Residents of Friendship Heights and nearby neighborhoods want an alternative to the Metro for getting into downtown Bethesda, which is why some are hoping for a Friendship Heights to Bethesda shuttle.
In a sub-committee meeting of the Western Montgomery Citizens Advisory Board on Monday, what seemed more plausible was an adjustment to existing Ride On or WMATA bus routes.
Phil McLaughlin, manager of operations planning for Ride On, said the only existing route that directly connects Friendship Heights and Bethesda is Route 34, which runs from Friendship Heights north on Wisconsin Avenue to Bethesda, then east to Wheaton and north all the way to Aspen Hill.
That route provides about a 15-minute trip from Friendship Heights to Bethesda, but only about every 30 minutes.
A representative from the Chevy Chase West Neighborhood Association said that wasn’t often enough. Residents in Chevy Chase West are also pushing for crosswalks across Wisconsin Avenue to access stops for northbound bus routes on the east side of the road, where State Highway officials hope to soon build a sidewalk.
Another option for Friendship Heights residents traveling to Bethesda is Ride On Route 29, though that route runs through residential neighborhoods along Massachusetts Avenue, Whittier Boulevard and Wilson Lane before winding into downtown Bethesda.
Participants in the meeting spoke about the significant population of seniors in Friendship Heights who want more convenient and reliable access to Bethesda’s restaurants, shopping areas and medical buildings.
The sub-committee will probably pen a short advisory letter to the County Council’s Transportation & Environment Committee, which is scheduled to hear from WMATA on its bus priority corridors plan on Monday morning.
Members of the Friendship Heights, North Bethesda and downtown Bethesda Transportation Management Districts also presented their priorities and challenges in getting more workers in those areas out of cars.
David Dabney, executive director of the Bethesda Urban Partnership, said changing commuters’ negative attitudes toward buses, Metro and bicycling is difficult with aging infrastructure. The sub-committee also discussed safety issues many feel will come to the forefront when Capital Bikeshare is introduced in Bethesda later this year.