how much longer we can subsidize that and other transportation."
Paone said he recognizes that there probably isn't a public transportation system in the county that turns a profit.
The free shuttle service started as a six-month pilot program in July 2011 and became a permanent part of city transportation in January. The buses run Sunday through Thursday from 6:30 a.m. to midnight and Friday and Saturday from 6:30 a.m. to 2:30 a.m.
The Circulator trolley runs from Westgate Circle to Memorial Circle near City Dock and stops at all four city parking garages. The city plans to expand service to Eastport, Church Circle and West Annapolis in the near future.
Sean O'Neill, president of the Annapolis Business Association,
said one such expansion he and his colleagues would like to see is for the Circulator route to include stops on Maryland Avenue.
"[The Circulator] makes the market-based pricing on the garages more fair and easier to handle. It gives people more options," he said.
Before his office moved out of downtown, O'Neill would park at Knighton Garage daily. He said that from the time the circulator launched until he left in March 2012 usage "tripled if not quadrupled. At least the garage is being used, and I would think that the circulator had some part in making that happen."
Cohen said he plans to promote the Circulator more by installing larger, more visible signs at circulator stops and through better advertising at area garages.
O'Neill said that's something he's been saying all along. When his 10-year-old son first saw the Circulator's signs he asked, "What's up with all the Chicago Cubs fans?"
O'Neill added, "The city has to put a lot more money into marketing. One year is a good start, but they have a lot more to do to make it optimal."
Here are the number of riders by month for the Circulator's first year:
July 2011- 5,488
August 2011 - 4,135
Sept 2011 - 2,422
October 2011 - 3,010
November 2011 - 1,652
December 2011- 4,154
January 2012 - 2,274
Feb 2012 - 3,847
March 2012 - 4,951
April 2012 - 7,778
May 2012 - 9,378
June 2012 - 11,818