Bethesda residents among those pushing to save rush-hour Metrobus into D.C.

Bethesda residents among those pushing to save rush-hour Metrobus into D.C.

The D5 is slated for elimination in July

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Bethesda residents are among more than 1,300 people who signed a petition urging the Washington Metropolitan Transit Authority (WMATA) board to keep a rush-hour Metrobus route from Bethesda to Washington, D.C.

WMATA is considering eliminating its D5 Metrobus route, which starts near the intersection of Massachusetts Avenue and Chesterbrook Road in Bethesda’s Westwood neighborhood, and runs to Farragut Square in D.C.

Buses only run on weekdays approximately from 7 and 9 a.m. and from 4:30 to 7:30 p.m. Morning buses only travel into D.C. and evening buses only travel into Maryland.

WMATA estimates that eliminating the D5 would save about $279,000 in its fiscal year 2021 proposed budget, which takes effect July 1. The transit agency’s eight voting members will take action on the budget in the spring.

Bethesda resident David Amaglobeli started the petition “Keep D5 Bus Route!” this month after learning of the proposed cut to the route. As of Friday evening, the petition had more than 1,300 signatures.

Amaglobeli, a senior economist at the International Monetary Fund, said in an interview Friday that he takes the bus every day from his home off Sangamore Road in Bethesda to a stop a couple of blocks from his office on 19th Street in D.C. The trip, he said, takes about 30 minutes.

“We don’t have good alternatives. The experience has been OK, but not great, because the bus is not very reliable, but it’s better than any other alternative,” he said.

Amaglobeli said the petition has been sent to the WMATA board, members of D.C.’s council and Maryland state senators.

Robert Cole, who lives in the Fort Sumner neighborhood in West Bethesda, said in an interview that he uses the D5 often during the week. He travels to his job at U.S. Customs and Border Protection headquarters, disembarking at K Street, then transferring to another bus or finishing his trip on Metrorail. The trip, he said, takes about 45 minutes.

Cole said he sometimes takes Montgomery County’s Ride On bus to the Friendship Heights Metrorail station, then hops on a train. But that’s 10 minutes longer, he said.

Cole said the D5 is the most efficient bus for anyone on the west side of Bethesda in the Fort Sumner or Sumner neighborhoods, as well as the Palisades neighborhood in Northwest D.C., to get to Georgetown or anywhere else in downtown D.C.

“It [runs] along [a portion of] Canal Road where no other bus overlaps,” he said.

Cole said if the bus were stripped from WMATA’s budget, he would likely take Metrorail instead, but won’t drive to work because it is too expensive.

Mike Goldman, a Montgomery County resident who is one of eight voting members on the WMATA board, said Friday afternoon that he had seen the petition, as well as a letter the Montgomery County Council sent the board earlier in the week. That letter asked WMATA’s board to preserve service on the Q, L, Z and J lines that serve the county.

Goldman said the bus routes outlined in the County Council’s letter are his main focus, and the D5 will likely be a priority of the board’s D.C. members.

“There’s gonna have to be some agreement among board members as to which bus routes are gonna be saved. Because we’ll have to find funding for it somewhere else in the budget,” he said.

WMATA board chairman Paul Smedberg did not return a message on Tuesday seeking comment about the County Council’s letter.

Goldman said $30 million would be saved if all of the bus cuts in the budget were approved.

“That’s a decent chunk that needs to be made up,” he said.

Amaglobeli said he and his wife own a car, but she uses it during the week. If the D5 is eliminated, he said, he would be forced to buy a second car. The best alternative, he said, would be to get a car.

“Which is a much more expensive option,” he said.

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

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