Service on Three Ride On Bus Routes Being Reduced
Council agrees to plan that avoids cuts on four other lines
The frequency of bus service on three Ride On routes serving Gaithersburg, Rockville, Aspen Hill and Glenmont is expected to be reduced later this year.
In his budget for 2020, County Executive Marc Elrich proposed cutting the number of hourly bus trips on seven routes but the County Council last week approved $2.1 million in supplemental funding that will prevent schedule changes on four of the lines.
The county-operated Ride On buses provide greater coverage in neighborhoods than regional Metrobuses, which primarily traverse major arteries in metropolitan Washington.
The council’s decision, made as it put final touches on next year’s budget recommendations, means bus trips on Route 26, between Westfield Montgomery Mall and the Glenmont Metro station, and Route 59, from Montgomery Village Center and the Rockville Metro station, will operate every 20 minutes rather than every 15 minutes. Buses on Route 38, between White Flint and Wheaton Metro stations, will run every 30 minutes compared to the current 20- to 25-minute schedule.
The changes are expected to take effect Sept. 1, according to Department of Transportation spokeswoman Maureen McNulty.
Existing service will be maintained on routes 49 (Rockville Metro to Wheaton Metro), 55 (Germantown Transit Center to Rockville Metro), 57 (Lakeforest Mall to Shady Grove Metro) and 64 (Montgomery Village Center to Shady Grove Metro).
Council member Evan Glass, a member of the Transportation and Environment Committee, pressed to maintain service.
“There was a thought that if you reduced service for them, people would continue riding them and it would not be a problem. But the reality is when you reduce service for public transportation, people stop using it because it becomes unreliable,” Glass said.
Glass noted several of the routes Elrich had sought to reduce serve upcounty communities where Ride On is the main provider.
Council member Hans Riemer, also a member of the transportation committee, said he was disappointed that not all seven were funded.
“Cutting service from every 15 minutes to every 20 minutes is sure to lose riders on some of our busiest routes, so we have work to do there,” he said.
Budget Director Rich Madaleno said the rationale for reducing service on the seven routes was many of the routes served duplicate locations.
“As we were trying to make the [budget] numbers balance in March, a decision was made as to what we can reduce, and those lines had the most redundancy to them,” Madaleno said. “And so it was expanding the time between runs. The other choice would have been to eliminate the lowest ridership routes, but those are areas where there is no redundancy or access to transit. So it was a difficult decision.”
Madaleno also said the void left by the reduction in regular Ride On service will be partially filled by the addition of an on-demand pickup service being piloted this summer, which will help residents who live near the Rockville, Wheaton and Glenmont Metro stations solve the “last mile” problem by transporting them to a transit hub.
Additionally, he noted that the county’s first bus rapid transit line, called Flash, is scheduled to begin service next year, connecting communities along U.S. 29 between Silver Spring and Burtonsville.
The council is scheduled to adopt a budget for fiscal 2020, which starts July 1, on Thursday.
Dan Schere can be reached at Daniel.email@example.com