Friday, June 22, 2007

east county buses: everything in transit? (updated)

HIATUS! Just Up The Pike is taking a brief vacation from The Blog and venturing outside for a couple of days. We'll be back later next week, but in the meantime . . .

UPDATE: One bus rider in the Tamarack Triangle writes Dr. Gridlock to protest the loss of the Greenbelt-Glenmont line.

The rumor mill in East County's been churning for the past few weeks with talk that Metro, in addition to its latest round of route changes, will consider discontinuing its Greenbelt-Glenmont Line, also known as the C7 and C9 - and its "worst performing regional line in Maryland."

Greenbelt-Glenmont, which runs along congested Randolph Road between the two Metro stations, averages thirteen passengers a trip. I can't help but wonder which is worse: that it could be replaced by a church van, or that a Randolph line could get such pitiful ridership.

And why? Because East County commuters headed into the Downcounty or D.C. would rather catch the Metro at Silver Spring, while Rockville-bound commuters find themselves having to switch to another bus or (gasp!) the Metro at Glenmont. And no one's actually going to Glenmont, at least until it becomes the mini-downtown we've been promised.

AFTER THE JUMP: Was light-rail supposed to come to East County?

But as the Post's Dr. Gridlock and this Metro staff report point out, money from the Greenbelt-Glenmont Line would go to the Z routes, including the Z2 and Z6, which will both see service cuts starting next week. The Z Line, which runs up Route 29 between Silver Spring, Burtonsville, and Laurel, is by all means a success: it not only attracts commuters, but shoppers as well. By serving all three Northeast Consortium high schools, it's a huge hit with young people. You'll be hard-pressed to find a seat on some Z buses at any time.

The Route 29 corridor is starved for better transit. As recently as 1981, a light-rail line was planned to connect Burtonsville to Silver Spring via the Wheaton Metro. Thousands of apartments were built in the Briggs Chaney and White Oak areas in anticipation of it. But the line was scrapped (not enough riders for the cost, they said), and today we're left with a bus network that can be both very useful and very inconvenient.

While light-rail may unfortunately be a fargone conclusion for East County, it might be time to look at our bus system beyond a few service changes. The new Ride On Route 21 (above), which starts Monday, is a good example. It anticipates the loss of the C7 and C9 by serving neighborhoods along Randolph Road, but due to concerns about noise in Tanglewood, adjacent to Route 29, it's taken over part of the Z6 route. The result is a line that attempts to please everyone and, in doing so, will probably fail to make anyone happy (or on time).

Some 150,000 people live in East County - the population of a small city. Wouldn't it be a given that our transit needs might be as varied and diverse as that of a city? If Metrobus wants more Z6s and fewer C9s, it'll have to take our needs into consideration.


Anonymous said...

I was not aware there was ever planned rail transit for the US 29 corridor. I was under the assumption that much of the high-density development was planned as the Montgomery County part of the I-95 corridor city (now Konterra)and not a corridor city in itself.

Could anyone lead me to documents that mention that a ligh rail route for the corridor was planned prior to most of the development there.

I think there will be a day when a US 29 light rail is built, hopefully all the way to Columbia. Look at how much traffic there is on US 29 in the morning from Columbia and you know there is demand.

Anonymous said...

I believe east county bus is convinient but at the same time as mentioned it can be inconvinient. As a resident of Fairland who is one of many passengers losing the Z6 on Monday in our neighborhood due to service cuts, east county needs to look at the service and frequency of its buses. That can start by getting rid of routes like the C7,9 for more money to begin these improvements. As for the Ride On 21, I think Montgomery County has the right idea by bringing new service that will enter areas that have never had bus service but at the same time, when areas already have acceptable bus service why make the ride longer for passengers?

Anonymous said...

It doesn't surprise me that so few people ride that line... that is a huge distance and would take forever if you had to stop every few blocks. I would think you could go Glenmont to Ft. Totten and then out to Greenbelt faster.

Wheaton is east county, but still pretty far (15 to 45 minutes depending on traffic) from the large apt. buildings on 29. Better mass transit up and down 29, especially from NH to/past the Beltway is really important. Personally, I think there should be a redline spur that goes up to where the ICC will connect with Briggs-Chaney. That way people can park at BC and metro into the city from there rather than continuing to drive to either the Silver Spring, Glenmont, or Wheaton stations (i.e., cutting both N-S traffic and E-W traffic accross Randolph and University).

Anonymous said...

Is this Ride On 21 Bus actually a helicopter in Ride-On blue?

That's the only way it will get from downtown Silver Spring to the Colesville Post Office (New Hampshire and Wolf Drive) in 18 or 19 minutes during rush hour.