2018 | Transit

Bethesda Circulator Monthly Ridership Increased By More Than 50 Percent in Last Decade

County’s Office of Legislative Oversight issues annual evaluation of Bethesda Urban Partnership

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Ridership on the Bethesda Circulator, the free shuttle bus that serves the downtown, increased by an average of 12,000 riders a month from 2008 to this year, according to a new report on the Bethesda Urban Partnership by the county’s Office of Legislative Oversight.

Ridership was 22,608 passengers a month in 2008, and increased to 34,560 riders per month during the first six months of 2018, for a net gain of 53 percent, according to the report.

Buses start at 7 a.m. on weekdays and 10 a.m. Saturday and run until 11 p.m. Monday through Thursday  and until midnight on Friday and Saturday.

The urban partnership, a 35-employee nonprofit that has managed and marketed downtown Bethesda since 1994, began managing the circulator in September 2006 according to the report, following five years in which its predecessor, the Bethesda 8 Trolley, was funded through state and county subsidies as part of the county’s Ride On bus service.

According to the report, ridership likely increased within the last decade due to the increased demand for bus service in Bethesda, and the expansion of the circulator’s route.

In early 2016, the circulator expanded from 2.1 to 3.3 miles, incorporating parts of Bradley Boulevard and Battery Lane. The expansion also provided riders with better access to the Bethesda Metro station.

BUP’s total revenues increased from $4.6 million in fiscal 2014 to $5.1 million in fiscal 2018, which ended June 30.  About 93 percent of revenue is provided by the county.

Expenditures also increased during that period, from $4.5 million in fiscal 2014 to $5 million in fiscal 2018. Spending on the circulator also increased from $826,000 to $1.1 million during the four years.

The county’s report, required every five years, noted residents and businesses were generally pleased with services provided by the partnership.

“The next five years will be an exciting time for Bethesda as we anticipate the completion of the Purple Line, the arrival of Marriott International Headquarters, thousands of new residents, and over 2 million square feet of new office space,” BUP Chairman Robert Donohoe wrote in a letter accompanying the report. “We believe BUP is strongly positioned to work with our County and community stakeholders to navigate this time of transition and to ensure that Bethesda continues to be an incredible place to raise a family, open a business, and enjoy a diverse offering of cultural and entertainment amenities.”

Dan Schere can be reached at Daniel.schere@bethesdamagazine.com