Maryland county looks to build on the success of a new, limited-stop bus route - Mobility Lab

Buses traversing Montgomery County, Md.’s limited-stop Ride On ExtRa Route 101 have gotten fuller and fuller since they began operating in October 2017. The Bethesda-Gaithersburg route’s 12 percent ridership increase over the past year and a half was achieved despite competition from low gas prices and investor-subsidized ride hailing.

This contrasts strongly with national trends, as well as the county’s overall bus ridership numbers, which have fallen 11 percent during that time, according to internal Montgomery County Department of Transportation (MCDOT) figures.

Route 101, though today just a weekday rush-hour-only service, could be the beginning of a bright future for mobility in Washington D.C.’s northern suburbs. Ride On is in the process of expanding fast, frequent transit service to reach more residents and businesses, with some new routes set to incorporate characteristics of bus rapid transit (BRT).

But at the same time, in response to county budget shortfalls, the county executive proposed reducing service on seven of the county’s busiest existing bus routes. While the Montgomery County Council quickly backed off some of the originally proposed cuts, three routes still face reductions.

MCDOT officials emphasized that none of the proposed cuts will directly affect Ride On’s ExtRa, Flash, or Flex services. However, any ridership losses resulting from the cuts could adversely affect transit’s overall role in Montgomery County mobility and create further challenges for Ride On in the future.

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