Friday, May 1, 2009

metro's bus cuts hit east county, but not too hard

Traffic on East Randolph Road at rush hour. Below: East County riders wait for buses at the Silver Spring Metro last summer.

Everyone's breathing a sigh of relief that Metro's decided not to enact major service cuts across the region, but the cuts they chose to make disproportionately affect East County. Of the four bus routes that were eliminated completely, three of them - the L7 between Wheaton and the District (via Connecticut Avenue) and the C7 and C9 between Greenbelt and Glenmont - all serve the east side. A fourth line, the Z2 between Silver Spring, Colesville and Ashton, would have more infrequent service.

Metro's bus timetable show that the L7's route is mostly duplicated by the L8 and, of course, the Red Line, which is a much faster way to go from Wheaton into D.C. And at least south of New Hampshire Avenue, Z2 riders can catch any of the other Z buses - which, as one of the most well-used lines in the Metrobus system, won't be going anywhere soon.

But the loss of the C7 and C9 is actually kind of disappointing. I've written before about the push to kill the two lines that travel the heavily congested Randolph and Cherry Hill roads but manage to grab fewer daily riders than could fit in a church van. It's not that there isn't a demand for transit on Randolph Road - in fact, as one of the few east-west arteries in Montgomery County, that couldn't be further from the truth. The C7 and C9 failed because it didn't connect East County with the jobs and shopping in further west in White Flint and along Rockville Pike, destinations that would otherwise require a long Metro ride through D.C.

Perhaps the answer wasn't to cut the C7 and C9 but to expand the service to gain riders and justify the expense of running buses. The C2 and C4 travel between Greenbelt and Twinbrook, but via University Boulevard and Veirs Mill Road, not Randolph. The C8 runs between College Park and White Flint, but doesn't serve Randolph Road east of New Hampshire. There's now a gap in service along Randolph and Cherry Hill between New Hampshire Avenue and Greenbelt, one that's not easily made up for by other routes.

It's a shame that Montgomery County didn't offer to help foot the bill for Metrobus routes as the state of Maryland and Prince George's County did earlier this week. Of course, it wouldn't make sense to try and keep a bus route on life support if the ridership isn't there. But if that additional funding was used to make the C7 and C9 more effective, that money would be better spent than saved.


Nancy (Councilmember Floreen) said...

Actually, we have been deep in cutting deals to keep bus routes and service alive. But we can't afford everything. Remember that taxpayer subsidy of transit is about $5 for every $1 paid by riders. We propose to increase some parking fees in Bethesda and transfer that increase to subsidize some transit. But the state hit us hard in Highway User Fee, so we're scrambling. It could have been much worse with Metro. Kudos to our members of the Board, especially Peter Benjamin.

Glenn Orlin said...

The Council has been devoting its attention to fnding the funds to continue Ride On service. As you may now the Executive has proposed cutting over $2 million of service on July 5 to help close a half-billion budget gap in FY 2010.

The Council's T&E Committee this week recommended approval of a complex proposal that, by raising parking fees in Bethesda and North Bethesda and cutting back some funding for transit incentives to businesses, will be able to fund the continuation of all Ride On service that is on the street now. Under T&E's plan several routes in the central and southeastern portion of the county that are planned for cutbacks or restructuring--including Ride On routes 3, 6, 7, 15, 17, 18, 25, 31, 34, 37, and 49--would be able to continue running as they are today. The Council will take up this proposal on May 5.

The proposal also would allow Ride On to continue to operate the L8 Metrobus route on Saturdayas and Sundays and the Z2 Route on Saturdays.

For more detail, go to: