- The Washington Times - Thursday, June 14, 2018

The Metro Board set aside $3.5 million Thursday to change bus lines by the end of the month and $1.25 million to possibly eliminate the Red Line’s “Grosvenor turnback.”

The board is waiting for a viability study next month on the Red Line proposal. Currently, some trains to Shady Grove stop at the Grosvenor — Strathmore station and turn back, leaving passengers there to wait for the less frequent trains that continue to Shady Grove.

“[D]uring those hours, you have squeeze in like the Japanese subways,” D.C. Councilmember Mary Cheh, Ward 3 Democrat and chair of the Transportation Committee, told The Washington Times.

“We are hopeful that in July, once the board receives the Title VI analysis and operational feasibility study, it will give its full approval to end the turnbacks in January 2019,” said Al Roshdieh, director of the Montgomery County Department of Transportation, told The Times.

Board member Michael Goldman said more trains traveling to Shady Grove would “immediately result in improved service for Metrorail riders.” But all four board members appointed by President Trump voted against the proposal and to withhold funds.

“The infrastructure at Shady Grove cannot reliably handle the turnback of 15 trains an hour,” said board member Steve McMillin, citing a memo estimating that the station’s infrastructure could require a capital investment of up to $30 million to handle more trains.

“This is not a situation where there are no benefits to [Metro] from improved service on the Red Line,” Mr. Goldman countered. He suggested that recent development along Rockville Pike will create more road congestion and make Metro an attractive commuting alternative if service is improved.

Christian Dorsey, chairman of Metro’s Finance Committee, called those benefits “speculative” until the transit system completes its market analysis next month. He approved the measure to withhold funding to eliminate the turnbacks in January until the results of the viability study are available.

“In the best of all worlds you wait until the study is done before you do the financing,” said Metro Board Chairman Jack Evans, who also represents Ward 2 on the D.C. Council.

“But in the situation that we’re now in, I don’t want to send a message to Maryland that we’re not interested in one of their top priorities,” he said, referring to $150 million the state recently ponied up for Metro’s dedicated funding.

In the meantime, Metrobus riders can expect several route changes that will go into effect July 1:

The “pilot” bus routes G9 will become a permanent fixture in the system.

The V5, 22B, and 94 routes will be canceled, and a new line, the 59, will be added to 14th Street.

The U8, 52, 53, 54, 74, 92, X9, 7A, 7F, 16G, 16H, 16B, 16J, and 16X will be expanded.

The X2, U5, U6, U7, and 10E will be restructured to handle increased traffic.

Several local officials welcomed the changes, including Ms. Cheh, who persuaded Metro not to shorten the bus route as originally planned.

“I was very pleased that they listened to our residents and the community in general about the changes,” she said.

Ed Garnett, a Ward 3 Advisory Neighborhood Commissioner who has long championed increased bus service, told The Times that the G9 bus “sits behind single-occupant cars in traffic. Unless we find some way to prioritize bus traffic, like a dedicated lane, people can’t rely on the bus to get to work on time.”

The changes are part of Metro’s efforts to increase ridership, which has fallen for the last 10 years.

At 82.6 million trips so far in 2018, Metrobus ridership is down 9.4 percent from last year, according to board documents, but officials hope for a rebound as a summer of Metrorail station shutdowns approaches.

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