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Leggett Asks MTA To Reconsider Cutting Walter Reed Commuter Bus

By Aaron Kraut

Friday - 5/24/2013, 9:30am  ET

Traffic near the intersection of Cedar Lane and Rockville Pike, Flickr photo by thisisbossiMontgomery County Executive Isiah Leggett wants the Maryland Transit Administration to reconsider its proposal to shut down a commuter bus that delivers people from Columbia, Burtonsville and Olney to the Walter Reed Military Medical Center Campus.

In a letter to MTA administrator Ralign Wells, Leggett said a 45 percent increase in personel at the Walter Reed National Military Medical Center means the county and state must work to encourage greater use of mass transit in the area, not diminish it. He pointed to a traffic mitigation plan developed by the Montgomery County and Maryland Departments of Transportation that touted greater access to transit as one of its key elements.

In June, the MTA will hold public hearings on the proposed closure of ICC Commuter Bus No. 203, which an MTA spokesperson told us earlier this week is averaging fewer than 15 riders per trip. MTA had projected an average of about 20 riders per trip with that number growing to 30 riders per trip over a 24-month period.

Leggett asks the MTA to look at targeted outreach efforts or a redesign of services as a way to redeploy resources the agency says can be better used elsewhere:

Bethesda is one of the most significant employment hubs in Maryland, with traffic congestion that demands greater use of rapid transit alternatives rather than a reduction in service. With the passage of the Base Realignment and Closure (BRAC) law in 2005 that established the Walter Reed National Military Medical Center (WRNMMC) in Bethesda, 3,600 personnel have relocated from the former Walter Reed Army Medical Center in Washington, D.C. It is important to note that this 45 percent increase in personnel at Walter Reed-Bethesda took place directly across Rockville Pike from the National Institutes of Health which has approximately 18,000 personnel.

Collaborating with the Navy, NIH and the local community, the Maryland and Montgomery County Departments of Transportation worked together to devise a comprehensive traffic mitigation strategy that had three key elements to improve mobility and pedestrian safety near WRNMMC. Those elements included: projects to provide short-term operational improvements to nearby major intersections; long-term improvements to provide greater access to and promote greater use of transit; and improvements to pedestrian and bicycle facilities for safe, walkable communities near the medical center. The biggest project which is just about to get under way is the Multimodal Crossing Project at the Medical Center Metro Station, a project that will encourage greater use of bus and rail transit by creating new and safer entrances…

…I understand and appreciate MTA’s need to make better use of available resources. The County continues to need additional transit opportunities for its residents and to encourage more drivers to get out of their cars. There may be opportunities to attract more riders through schedule modification, targeted outreach efforts or a redesign of services. I encourage you to consider redeploying these resources, and I ask that you review and consider putting additional transit resources to the Bethesda BRAC and Shady Grove Life Sciences areas.

Montgomery County BRAC Implementation coordinator Phil Alperson said he will give the county’s view at a public hearing on June 6 in Gaithersburg. Ilaya Hopkins, a Bethesda civic activist and member of the Walter Reed BRAC Integration Committee, is expected to join him.

MTA is proposing to cut two other ICC Commuter bus routes.

Arlington County transportation planner and blogger Dan Malouff called the move a “classic bait and switch from highway builders,” who promise a multimodal road to build political support for a project before cutting those other modes later.

Flickr photo by thisisbossi