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Baltimore City Approves Three Year Contract With Charm City Circulator Operators

Emily Sullivan/WYPR

The Baltimore City Board of Estimates has approved a $25.9 million contract with the ongoing Charm City Circulator operators to continue overseeing the free bus service for the next three years.

Errands Plus, Inc., which operates the service as RMA Worldwide Services Chauffeured Transportation, took over operations in October of last year after Baltimore sued the former operator, Transdev Services, for allegedly overcharging the city tens of millions of dollars.

“There was a number of options [for the circulator] that we were looking at while I was on the council,” Mayor Jack Young said at news conference Wednesday after the BOE vote.

The service was created “to get tourists to different points of the city,” he said. “Now, it has become popular with residents and it's not all over the city — it’s just at certain parts of the city — and we have to look at how we're going to continue to sustain it.”

Charles Village resident Rodney Convington takes the circulator downtown several times a week.

“It's convenient. Just convenient really,” Convington said while waiting for the bus. “Especially for little stuff, like sometimes you might just need to go something to eat. Just like I’m doing today, just going to pick up my medicine.”

He said he prefers to the circulator over any other bus line because of the free fare. But because of the circulator’s often delayed schedule, Covington doesn’t always have that choice.

“Sometimes it seems like it takes a long time,” he said. “They say buses come every 15 minutes but it's more like once every 45 minutes.”

The circulator has a fleet of 30 buses that travel four routes in the city’s central business district. Those buses are scheduled to arrive every 10 to 15 minutes.

The Green Route runs from City Hall through Fells Point to Johns Hopkins. The Purple Route which runs north and south north and south along Charles and St. Paul streets from 33rd Street to Federal Hill. The Orange Route runs from Hollins Market to Harbor East. The Banner Route runs from the Inner Harbor to Fort McHenry.

In March, the Baltimore Sun reported that a quarter of the Circulator’s drivers had not completed all 160 hours of required safety training and that Errands Plus, faced with a shortage of buses, subcontracted DTS Worldwide Transportation to run two vehicles on the circulator’s Green Route. 

BOE documents say the city solicited vendors for the bid in 2018 by posting on CitiBuy, eMaryland Marketplace, and in local newspapers. Baltimore received two bids: one from Errands Plus and another from former operator Transdev Services. 

The three year contract includes two one year renewal options to be exercised at the city’s discretion.

Emily Sullivan is a city hall reporter at WYPR, where she covers all things Baltimore politics. She joined WYPR after reporting for NPR’s national airwaves. There, she was a reporter for NPR’s news desk, business desk and presidential conflicts of interest team. Sullivan won a national Edward R. Murrow Award for an investigation into a Trump golf course's finances alongside members of the Embedded team. She has also won awards from the Chesapeake Associated Press Broadcasters Association for her use of sound and feature stories. She has provided news analysis on 1A, The Takeaway, Here & Now and All Things Considered.