Bus service will increase on more than 30 routes in Montgomery County, and a tax credit program for employers will be expanded to encourage more ridership on the Ride On transportation network.
Earlier this week, the county’s Department of Transportation announced that it would be upping service on 31 bus routes countywide and decreasing service on four routes. The 31 routes are scattered across the county, while the four routes with decreased service are in the Rockville, North Bethesda and Clarksburg regions.
Each bus has automatic passenger counters that help transportation officials monitor which bus routes are crowded, and which ones are seeing few passengers, Chris Conklin, director of the county’s Department of Transportation, told reporters during a media briefing Wednesday. That helps them determine when changes need to be made to service, he said.
Officials typically review bus route frequency about three times annually, but such assessments occurred more frequently since the start of the pandemic, Conklin said. Ideally, buses on each route are arriving at each stop every 30 minutes or less, he said.
“We look to see if we can make adjustments to be able to use the operators in the vehicles more effectively in other places where demand is higher,” Conklin said. “We tried to keep those minimum headways [for buses], and at a point where people can continue to rely on the service, and it’s not so infrequent that it’s unreasonable.”
The changes take effect Sunday. More information on exact route changes can be found on the county Department of Transportation’s website.
Along with the bus route changes, county transportation officials are also increasing an incentive program, FareShare, for employers and their employees, to encourage them to use Ride On.
Conklin told reporters that as long as the business is in Montgomery County, the monthly tax-free credit to employees has been increased from $280 to $300. County officials have budgeted $150,000 for the program this fiscal year, and businesses would have to pay $25 upfront per employee monthly to enter the program, he added.
Employers can receive up to $40,000 in reimbursements each year to use the program, Conklin said. Transportation officials hope that it will be more utilized than in 2020 and 2021, when enrollment decreased because of the COVID-19 pandemic.
“It’s a very substantial benefit, [and] an incentive for those employers that have employees returning to the workplace,” Conklin said. “And we’d like to encourage them to rediscover public transit as the preferred means for their getting to work.”