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.