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Fund Ride-On, not subsidized parking, says Transit First

The Transit First! coalition of transit, environmental and labor groups says that Montgomery County is moving in the wrong direction by cutting transit service. According to the budget proposal released today, Montgomery will cut $4.8 million of Ride-On service which helps many transit-dependent riders reach commercial centers and Metro stations.

Photo by thisisbossi.

Meanwhile, Montgomery subsidizes parking in Bethesda, Silver Spring, and Wheaton to the tune of $8 million a year by pouring all parking fines into the local parking districts. As a result, those districts charge below-market prices for public parking. The county is using public funds to subsidize driving while cutting bus service. Transit First! argues that the county should instead dedicate that parking revenue to Ride-On.

Using parking district money to fund alternatives to parking is just the sort of policy Donald Shoup advises. Performance parking, where parking costs enough to ensure some empty spaces, is only half of the Shoup solution. The other half is to use the revenue from the higher prices to improve alternatives. Today, Montgomery County is following neither. The garages are so cheap that at busy periods it's almost impossible to find public parking, while private garages are still very expensive. Despite this, the county keeps pouring money into making sure those lucky enough to find a scarce space don't even pay the cost of maintaining that garage.

Planned Ride-On cuts will cause hardships for many riders who depend on the buses to get to work, said Action Committee for Transit president Ben Ross, and would be disruptive to employers as well. The elimination of weekend service on the T2 route to Potomac, for example, would make the bus line useless for retail employees who must work weekends.
Greater Greater Washington is a member of Transit First! (and I am DC vice-chair). Here is the complete press release.
David Alpert is the founder of Greater Greater Washington and its board president. He worked as a Product Manager for Google for six years and has lived in the Boston, San Francisco, and New York metro areas in addition to Washington, DC. He now lives with his wife and two children in Dupont Circle. 


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Performance parking and dedicated revenue are only two-thirds of the Shoup solution. The other third is reducing or eliminating parking minimums so that land and construction money can be used for people, not cars.

by Michael Perkins on Mar 16, 2009 2:54 pm • linkreport

Excellent coverage of this important issue. The Transit First coalition did an excellent job of highlighting how overly subsidizing parking hurts our communities.

by Cavan on Mar 16, 2009 3:00 pm • linkreport

I see many people riding metrobus for free with disability cards- or something else they just flash at the driver. Who pays for this subsidy? I'd love to see metro get paid for this from SSI or medicare or somewhere! I'd hate to see metro providing so much free service while making cutbacks elsewhere.

by Tom A. on Mar 16, 2009 3:18 pm • linkreport

@Tom A: If the riders are qualified for Metroaccess disability paratransit service, we provide them with free transportation on regular buses and rail in order to give them an incentive to use those services as opposed to using more heavily subsidized door-to-door paratransit service, which costs about $30-40 per trip. Discounted paratransit service is mandated by law.

by Michael Perkins on Mar 16, 2009 3:35 pm • linkreport

@Tom A.

Could it be a weekly pass that they are flashing? Just wanted to make sure that blame was being assigned where it was due

by Art on Mar 16, 2009 3:43 pm • linkreport

This is a classic example of the difference between creating "Parking Districts" and "Transportation Management Districts." When you focus on parking, that's all you focus on.

by Richard Layman on Mar 16, 2009 4:03 pm • linkreport

Ride-On service is horrible. The schedules for some buses like those on the #26 line are completely useless, even well out of rush hour. Their core ridership is relatively poor, minority, and/or disabled. The supposedly liberal, well-managed jurisdiction needs to live up to its over inflated rep.

by Rich on Mar 16, 2009 7:54 pm • linkreport

Rich, like any transit, RideOn has the most frequent and most convenient service in the transit-oriented places in the county. The outer car-dependent places have commuter service because it's nearly impossible to have convenient transit in low-density car-dependent suburbia.

Right now is the time to protect what we've got, not complain about what it isn't.

As far as demographics, I think RideOn is a bit more mixed than you think. I routinely use the 34 to go to Bethesda and I have a Master's degree. One of my coworkers uses the route that goes from Germantown to the Shady Grove Metro. I would avoid such clumsy statements about a sucessful bus system.

by Cavan on Mar 16, 2009 10:24 pm • linkreport

Do the parking fines pay for maintenance and upkeep of the streets and parking garages within the "parking district"? If not, they should.

For any money leftover after maintenance/upkeep, an acceptable use would then be to improve streetscape, bike/ped connections, and/or transit within the "parking district".

by Froggie on Mar 17, 2009 1:59 pm • linkreport

Not in Montgomery County, but I am curious - does Arlington subsidize all the free evening and weekend parking in Shirlngton? Many times I run past to spent 5 minutes picking up a quick book at the library, and have to endure a total madhouse.

If Arlington does subsidize all the free parking, I think they could better spend the money with smarter transit. The bus center "looks nice and green" but as far as functionality, it is out-of-the-way and hard-to-figure-out. I'm happier to walk home the 1.5 miles from Shirlington than trying to catch a bus, which was not the case before the center. Don't try waiting for a bus inside on a frigid or rainy day - it will blow right past you. So what is the point?

by LB on Mar 17, 2009 4:05 pm • linkreport

Cavan--I ride several different routes on Ride-On (#26, #43, #47 most often, occasionally #6). I used to ride the #59 and service between Rockville & Wheaton when I had another job. I wouldn't be so presumptuous. Except, perhaps, for Bethesda-bound buses, the ridership skews young, old, disabled, & minority, esp. outside of rush hour (but even during rush hours on some lines). I live in the District and know from diverse ridership. And scheduled service on lines like the #26 bizarrely approximates what one sees on notoriously unreliable Metrobus lines like #42 & 52/54. The Ride-On website is useless as to finding where buses go. When I began teaching at U-Md Shady Grove part-time, both the University & Ride-on websites were useless in finding a bus (Metro's trip finder, OTOH, was helpful). The Ride-On website mentions proposed service changes on the #43 line that services this destination but it is unclear whether they will cut rush hour service or only have rush hour service. They clearly don't want an informed public and service cuts will affect neither the people who will use the overpriced Montrose Parkway (visible from the office for my main job) nor people who pose an obvious "problem" for Mongtgy County govt. Also, FWIW, I have family who have had admin positions in Montgy Co govt and I've wokred in the County on & off since 1991. I'm well acquainated with the shortcomings of Montgy County.

by Rich on Mar 17, 2009 9:21 pm • linkreport

The final decision is made by the County Council. They respond to what they hear from the public. Write to them at:

by Ben Ross on Mar 17, 2009 9:44 pm • linkreport

"so that land and construction money can be used for people, not cars."

Cars drive themselves?

by Douglas Willinger on Mar 25, 2009 11:50 am • linkreport

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