Tuesday night was a hearing at First Baptist Church in Wheaton to explain how WMATA is "breaking" the Q2 into two segments starting late this December and to get the public's feedback. "Breaking" being the operative word, as the proposed "improvements" will do nothing to alleviate the current line problems but could do much to worsen it. Unfortunately, only two bus riders including myself testified at the hearing. We were outnumbered ten-to-one by WMATA staff and other area transit employees. If you would like to comment (and I very much urge you to do so), you may send an email by 5pm Friday, October 16 to WMATA's public outreach contact.
The Q2 currently runs twelve miles from Shady Grove to Silver Spring, passing through Wheaton and Rockville along Georgia Avenue, Veirs Mill Road, and Rockville Pike. It carries 10,200 riders a day and is one of the most heavily used bus lines in the region. The segment between Silver Spring to Wheaton carries over 50% of those Q2 riders. In the new proposal, there will be a Q2A bus that runs from Shady Grove to Wheaton and a Q2B bus from Rockville to Silver Spring, allowing the Veirs Mill section between Wheaton and Rockville to be served most frequently.
One of the problems many Q2 riders pointed out at previous meetings was the detour into the Rockville campus of Montgomery College, which was often totally unnecessary when the campus is closed. That remains as part of the QA route with a minor adjustment to switch campus entrances that will save mere seconds off the bus route. They are also looking into saving time at Shady Grove, Rockville, and Wheaton metro stations by reconfiguring how the buses enter and exit them.
I'd suggest they more clearly mark which buses are going in which direction as most delays I experience are the bus drivers repeatedly telling illiterate riders "Shady Grove" or "Silver Spring" as they block others from boarding. I can only imagine how this will play out on the overlapping Q2A/Q2B lines along Veirs Mill with the poor driver having to explain to folks not only the destination but if they are not going all the way as well.
A Q9 Express version of the Q2 line was requested by many of the attendees at past Q2 meetings as the logical solution to the current bus-bunching and schedule problems. I was informed by WMATA & Ride-On staff after the meeting that the Express line "just missed funding" in the current budget by a tiny margain and has been shelved for now. Just as well, as it only went from Shady Grove to Wheaton, inexplicably leaving off the most traveled section of the Q2 line from the Wheaton to Silver Spring stations. When I asked why the Express was not including this segment, I was given no explanation or reason.
One official later said that "we hoped this would steer more folks to take the Red line" for that portion. He was not joking. So those of us who want to get upcounty from downcounty are not only forced to transfer between multiple buses, but also between Metro and back and to also then to pay the 3-5x price increase for using rail for a portion of our travels.
No mention at all was made of the Y line buses that run north-south on Georgia Avenue and whether they will be increased to absorb this excess passenger load shifted to them by the planned decrease in Q2 service from Silver Spring to Wheaton. When I brought this up in my testimony the officials present looked surprised. The fact is when a Y bus runs late (which is often), the Q2 takes on all those extra passengers and then the bottleneck shifts to the Q2. This is the domino effect that is choking both bus lines. A Georgia Avenue express bus on the Y line, say from Silver Spring to Glenmont, would greatly relieve that pressure on both lines now and would be the ideal solution to most of all of the Q2 bus bunching as well as the Y bus schedule problems.
Kathy Jentz is editor and publisher of Washington Gardener magazine and can be reached at WGardenermag at aol dot com. If you've got something to say about East County, say it here! Send any contributions to justupthepike at gmail dot com.