Choose Your Own Adventure April
Life is an adventure, but where to begin? Join us at the Bridges Technical Assistance Center’s Helpdesk as we explore tools to support you as you Choose Your Own Adventure this April!
- April 4: Museums for All
- April 11: AIRA Access Points and Be My Eyes Apps
- April 18: Public Transportation
- April 25: Paratransit/Call-a-ride
In this third installment of our “Choose Your Own Adventure April” series, we explore inexpensive and free public transportation options to get you to and from the adventures you choose!
Breaking Out Without Breaking the Bank
Many of us use ride-share services, like Lyft and Uber, but we do well to remember a much older ride-share option: Public transportation. While most public transportation does not offer the door-to-door convenience of services like Lyft and Uber, they also cost a lot less than those services.
Another bonus: reducing our carbon footprints. Public transportation allows for more efficient per-person travel, so both the cost and the amount of fuel used to get from here to there are greatly reduced.
Public Transportation in Maryland
Through the Maryland Transit Administration (MTA), the Baltimore area enjoys many public transit options.
The BaltimoreLink bus system offers CityLink buses (high-frequency routes and frequent, 24-hour service, form a downtown grid that radiate out from the city on major streets, LocalLink buses (operating on neighborhood streets between the CityLinks and form crosstown “rings,” and Express BusLink service (limited-stop service from suburb-to-suburb and suburb-to-downtown). Additionally, the Charm City Circulator is a FREE bus shuttle system that operates in Baltimore’s downtown area on a regular schedule.
But that’s just the beginning. MTA also provides train and subway options. Light RailLink offers transportation between the Baltimore-Washington Airport and Hunt Valley, Maryland – and 28 more stops in between! Metro SubwayLink has a dozen stops between its end points of Owings Mills and Johns Hopkins, and MARC (Maryland Area Rail Commuter) trains offer transportation to and from Washington, D.C.
Outside of Baltimore
While the Baltimore area has the most developed set of public transportation routes, other areas in Maryland provide great public transportation options as well. Examples include:
- Montgomery County’s Ride On
- Prince George’s County’s The Bus
- Hartford Transport LINK
- Delmarva Community Transit
- Maryland Upper Shore Transit (MUST)
- St. Mary’s Transit System
- Washington County Transit
- Garrett Transit Service (scheduled pick up and drop off)
Planning Your Adventure
It’s great to have public transportation resources available, and the next step is learning how to make them work for you. First, check out the available options, including operating hours and routes. Sometimes these can seem overwhelming, and the Free Bridges Helpdesk is always available to provide as much or as little assistance as you need – please feel free to call on us anytime.
Some Tips From A Seasoned Public Transit Traveler
Seasoned blind traveler and Bridges Project Coordinator Braden Flax offers his advice on public transit:
Spring is here, which means we can now get out and about to engage with our communities, and even explore other communities we haven’t been to yet. Of course, it usually isn’t practical to arrange long, expensive trips by car to get this done, but this shouldn’t hold us back. And with a good public transit system, and a healthy bit of confidence that you can make your way from one point to the next safely and efficiently, it won’t. And by the time summer is over, you’ll have visited friends without feeling like a burden, gotten a taste of taking ownership of your own movements, communicated with people as you plan and execute your trips, and yes, made your fair share of mistakes along the way. But that’s OK, in fact it’s exciting, because with the tools to keep yourself safe and the forethought to bring your plans to fruition, today’s mistake is tomorrow’s lesson, and if you choose to make use of your travel skills, tomorrow will always hold something to look forward to. So in the spirit of getting some travel experience throughout the warmer seasons, this transition tip focuses on useful tips for any traveler anywhere, whether you’re just starting out or you’re a practiced explorer. To begin with, there are some constants when it comes to public transit that generally hold true whether you’re in Maryland, or anyplace else.
Let’s suppose you’d like to meet up with some friends at a mall in your area, but it’s not within walking distance. But, you heard that there’s a bus that will drop you off right there, if only you can catch it. In order to make this trip, there are a few pieces of information you need. First, where are you getting on and off the bus? Secondly, how frequently does it run, and thirdly, how will you need to pay for this ride, if at all? Be sure to factor in not only your initial trip, but your return trip too. When researching this, there’s no need to get overwhelmed, as there are resources available to you. You can look up information online, but you’ll want to make sure the relevant information is up-to-date. And besides, what if you run into a lot of broken links? That’s when your other problem-solving techniques come into play. It’s a valuable experience, for example, to call up the relevant transit authority on the phone. Make sure you know when they are able to accept calls, and by the end of the call, you should know what bus you’re talking about, what times it departs and arrives, and that you’re prepared to meet it, pay for it, and find your way around once you’ve arrived. We at Bridges, of course, would be glad to help you with any of this, up to and including helping you find the relevant information if you get stuck. You should never be held back from going somewhere if the means exist to get you there, and it’s our pleasure to help you find those means.
Notably, public transit can help you venture outside of Maryland just as much as within it, which is very exciting because of your close proximity to Virginia and Washington, D.C. When it comes to the train, for instance, two major options are the MARC train and Amtrak. In both cases, as the saying goes, there’s an app for that. In the case of the MARC train, that app is called CharmPass. Using this app, you can buy your tickets ahead of time; supposing, for example, that you wanted to make your way from Baltimore Penn Station to Union Station in Washington, you could buy a ticket and have it on your phone for months before using it, since the ticket is not restricted to a certain timeslot. On the other hand, let’s suppose you wanted to go from Baltimore Penn to Richmond, Virginia, and you opt to take an Amtrak. Then, it is crucial that you make the particular train you bought a ticket on; this is a vital difference to keep in mind when planning your trip.
It can be empowering to know that if you do some research and practice your skills as a communicator, so much is open to you at fairly low cost both within and around the state of Maryland. It is of course impossible to cover all of the options, much less the routes, that exist. But much like your plans themselves, your travel itinerary can be subject to change, as long as you keep in mind the basics of travel safety and the information you gathered while researching and planning your trip. For instance, if you’re going to be out later than the MARC is running one night, you’ll want to either make alternative arrangements or otherwise adjust your plans. For more pointers on how to stay safe while traveling, please check in with us next week, when we’ll have s similar discussion about how to get around safely, efficiently, and for a reasonable price. In the meantime, please reach out to us early and often, and happy travels!
Contact Us Anytime!
Follow the Bridges Helpdesk Facebook page for more transition tips, and please contact the Bridge’s Technical Assistance Center’s Free Helpdesk for Maryland Blind/Low Vision Transition Students, Families, and Educators anytime using:
- Our Accessible web form
- Email: Helpdesk@IMAGEmd.org
- Text or Leave a Voice mail message: (410) 357-1546
- Bridges Helpdesk Facebook page or Facebook Messenger
This unique project is being coordinated through The IMAGE Center of Maryland, a center for independent living in Towson, and it is funded by a grant from the Maryland Department of Education Division of Special Education/Early Intervention Services.