The End of the Line
Stopping the bus severs the link between Anne Arundel’s south and north
by Carrie Madren
This week marks the end of a short era. Ending September 28 is the South County Connection bus route that shuttled riders from as far south in the big county as Deale, all the way to the big city, Annapolis, and beyond with transfers. For three years, the 16-passenger bus ferried riders from Annapolis Transit Station on Chinquapin Round Road through Edgewater, Galesville and Shady Side to the South County Library in Deale. Its larger purpose was to make non-drivers independent and drivers less dependent on cars.
Christened the South County Connection, the bus ran every two hours Monday thru Friday. The C-50 began its first trip of the day at Spa Road at 7am heading south to Deale. On the odd hour, its last trip left Deale at 6pm. Mostly, South Countians rode the bus. Three dollars bought a one-way fare from Deale to Annapolis.
Catching the northbound bus each day were drivers with suspended licenses; students too young to drive; immigrants without transportation; and senior citizens, reports weekly rider Nancy Bauer, of Deale, who caught the bus at the South County Library to take classes at the Edgewater Senior Center. Other riders travel to the K-Mart stop in Edgewater to shop. Whichever way it traveled, the bus was rarely full, averaging 15 riders a day.
Bus atmosphere was subdued; sometimes music played, sometimes people slept and sometimes riders chatted. The bus driver, Tyrone Majors, was a quiet, thoughtful ferryman who would shuttle Bauer to the door of the Senior Center if it were raining.
“I’ll miss the bus and riding with people I wouldn’t otherwise meet,” says Bauer, who says now she’ll have to drive her car which she prefers not to do in town and will probably drop some of the exercise classes she’s grown fond of.
You had to be punctual and patient, like Bauer, to ride this bus.
A full round-trip on the C-50 took two hours. That’s how long you’d have to wait if you missed your bus. For many working people, such a long ride or wait wasn’t efficient. Our car-crazy culture likes to start the engine and go, not wait at a bus stop or poke around for an hour on a trip a car makes in half the time.
For writer and sailor Kat Bennett, now a liveaboard at Tracys Landing, a trip to the Annapolis Mall took four and a half hours. Bennett had wanted to go to the Annapolis Harbour Center, but it wasn’t a stop on the route, and a special stop couldn’t be arranged, even though the bus passed right by the shopping center. After reaching the Chinquapin Round Road station in Annapolis and catching a connecting shuttle, Bennett missed the next departing bus on the return trip home. Waiting nearly two hours at the Chinquapin station was another adventure, she reported.
“You have to thread your way in between buses to find your bus,” she recalled of the chaotic transfer station.
However imperfectly, the bus linked far-flung reaches of Anne Arundel County since May of 2004.
The original South County Connection, which sports a Bay Weekly and a WNAV advertisement on its rear, has since been relegated to Annapolis routes, while a smaller shuttle made the trip down to Deale as the C-50.
The route’s innaugural ride in 2004 was met with fanfare from VIPs and local officials. A contest to name the bus drew 150 suggestions; The South County Connection was submitted independently by two people.
Now, cuts in federal money and changes in how that money can be used have forced the bus out of service.
In a time when we need more public transportation, not less, it’s a pity to see such a unique bus route erased.
We see fewer options for our travel, more dependence on our cars when we need just the opposite.