CSG comments on Ride On Reimagined

November 15, 2023

Montgomery County Department of Transportation
Executive Office Building
101 Monroe St, #10
Rockville, MD 20850

Dear Ride On Reimagined Team:

I am writing on behalf of the Coalition for Smarter Growth to share our comments on the Ride On Reimagined draft network. Thank you for your work on this important plan to improve bus service in Montgomery County!

First, we support recommendations in the draft network to add additional east-west bus routes (39, 95, and 37 in the draft network), and 7-day express service connecting Silver Spring-White Oak-Germantown (102 in the draft network). These expanded routes and hours of service will better connect residents countywide to economic opportunities and activity centers.

Second, we recommend running express service on planned BRT routes until the completion/opening of the BRT service. 

Third and finally, we cannot emphasize enough the importance of frequency for an excellent bus service that will make taking the bus more convenient for all riders, and encourage more people to switch from trips by car!

In Ride On Reimagined’s customer survey, riders identified frequency (“How often the bus comes”) as a primary concern. A majority of riders also specifically identified more frequent service as a higher priority for them than shorter distances to bus stops: “When given the choice, most prefer shorter waits between buses more than they want shorter walks to the bus stop.

For this reason and according to Ride On Reimagined’s own survey data we believe that frequent bus service should be a higher priority than on-demand (Flex) service. Plans for future bus service should reflect the fact that a majority of riders have identified frequency as their top priority. 

We recommend Flex zones only for locations like Germantown and Olney where many residents have limited access to fixed-route service and could gain improved access to jobs and services. In these locations, Flex service could be transformative and well worth the investment. But in more populous areas and where a larger share of people need transit, resources should go towards increased frequency, not on-demand service. 

This two-pager from TransitCenter offers additional background on the benefits of more frequent service instead of large expansions of microtransit, and examples of what has and has not worked for microtransit in other jurisdictions, while also offering helpful guidance on appropriate use cases for microtransit.

Additionally, we recommend higher frequency throughout the day and week, particularly on higher-ridership local routes. County residents use bus service for more than just Monday to Friday, 9-to-5 jobs—we travel for night and weekend shifts, as well as health care, school, recreation, shopping, to visit friends and family, and more.

The current proposed minimum frequency of 30 minutes on local routes for weekday off-peak and weekend service is not enough to make the bus a truly convenient option for many. While 30-minute headways may be appropriate on particularly low-ridership routes at low-ridership times of day, 15-minute headways should be the standard for weekdays and weekends.

MCDOT should create a ridership-based metric to determine when local routes will have minimum 15-minute versus 30-minute headways, rather than making 30-minute headways the standard off-peak frequency system wide.

Thank you,
Carrie Kisicki
Montgomery Advocacy Manager

Coalition for Smarter Growth