County Council, state delegation urge WMATA to restore Metrobus funding

County Council, state delegation urge WMATA to restore Metrobus funding

Service cuts to Q, J, L and Z routes proposed for fiscal year 2021

| Published:
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Members of the Montgomery County Council and state lawmakers are asking the Washington Metropolitan Transit Authority to restore funding for four bus lines that serve Montgomery County

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Montgomery County Council members and state lawmakers are urging the Washington Metropolitan Transit Authority (WMATA) to maintain service levels for four Metrobus routes targeted for cuts.

WMATA’s $2 billion operating budget for fiscal year 2021 cuts service to a number of bus lines. The service cuts include:

  • Eliminating service on the Q routes (Shady Grove to Silver Spring) between Shady Grove and Rockville Metro stations. Buses would continue to run between Rockville and Silver Spring. The transit agency estimates this would cut costs by $246,000 and require 1,539 weekday riders to transfer.
  • Eliminating the entire Z2 route (Silver Spring to Olney). This is projected to save more than $1 million, but WMATA estimates that about 230 riders would have no access to bus service. Other riders could make their trips using different routes, the transit agency estimated.
  • Eliminating the entire Z8 route (Fairland route) by consolidating parts of the route on other existing bus lines. The measure is estimated to save $1.2 million. WMATA estimates that 276 weekday riders wouldn’t have access to local bus service during off-peak periods.
  • Eliminating the entire Z11 route (Greencastle to Briggs Chaney), estimated to save more than $1 million.
  • Reducing early morning and late-night service on the J2 (Bethesda to Silver Spring) and L8 (Friendship Heights to Aspen Hill) routes.

All nine County Council members and a majority of Montgomery County’s state delegation sent WMATA a letter on Tuesday opposing the cuts. Council member Evan Glass initiated the outreach.

Tuesday’s letter to Paul Smedberg, the chair of the WMATA board, states that about 65,000 Montgomery County riders use Metrobus every day, and for many, it is their only source of transportation.

“Service reductions will disproportionately affect students commuting to Montgomery College, seniors running daily errands and service workers accessing jobs,” it states.

The letter goes on to state that Montgomery County has communities with the highest usage of public transit in Maryland and that cutting service would be “counter” to the county’s goals of reducing congestion and greenhouse gas emissions.

“It is because of our high demand and strong support for public transit that we strongly encourage WMATA to focus on improving and enhancing our current service patterns rather than reducing them,” it stated.

WMATA representatives referred all questions about the letter to Smedberg Wednesday morning. Smedberg could not immediately be reached for comment.

WMATA is holding public hearings on the budget throughout the region this month and accepting public comments online through March 2. The board will vote on the budget later this spring.

Any service changes would take effect July 1, when the fiscal year starts.

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

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