WASHINGTON – Metropolitan transit authorities agreed Thursday to assess the impact of terminating six bus routes running in and through Maryland before going any further with the cost-saving suggestions from the Ehrlich administration.
Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority board member Gladys Mack said Metro staff will discuss the potential cuts with residents and officials of the affected jurisdictions.
At the board’s budget meeting Thursday, members suggested making cuts to frequency of rides on these bus routes or, at the very least, discussing the cuts with their jurisdictions.
Metro staff said shutting down the routes could save $2.5 million. The routes combined serve roughly 1,700 riders, according to published reports.
“We’re just looking to not pay for it anymore,” said Robert J. Smith, a Maryland representative and vice chairman of the board.
Alexandria Mayor Bill Euille, also a board member, disagreed with cutting the bus routes running from Maryland to Alexandria, Va., saying there’s been no thought given to their impact.
The cuts could disrupt the move of the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office into Alexandria, Euille said.
The Patent Office was authorized to build in the city, and as many as 10,000 employees could come to Alexandria, including those who work with information technology and legal companies that follow the patent office move, he said. From 600 to 1,000 of these employees would use mass transit, a study by the mayor’s office showed.
Termination of the six routes will reduce costs more for Maryland than for Metro, Euille said.
The routes slated for cuts include the SmartMover route, which connects Lakeforest, Rock Spring Park, and Bethesda, Md., with the Tysons-Westpark Transit Station in Virginia. It also includes routes N11 and N13 which, according to the Metro presentation, was created “to serve Maryland residents working in Virginia who commuted via the Wilson Bridge.”
Additional routes considered for cuts include N7, B11, the Greenbelt Station Parking Lot Shuttle route, and the Waldorf-Branch Avenue line.
The debate follows Wednesday’s letter from Montgomery County Executive Douglas Duncan to Maryland Gov. Robert Ehrlich Jr. sharply critical of the proposals.
Duncan decried the governor for directing Metro to end the SmartMover, N7, and B11 routes, and he said the recommendation contradicts discussions he had with Robert Flanagan, Maryland Transportation secretary.
“Secretary Flanagan maintained that the department was simply reviewing low productivity routes with an intention of redirecting those resources to other routes in the system with need for improvements,” Duncan wrote.
“Reductions in Metrobus and local bus service reduce the alternatives this region has to the ever-increasing use of single-occupant vehicles,” he wrote.
Alternatives are available to the targeted bus routes, Smith said.