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Feb. 5, 2010

Ride-On plans cut

by Jenny Sholar, Managing Features Editor
A plan to cut Ride-On bus service from 27 area routes has been proposed by county officials and will go into effect in March if the County Council approves the changes. The cuts are part of an effort to offset the county’s projected $600 million budget deficit this fiscal year, according to county spokesperson Esther Bowring.

The proposal is part of a Jan. 7 budget savings plan developed by County Executive Isiah Leggett. The plan discontinues or reduces bus service for 27 routes across the county, according to Bowring.

Of these 27, routes in the Blair area that would be discontinued on weekdays are Route 3 (Takoma - Silver Spring) and Route 21 (Silver Spring - Briggs Chaney), according to a Montgomery County Department of Transit press release. The plan would also cut Saturday service for two routes running along Colesville Road, Routes 14 (Silver Spring - Takoma) and Z2 (Silver Spring - Colesville).

The plan also marks the discontinuation of segments of several routes. The proposal would eliminate the following routes:

On weekdays, Routes 3, 21, 30, 33, 36, 52, 53 and 81. On Saturdays, Routes 14, 23, 29, 43, 45, 83, 98, L8, T2 and Z2.

On Sundays, Routes 29, 38, 83, L8 and T2.

The proposal also recommends reductions in the number of trips on 10 routes and restructuring on four routes.

The cuts would eliminate an estimated one million of Ride-On’s 30 million annual trips and 52 bus operator positions, according to a memorandum issued by Leggett to the County Council. The bus routes listed in the proposal were chosen in an effort to minimize impact on the lives of citizens, said Bowring.

Officials considered the availability of other transportation in the area, including alternative bus routes, as well as the recent performance of the routes, according to Neil Greenberger, a spokesperson for the county council.

Bus routes falling below their sustainable threshold, a measurement of a route’s usage that varies from route to route, were marked for elimination or reduction.

Of the routes listed in the plan, the lowest ridership was seven riders per hour, compared with a system wide average of 27 riders per hour, said Bowring.

Some of the routes to be cut were actually slightly above their sustainable threshold, but still had to be cut in order to meet the county’s goals for fiscal reductions, said Bowring. “Given an extraordinary situation, we need to take extraordinary measures,” she said. The proposal comes in response to a projected budget shortfall of $600 million for the current fiscal year and a lack of funding for Fiscal Year 2011, said Greenberger.

The county is forced to make cuts in part because Leggett has pledged not to raise taxes, he said.

The Ride-On reductions would save the county approximately $1.2 million, from their implementation on March 28 until the end of the fiscal year in June, and save an additional $4 million for every fiscal year afterward, said Bowring.

The bus route changes are part of Leggett’s savings plan to cut roughly $70 million from this year’s overall budget, according to Greenberger. County officials held a public forum to discuss the proposed changes on Feb. 1 in Rockville.

The Transportation and Energy Committee of the County Council will meet today in order to discuss the Ride-On service reductions. The committee will make a recommendation of action to the rest of the council, who will make a final decision later in the month.



FARE DEAL
In another effort to combat the budget shortfall and the effects of the recession, Leggett has proposed increasing the fare on Ride-On buses by 10 to 20 cents. If approved, these changes would go into effect on March 1.

The County Council is accepting testimony tonight at 7:30 p.m. in the 3rd Floor Hearing Room of the Council Office Building, 100 Maryland Ave, Rockville.
For more information, visit the Ride-On website at www.montgomerycountymd.gov/RideOn.




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