The Washington, DC region is great >> and it can be greater.


Bus route changes could improve access to Dulles, BWI

Metro is considering significant changes to several Metrobus routes across the region, including the express buses they run to Dulles and BWI airports. The agency may even end bus service to Dulles altogether.

Photo by the author.

The 5A express runs from L'Enfant Plaza to Dulles Airport, making two stops along the way. It was originally created to get workers from DC to jobs near the airport. But with the opening of the Silver Line early next year, there may be less demand for that service.

The B30 runs from Greenbelt Metro to BWI Airport, making no intermediate stops. Metro is proposing to run the bus more frequently and to add a stop along the way at Arundel Mills Mall in Hanover, where the Maryland Live! casino has just opened. Before making any changes, WMATA will survey riders and take public comments on the altered routes, which could start running next year.

Dulles service could get shorter

Metrobus 5A currently runs every 30 to 40 minutes throughout the day. The trip from L'Enfant Plaza to Dulles takes just under an hour. The bus starts at L'Enfant Plaza and makes stops at Rosslyn and the Herndon-Monroe Park & Ride on its way to Dulles. Though it was originally designed as a route to get workers to the airport, the 5A is fairly popular with airport travelers.

Map of proposed 5A route options from WMATA.

Airport travelers have a different option, the Washington Flyer, which runs non-stop between Dulles and West Falls Church. The Flyer leaves every 30 minutes, and trips to West Falls Church take about 25 minutes.

Within the next few years, Metro's new Silver Line will reach Dulles. But for now, the new line will only run as far as Wiehle Avenue, still 7 miles short of the airport, when it opens early next year.

Once the first phase of the Silver Line opens, the Washington Flyer will start running buses only as far as Wiehle Avenue, discontinuing service to West Falls Church. Additionally, once the Silver Line opens, Fairfax Connector will reroute the 981 so that it runs between Wiehle Avenue (instead of Tysons-Westpark) and Dulles. That route will continue to run via Reston Town Center and Herndon-Monroe Park & RIde, and will depart every 20 minutes.

For the moment, WMATA has not decided what to do about the 5A. They are considering several options.

One option is to discontinue all service on the 5A. With the new Silver Line and shuttle services from Fairfax Connector and Washington Flyer, the 5A won't be as important. Cutting the service will save the region money, which makes a lot of sense with the new options coming online.

Another option is to simply run the 5A between Wiehle Avenue and Dulles Airport. That duplicates the 981 and Washington Flyer services, but it would maintain the Metrobus brand as an option for getting to Dulles. A third option is to run the 5A only during times when a connection to Metrorail is not possible, like when the system is closed.

The final option is to keep the existing service. There may be some merit to this approach, since an express from Dulles Airport to Downtown Washington would likely be faster than the multiple-stop rail service. But it is somewhat incongruous with the rest of the system, where suburban buses typically feed into the rail system. The B30, for example, only runs to Greenbelt Station, not all the way downtown.

New local stops on BWI service

The Metrobus B30 runs nonstop from Greenbelt station to BWI Airport. This bus service has proven to be very popular, and some trips on the route can be very crowded. Currently, the bus runs every 40 minutes throughout the day.

Metro wants to shorten headways to 30 minutes during some periods, which should help alleviate crowding. The agency also wants to add a stop at Arundel Mills Mall, requiring a short detour from the Baltimore-Washington Parkway, which the B30 uses to get to the airport. In addition to the large collection of retailers, Arundel Mills is now home to one of Maryland's new casinos, Maryland Live!

Map by the author.

There's no other Metrobus service in this area. Since the B30 gets so close, Metro hopes to tap into the demand for more service here. A stop at Arundel Mills would also provide connections to other transit providers which serve the mall, including MTA local and commuter bus service, Howard Transit, and Central Maryland Regional Transit. But the diversion would add about 10 minutes to the trip time between Greenbelt and BWI.

One other possible change is making the B30 more of a local service. Metro's proposed restructuring of the 87/88/89 line will eliminate bus service along Powder Mill Road in the Beltsville Agricultural Research Center. Since the B30 uses this road to get to the B-W Parkway, Metro may allow it to serve stops along this corridor.

These stops are very lightly used, so it probably won't add much time to trips. However, one effect of making local stops along Powder Mill is that the B30 won't be as flexible. If there's a crash on the Parkway, today supervisors can send the bus up I-95 instead. That won't be an option if this change happens.

Are "airport fares" fair for riders?

A few years ago, Metro introduced a new "airport fare" of $6 charged to riders on the 5A and B30. Compared to the $10 fare on the Washington Flyer, the 5A's $6 fare is a steal. The 5A will take you all the way downtown, whereas your $10 fare on the Flyer still leaves you with a $4.20 (rush hour) Metro fare to get to L'Enfant Plaza.

The B30, on the other hand, has always been less of a deal. The $6 fare only gets you to Greenbelt. From there, it's still $4.00 (rush hour) just to get to Gallery Place (less the transfer discount). Riders instead choosing to take the MARC train can get to Union Station for $6, though it does require taking a free shuttle from the terminal to the train station.

If the 5A is discontinued, riders will be on the hook for about $5.75 in Metro fare (the maximum fare) in addition to the $1.10 fare for Fairfax Connector (less the 50¢ transfer discount). That's a slight increase, but is still relatively cheap, given the distance Dulles is from the core.

With the B30 changes, though, the airport fare may make less sense. Passengers boarding along Powder Mill Road in the Beltsville Agricultural Research Center today pay a fare of $1.60 to board a local Metrobus. If the B30 becomes their only bus service, their one-way fare will increase by 275%.

And riders bound for Arundel Mills or Maryland Live will also be stuck paying the airport fare, even though they aren't headed for the airport. On the other hand, though, the B30 is one of Metro's more far-flung routes, so a higher fare may be justified.

Adding a B30 stop at Arundel Mills seems like a good idea. It will give riders more regional transit connections and open up a major retail and entertainment area to transit users. Eliminating the 5A also makes a lot of sense, although it will likely be very controversial. In place of the 5A, Fairfax Connector is setting up a more frequent service to get riders to Dulles, which will mean shorter waits and less crowded buses.

The changes proposed for these routes will probably be positive for most riders. Soon, it will be easier to get to Dulles and BWI, and Arundel Mills will be much more accessible to Washingtonians.

Matt Johnson has lived in the Washington area since 2007. He has a Master's in Planning from the University of Maryland and a BS in Public Policy from Georgia Tech. He lives in Greenbelt. Hes a member of the American Institute of Certified Planners. He is a contract employee of the Montgomery County Department of Transportation. His views are his own and do not represent those of his employer. 


Add a comment »

Rather then abruptly end the 5A, I think a phased approach is better. Start by running the service in parallel with the Connector 981, which keeps Metro in that game. Gauge usage for a year. If it's high enough, keep the service running. If not, dump it. Regardless, once the Silver Line reaches Dulles in 2017/18, the 5A will be cut no matter what is done now. So it's on borrowed time.

As a user of the B30, I really dislike the idea of interim stops at the casino and along Powder Mill....but especially the casino. That 10 minutes adds quite a bit of time and seems to detract from the purpose of the B30, which is the bus to BWI and back.

by JDC Esq on Sep 3, 2013 10:31 am • linkreport

Err, no.

As I feared, we are trading medicore rail service for bus service.

Keep the flyer at WFC. It is one stop, no traffic on the connector, and you've got big bins in the bottom to hold luggage.

And keep the 5a. Again, one stop. Killing the tysons stop makes sense as it is rarely used. The 5a is popular, is well known now, and is a great service to dulles.

You've got plenty of cabs in Rosslyn waiting there if you need to get further, and it makes woring in Rosslyn easier as well.

by charlie on Sep 3, 2013 10:42 am • linkreport

Kill the 5A. It saves money WMATA desperately needs. WMATA should note the FFX981 clearly on the metromap just like they marked the 5A. Duplicating with the FFX981 is a waste of money as well as confusing for passengers.

I also can't wait until the Washington Flyer dies. It is embarrassing that this region's transit system allows a private company to profit from a line that should be very profitable.

by Jasper on Sep 3, 2013 10:57 am • linkreport

Both lines are probably net money makers and adding more service probably would still be profitable. The B30 is already very depressing with its smoggy, poorly placed stops at BWI, the sunbaked stop at Greenbelt and the long, crowded trip in between. Adding stops will defeats the purpose. Arundel Mill service should be considered as a standalone.

5A probably should continue until the full Silver Line is in place. A big part of its user base is foreign tourists 9as well as budget domestic visitors) and unless new service to the Silver Line is better promoted than existing services (5A and the Flyer), there will be a lag in those people using any new services.

by Rich on Sep 3, 2013 10:58 am • linkreport

I'm rather certain that a majority of riders of the 5A are people who live in Herndon and work in Rosslyn/L'Enfant and are willing to pay $6 each way for a one or two-stop ride without a transfer to Metrorail where they're also pretty likely to get a seat rather than being jammed into a railcar.

by kidincredible on Sep 3, 2013 10:58 am • linkreport

What are WMATA's costs for operating these services? Would it be possible to raise the prices to the breakeven point?

Getting to BWI without a car sucks if you have to do it outside of the hours when Amtrak/MARC are running frequently. Even if WMATA charged $15 for a bus to Greenbelt (or, better still, a late-night bus to DC proper), it'd still be a fantastic steal compared to the other options.

by andrew on Sep 3, 2013 11:00 am • linkreport

I would like to see a WMATA bus route that serves the Wisconsin Avenue corridor and then connects to Rosslyn and Reagan airport. The 30s bus has some of the highest ridership routes of any buses in DC. Currently, if you're going from Wisconsin Avenue to Rosslyn, you have to go to Foggy Bottom and then go backwards on the Orange/Blue line or get off at Wisconsin/M Street and walk twenty minutes to the Key Bridge. Additionally, when the Silver Line begins service, there will be more demand for seamless connections to Rosslyn.

by 202_cyclist on Sep 3, 2013 11:06 am • linkreport

What should be mentioned about option 1: discontinue 5A is that it frees up buses for other service. What other service would those buses be used for? That way we would know whether discontinuing the 5a is worth it.

Since the Silver Line is what makes the 5A somewhat redundant but the silver line also results in less service for some Blue line riders, an equitable use of 5A buses would be to provide some kind of additional service that would be useful for folks living near the affected Blue line area. Not sure what that would be.

Another use for the 5A buses would be to create express service between Rosslyn and U ST but I'm sure there are many other routes on people's wish list.

by Falls Church on Sep 3, 2013 11:09 am • linkreport

There may be some merit to this approach, since an express from Dulles Airport to Downtown Washington would likely be faster than the multiple-stop rail service.

This article could use a lot more info on the effect route changes would have on travel times.

by 7r3y3r on Sep 3, 2013 11:10 am • linkreport

Should another terminus for the B30 route be considered after the Purple Line is completed?

by 202_cyclist on Sep 3, 2013 11:14 am • linkreport

The problem right now is that MWAA hasn't told WMATA what their plans are vis-a-vis the Washington Flyer. They've said that it will shorten to a Weihle Avenue-Dulles only route, but haven't given any sense about headways and schedules. So it's difficult for WMATA to plan for the 5A when it doesn't have the full picture about what services will be available. @Jasper, the Washington Flyer loses money. MWAA actually pays for the maintenance on Washington Flyer buses as an incentive for outside companies to bid. The Washington Flyer used to run all the way to downtown DC, but service was shortened because it lost so much money.

DDOT officials told the RAC last month that they put the 5A on the docket as a precautionary measure - they may not change it at all, but if they are going to make changes it has to go through the official process. Another thought that the RAC highlighted was changing the 5A end point in the District to a place where people actually live, although that comes with additional problems in terms of routing and traffic.

It's all about options. If there's track work or an incident that snarls up the rail option, riders need the 5A as a way to get to the airport reliably. In this case, redundancy is a necessity.

by Ben on Sep 3, 2013 11:34 am • linkreport

Agree with keeping the 5A to provide another option, but it should not just duplicate other services. How about Dulles direct to K Street Busway/Union Station?

by xmal on Sep 3, 2013 11:37 am • linkreport

@ kidincredible; at least based on the lines of people lined up at Rosslyn, the vast majority are airport travellers with suitcases. Unless people in Herndon are commuting with suitcases.

A few years ago -- before they raised the fare - - the 5a was the only profitable bus line. Has that changed? yes -- according to WMATA and GGW a few months ago, but I haven't seen the fare recovery numbers.

by charlie on Sep 3, 2013 11:41 am • linkreport

Another option for the 5A is to reroute.

A route west via I-66, with a stop at the Vienna Metro station, and another near the I-66 and Rt. 28 intersection in Centerville, then north on Rt. 28 to Dulles, could be feasible.

A southern rerouting might also work via I-395 to Springfield, with a couple of stops along the way, then around the Beltway via the Hot Lanes to the Dulles Toll Road.

by Sage on Sep 3, 2013 11:52 am • linkreport

@charlie: I was just judging it on my anecdotal experience of flying into Dulles at 8ish am on a weekday and getting on at the airport with only 3 other people, but when we got to Herndon/Monroe P&R, the bus just FILLED up with people.

by kidincredible on Sep 3, 2013 12:04 pm • linkreport

If people can afford to play the games at Arundel Mills they can afford to take a taxi there. The last thing a regular B30 rider needs is an even longer trip back from BWI since you already have to deal with all of the traffic on the Baltimore Washington Parkinglot.

by h_lina_k on Sep 3, 2013 12:15 pm • linkreport

A ahortcoming of the Metro service to Wiehle Ave, then Dulles (in ~5 years) with the current 5 AM start time on weekdays will be getting to Dulles in time for early morning flights. Currently the first westbound Orange Line train to Vienna arrives at Rosslyn at 5:35 AM. If the first westbound Silver train arrives at Rosslyn around the same time, it reaches Wiehle Ave circa 6 AM. Then a bus transfer to Dulles. Which makes taking the Metro to any domestic flight departing Dulles before 7:30 to 8 AM problematic. Weekend Metro service with a 7 AM start time will be forget it for any flight departing IAD before 9:30 to 10 AM.

The first 5A weekday bus departs L'Enfant at 4:50, arrives at Dulles at 5:42 AM. Would it be remotely cost effective to retain 5A service for early AM and expanded late PM periods?

As for the B30 bus, what impact will Saturday and Sunday MARC service have? Perhaps WMATA should wait until MARC ha started the (limited) Sat/Sun service, see the effect on ridership, and then decide how to best adjust the route and stops. In 8 (maybe) years, when the Purple Line is running and if MARC has at least hourly service on weekends, the B30 bus would be a candidate to be dropped entirely.

by AlanF on Sep 3, 2013 12:19 pm • linkreport

There may be some merit to this approach, since an express from Dulles Airport to Downtown Washington would likely be faster than the multiple-stop rail service.

Actually, this is not likely at all.

The current 5A travel time from Rosslyn to Dulles is 45 minutes on a good day; traffic congestion or a long dwell time (the buses take a long time to load) can blow that out of the water.

The Silver Line's projected travel time from Rosslyn to Dulles is 43 minutes:

It's not uncommon: people will percieve the service that stops more frequently to be slower, but that perception is wrong.

The 5A, as currently constituted, will not operate once the full Silver Line is open. It makes no sense to do so; the Silver Line will be superior in every way (better capacity, more destinations, higher frequency, no loss in travel time - and (hold jokes please) better reliability thanks to grade-separated right of way).

But the diversion would add about 10 minutes to the trip time between Greenbelt and BWI.

It should be noted that this is a huge delay for the bus in percentage terms. The current B30 timetables show a travel time of 30-35 minutes from Greenbelt to the airport. Change that to 40-45 minutes and you've increased your trip time by ~25%.

by Alex B. on Sep 3, 2013 12:23 pm • linkreport

Is Anne Arundel County planning to co-found Metrobus now? Otherwise, why on earth would WMATA be running a bus to take people from Greenbelt to a shopping center in Anne Arundel County (much less a shuttle from the airport to a casino in Anne Arundel)?

by JimT on Sep 3, 2013 12:27 pm • linkreport

Why inconvenience current all B30 riders with an additional stop and routing inflexibility? I'd only add the extra stops on buses that represent an increase in capacity/decrease in headway.

I think bus lines fail when they try to do too much. Too many stops and it gets to be too slow. If the B30 is already profitable and overcrowded (and assuming buses are available or could be leased), I'd concentrate on expanding service to meet the full demand first (which we won't be able to observe until the buses are less crowded, since some people -- me included -- don't take the bus because it's so crowded!).

Adding in a couple of morning or evening B30A lines with the extra stops in the BARC or the (poorly-located) casino/mall would be OK I suppose, but I'd ONLY do that for added buses, not the current runs.

by Greenbelt on Sep 3, 2013 12:39 pm • linkreport

I pay a 300% premium for the express B30 to the airport. If it becomes a local bus, well, I should pay only the regular fare.

by tour guide on Sep 3, 2013 12:48 pm • linkreport

Some of the comments on the proposed B30 changes seem to assume this service would be targeted at gamblers & shoppers. But wouldn't the more likely ridership be the casino and retail workers?

If that's the case, it would really be a shame to graft that service onto the BWI service, and require those (often low-paid commuters) to shell out for the airport premium.

by Bitter Brew on Sep 3, 2013 1:15 pm • linkreport

B30 buses already have a lot of passengers, especially at peak times when there are often lots of people standing. It doesn't make sense to invite a new crowd of people with a different destination onto the route without increasing service. Combine that with the increased trip times and the regularity with which the B30 gets jammed on the parkway (my last trip on a weekday mid-afternoon took 90 minutes), and you kill the convenience.

As it stands now, B30 needs either bigger buses or more frequent service without adding the new destination.

I'm already seriously considering switching to MARC for a faster trip at the same or lower price. If this happens, the switch will be a no-brainer.

by Chris on Sep 3, 2013 1:27 pm • linkreport

@ Chris - I completely agree. If B30 service gets any worse, then I will consider MARC or, if it's a non-MARC service period, even driving. I used the B30 to come back from Thanksgiving this past November, and it was a mess. My flight was shorter then the time I spent waiting (in the exhaust fumes) for an empty bus. If I recall correctly, I think 3 buses passed us that were not in service, and another 2-3 passed because they filled up at the earlier stops. Ugh.

by JDC Esq on Sep 3, 2013 1:57 pm • linkreport

1. B30 -- obviously, if MARC is convenient for your flight, it's a better option. I think AlanF's points about the forthcoming Sat/Sun MARC service are very important. That some of these changes might be premature pending that service.

Then again, it is "impressive" that there is so little marketing of MARC service to BWI as it is. I am always amazed at how many people take Amtrak to BWI during the time periods when MARC service is available. Clearly, they don't know about MARC.

I wouldn't be happy about it, but MARC could charge a premium for BWI service of a couple bucks.

In general, WMATA should be commended for having this bus. And the bus service should be designed to complement the passenger train stervice . When the train doesn't run and people need to get to and from the airport, the bus is a lifesaver. Obviously, that's why the B30 is busy on weekends. The service should always be offered when the train doesn't run. (In my own writings on the subject, I suggest that the bus service could be co-branded with BWI.)

wrt Arundel Mills, it's not unreasonable to add that stop. HOWEVER, Arundel Mills/MTA/Maryland Live should subsidize it. They can do that by paying for more frequent service on the line. If the B30, at least during certain hours of the day, ran every 20 minutes, maybe I wouldn't mind a 10 minute out of the way trip to Arundel Mills.

WRT casino employees, MTA should work with Cordish so that employees get subsidized fares. (Transportation demand management)

We don't know how much BWI Airport and MTA are involved in designing and paying for this service. It would be useful to know.

wrt Purple Line, well, in 7 years, we can worry about. Rather than eliminating the B30, it might offer another staging point.

Changing the B30 to a local serving line seems nonsensical.

2. WRT the 5A, I agree with people who say some of these changes seem premature. Obviously, when the Silver Line makes it to the airport, dumping the service at least when the Metrorail system is running, but offering it when it isn't, makes the most sense.

Again, MWAA should be involved in paying for this service, there should be a master airports plan including TDM and provision of transit service.

3. Which relates to National Airport, not covered by this post. Probably, as people suggested in other threads, a service from Downtown to National Airport, when Metrorail doesn't run, is in order.

Depending on the start point, such a service would connect to the 30s, 50s, 60s, 70s (50s/60s/70s cross the 90s routes), and X bus lines, which would provide a lot of access.

Again, MWAA should be involved in planning/paying for this route. So obviously, should DDOT.

I really wish there was some good comparison studies on airport transit (other than what I've blogged).

by Richard Layman on Sep 3, 2013 2:02 pm • linkreport

I am always amazed at how many people take Amtrak to BWI during the time periods when MARC service is available. Clearly, they don't know about MARC.

This is not clear at all. I have taken Amtrak during MARC hours before; it was on business and the price differential didn't matter to me, and the Amtrak schedule was more convenient.

Which isn't to say MARC couldn't communicate better - but their efforts are better focused at improving operations generally.

I wouldn't be happy about it, but MARC could charge a premium for BWI service of a couple bucks.

Why would they do this? Commuters that use the station already do pay a premium, FYI - the parking there costs money as to not undercut BWI's long term parking lots.

wrt Purple Line, well, in 7 years, we can worry about. Rather than eliminating the B30, it might offer another staging point.

And, at that time, Purple Line riders looking to get to BWI will likely be better off riding the Purple Line to New Carrollton and getting on new, improved, 7-day-a-week and more frequent and faster MARC service there.

by Alex B. on Sep 3, 2013 2:09 pm • linkreport

Do IAD and BWI help with any funding here? Both can thank a lousy B30 and even lousier 5A for my avoiding those airports whenever I can. The extra $$ to fly out of DCA is worth saving the time, the frustration, the soul-suck.

by yup yup on Sep 3, 2013 2:10 pm • linkreport

I use the 5A so want to comment. I think it is a good idea to retain the 5A bus service between 4:30 and 6:30 a.m. (prior to the first WB Silver train making it to Wiehle) weekdays and prior to 7:30 a.m. weekends.

Those 5A buses can be used elsewhere in the system during other times, such as on 16th St NW during the heavy rush periods when buses are overcrowding and we were told by one of the WMATA planners on this blog that they did not have enough buses available to put in to service.

Dulles will be accessible by transit with the Silver Line and Fairfax Connector 981 bus and/or Flyer shuttle. Why duplicate that service?

Another question is why MWAA is keeping Flyer service when the Connector 981 will be running (or why Connector is keeping 981 service if Flyer will be running buses between Wiehle and Dulles). I do not use the B30 so I am not as familiar with the proposal for that route.

by Transport. on Sep 3, 2013 2:24 pm • linkreport

The Washington Flyer or 5A should connect to the Grosvenor-Strathmore metro station. That will help grow business from Maryland. DC and Virginia will have the silver line. This will help promote Fairfax-Montgomery County transit service. WMATA is the only inter-jurisdiction service provider.

by jcp on Sep 3, 2013 2:40 pm • linkreport

Keep the 5a --- but make it direct. Dulles to downtown. $10 fare. It would be packed all day every day.

by FrequentDullesFlyer on Sep 3, 2013 2:50 pm • linkreport

jcp -- you raise a good point about direct Montgomery to Dulles Service. You have it with BWI and the ICC now...

Again, a broader airports and access plan would look at these issues. Given that Dulles is crying that they don't have enough business, they should consider this.

Obviously, it's not in Maryland's best interest to promote it vis-a-vis Dulles competes with BWI, but still.

by Richard Layman on Sep 3, 2013 2:55 pm • linkreport

AlexB -- I just don't have money to burn. (Plus I grew up in financially challenged circumstances, so paying $15 or more extra for something I know I can pay $6 for is hard for me to do.)

by Richard Layman on Sep 3, 2013 2:56 pm • linkreport

Richard - that makes perfect sense.

I don't take issue with your choice to use MARC, I took issue with the implication that everyone else must share the same values.

by Alex B. on Sep 3, 2013 3:05 pm • linkreport

Why is everyone focusing on the casino at Arundel Mills there is also a mall there ? Adding Metrobus service there creates opportunities for the carless to travel there for either shopping or work. I know several people that live in DC and Maryland that work at Fairoaks, Tysons and Reston Town Center and get there by transit so working at Arundel Mills would not surprise me

@ Transport

Actually I would have the service run 5:30am to 7am Weekdays and 5:30to 9am on Weekends and service 10pm to 1am everyday.

Does anyone know what the maximum fares on the silver line will be to Dulles and pass

by kk on Sep 3, 2013 3:23 pm • linkreport

A northbound Amtrak train from Washington is less likely to be delayed than the MARC train going the same way. If there is track congestion, Amtrak gets the priority. And when mechanical reasons require a delay leaving Washington, the northbound MARC train usually leaves shortly after the Amtrak.

by JimT on Sep 3, 2013 3:34 pm • linkreport

@kk: You can already take an MTA bus from the BWI Rail station to Arundel Mills. Why should Washington area taxpayers subsidize duplicative transit to facilitate travel to a business within a jurisdiction that does not support WMATA, when there are so many places within the service area with little or no bus service.

by JimT on Sep 3, 2013 3:42 pm • linkreport

The State of Maryland is responsible for funding Metrobus operations in Maryland, not Montgomery and Prince George's counties.

And that means that Anne Arundel County taxpayers pay into WMATA, just as Worcester and Garrett County taxpayers do.

by Matt Johnson on Sep 3, 2013 3:51 pm • linkreport

The Tysons Stop of the 5A was killed last year. PS it took all of an extra 1 minute to get off the DTR because of the dedicated ramps, and it used to serve the thousands of us that


Live in Tysons already who go to DC and to Dulles.

Oh well, another day in the picked on city of Tysons. Awwwww shucks.

by Navid Roshan on Sep 3, 2013 4:34 pm • linkreport

PS, I am all for cutting the 5A, means more money back in the pockets of Fairfax instead of WMATA, used towards the far better Connector service anyways.

by Navid Roshan on Sep 3, 2013 4:35 pm • linkreport

Is there a reason the 5A is preferable to the 981? The 981 still runs from Tysons Westpark to Dulles.

by Matt Johnson on Sep 3, 2013 4:40 pm • linkreport

If you're going to BWI with a lot of luggage, Amtrak can be a better option, as their trains are better equipped to handle it (especially compared to MARC's bi-levels).

Last I checked, the price differential was only around $5, which isn't bad if you want to be guaranteed a seat after a long flight.

Personally, I'd take MARC in situations where it's available, but there are some good reasons to opt for Amtrak instead.

by andrew on Sep 3, 2013 4:41 pm • linkreport

I used the 5A to get into DC. Was the quickest way to Nats Stadium and to U-St (ie greenline). It also provided a good connection to Rosslyn, and yes doubled up the access to the airport.

Once silver line is up, the 981 will serve the latter (and is FXConnector, much more cost effective for transit funds) and the silver line/orange line (whatever is left of it during the infinitum maintenance trackwork) will provide access to DC.

5A was a good stop gap till then, sad they cut it a year too soon from Tysons, but oh well.

by Navid Roshan on Sep 3, 2013 4:47 pm • linkreport

@ Navid Roshan

The Silver Line wont be better for employees that work early in the morning, get off late at night or work the night shift especially on weekends

The earliest would could expect a Silver line getting to Dulles is about 8:30 give or take weekend employees have to be at work usually 7:00am, 7:30, 8:00 etc no train will help them

The last train at Vienna (not Dulles but the closest station) leaves at 11:25 the last Silver Line probably will leave early to cover the further distance so lets put it at 11:00 or 11:15 most employees get off at 11pm, 1130, 12am, or 1am and this service will not help them that much.

Currently the first bus gets to Dulles at 5:42 am on Weekdays, 6:25am on Saturdays and 6:25am on Sundays, the last (for those that work overnight) are 11:28pm, 11:25 and 11:32pm

The first Orange line going west that goes through DC is at Ballston at 5:42 on Weekdays so the Silver would be there around the same time. On weekends it would be 7:42 that is worst service than the bus.

Last Orange Line trips westbound are 12:20 Sunday thur Thursday and 2:20 on Friday and Saturdays at Ballston.

Going east the last bus leaves the airport at 11:40pm everyday the last Orange line going east is long gone and is between Ballston and Virginia Square by that time. so you could probably safely assume the last Silver Line is also.

Ballston was used due to the first train going west comes from the rail yard I assume and gets to Dunn Loring at 508 and 708 am but the first train at Ballston going west gets to the station almost 30 minutes later.

by kk on Sep 3, 2013 5:54 pm • linkreport

I think there's merit to a B30 stop at Arundel Mills. Arundel Mills is a pretty large draw, and there's good connections to other transit providers. I'm pretty sure I saw people mention the parallel MTA bus routes up there, but let's be frank: MTA's Route 17 is horrible. There is no regular headway, and the buses often disregard the actual schedule! After all, there IS a reason people are willing to pay $5 to take the 201 between BWI and Arundel Mills...

In order to keep the express routing to BWI (and thus, justify the $6), I would reverse the order of stops. The B30 leaves Greenbelt, goes to BWI, serves the two BWI stops, serves the BWI Business District stop, then takes Aviation Blvd -> Stoney Run Rd -> New Ridge Rd and end at Arundel Mills. That way, the trip between Greenbelt and BWI is nonstop for those who need it, and for those who want Arundel Mills, it's only an extra 5-10 minutes. Plus, a stop could be added at the BWI Rail Station, which could come in handy. I'm not sure how you'd handle riders between BWI and Arundel Mills (boarding/alighting restrictions?), but I'm sure there's a way to not charge $6 between those two locations...

(While we're discussing desired routings, how about extending the B30 down the B-W Parkway and NY Ave to Union Station at those times when Metro isn't running?)

by Justin..... on Sep 3, 2013 9:11 pm • linkreport

@Matt Johnson

Thanks. I had heard that but I think I got confused by the Brookings study" which complains that Anne Arundel and Howard contribute more riders than Falls Church and Fairfax City, yet pay nothing. That makes no sense if the State is picking up the share. Yet that study says that MD picks up the local share, and then goes on to say that PG and DC pay more for local metrobuses than others. Totally confusing.

If MD pays for all of the WMATA costs, then I guess a threshold question is: Which buses to Anne Arundel are Metro and which are MTA? While the State of Maryland pays, there is probably still a bit of a political price to pay in the budget process so that Metrobuaes that serve AA come at the expense of buses that serve PG and MoCo more than at the expense of buses that serve Baltimore.

by JimT on Sep 3, 2013 9:42 pm • linkreport

@Justin: I like the idea of your routing for BWI.

In fact, one might even tolerate some triangle routes from

Greenbelt-->BWI-->Arundel Mills-->Greenbelt

since a quick ride to the airport is usually more critical than a quick ride home. And people getting off the plane might care as much about getting a seat as saving the extra 10 minutes home.

by JimT on Sep 3, 2013 9:49 pm • linkreport

Surprised nobody's mentioned the two worst features of Fairfax Connector:

* It doesn't appear as in option in Google Maps (although Bing Maps shows it);

* No real-time arrival data.

Fix those things and provide better signage for the bus at IAD (by which I mean, have any signage at all inside the terminal), and then we can talk about swapping the 5A for the 981.

by Rob Pegoraro on Sep 4, 2013 4:03 am • linkreport

Matt Johnson -- it's a stretch to consider that all Marylanders therefore AA residents pay into WMATA. Sure, they do sorta, but the reality is that Montgomery County in effect pays for a lot of rural roads throughout the state (a fried refers to MoCo as Maryland's ATM). I think it's reasonable to separate out WMATA "local service" and MTA "local service" from general funding, and allocate it accordingly.

What Jim T is referring to is membership in the "Compact" whereby the local jurisdictions pay in each year. It's true though that it is based on station location for the most part, and outlying locations that don't have Metro stations but their residents drive in (or get bussed in to end point stations), use the system, and benefit without an extra subsidy from their locality.

That being said, it may well be worth having certain WMATA services touch Anne Arundel County for the same reason it's great that B30 touches BWI and thereby connects to the MTA local services for the Baltimore area--to connect the systems. E.g., I've used the B30 a number of times to be able to take my bike into Baltimore via the light rail.

It's good for there to be connections between systems--even though the trips can be very long overall, that's a way for some people to get to otherwise hard to reach places. (E.g., you can connect to York's Rabbit Transit in Baltimore County and could then connect to Lancaster's transit in York. Although I've never attempted to do that.)

If that disproportionately benefits the MTA service area, then it's worth asking for some cross-subsidy.

by Richard Layman on Sep 4, 2013 6:15 am • linkreport

JDC Esq -- you're right that if you don't hit the B30 right, it sucks. You wait a long time. OTOH, there have been those rare times when I've hit it, the Greenbelt subway connection, and a local bus at Petworth Station all perfectly.

Still, I'd rather take MARC. (Unless I am intending to go to Baltimore with a bicycle.)

by Richard Layman on Sep 4, 2013 6:20 am • linkreport

MTA covers the subsidy required for the B30. It may be that the proposed increased frequency for the B30 will adequately compensate for the additional casino and shopping mall stop.

There is currently DC to Reagan National Airport service on weekend mornings before Metrorail service opens (13F and 13G). No marketing, but they exist. WMATA is proposing to convert these VA numbered routes to DC numbered routes as part of the fall bus service hearings. WMATA has proposed one route option that extends a 14th Street route to Reagan National in the early a.m. and a second option that would send the route from the airport to Union Station. Unfortunately WMATA failed to include this proposal in the DC list of bus service changes. You can find them in the VA list.

by Steve Strauss on Sep 4, 2013 9:40 am • linkreport

Concerning the people that are bringing up the fact that there are is a mall there as an attraction. Aren't there malls that are closer to DC that WMATA should be more concerned with providing bus service. Arundel Mills is 15 miles from downtown Baltimore, but 30 from DC. Are there particular stores at that mall that warrant it being a special destination for DC residents? Where does it stop, does WMATA need to offer bus service to the outlet malls in Delaware because some DC residents take trips out there?

by h_lina_k on Sep 4, 2013 9:51 am • linkreport

Hey, if you want to get to BassPro Shop or a casino, then that's your ticket. FWIW, Metrobuses do serve Potomac Mills, National Harbor, and a variety of other destinations. When there was a DC prison at Lorton, Metrobus provided service from DC so people could visit inmates.

The reality is that the interconnections between the DC and Baltimore metropolitan areas are complex and ideally, transit service would be provided in a manner that enables interconnection.

The point about WMATA and Arundel Mills is more about Baltimore, MTA, and interconnection. If an argument can be made for providing it, and it is appropriately paid for by MTA/Anne Arundel County, fine.

I was thinking about this broad issue last night, about connections between the "big cities" in the region, and MTA, and Annapolis. Years ago, the MTA commuter buses between DC (really New Carrollton) and Annapolis provided services in both directions. Now it isn't really possible to get to Annapolis from DC as a counter-commuter or just someone who wants to go there.

I think that stinks--e.g., I used that bus to go to a conference in Annapolis many years ago--and it's an example of needing to have a broader framework for considering these decisions beyond those of individual operators (like MTA as a transit operator, or WMATA, etc.).

by Richard Layman on Sep 4, 2013 12:24 pm • linkreport

@ h_lina_k

Arundel Mills actually has some outlet stores

Plus There are malls closer to DC Pentagon City (poor excuse for a mall), PG Plaza, Wheaton, Montgomery, Tysons and Fairoaks (a little less than it is to Arundel Mills)


Also there used to be a Metrobus that goes to Waldorf(C18)and there are currently ones that go to Crofton(B20something)and Lakeforest(J7,9) so Arundel Mills is not far actually when you also look at those routes.

by kk on Sep 4, 2013 12:31 pm • linkreport

People complain about the B30 going to Arundel Mills how do you feel about the following

The Herndon stop on the 5A,
The 1Z, 2B, 2G which go to Fairoaks Mall
The J7 & J9 which go from Bethesda to Lakeforest Mall via 270
The W99 which goes from Vienna, Fairoaks Malls and McConnell Tansportation Center

If you consider the stop Arundel Mills useless than those listed above also are

by kk on Sep 4, 2013 12:37 pm • linkreport

@Richard Layman: I'm not sure if you know, but a private company took over the old MTA #921 between Annapolis and New Carrolton. It runs 7 days a week, and in both directions. Schedule here:

by Justin..... on Sep 4, 2013 2:24 pm • linkreport

In other airport bus service news... WMATA also proposes to replace the 13F/G early-AM weekend service to DCA with a 54A route extension. One-seat rides from the 14th St. corridor for those early morning flights.

Lots more service change proposals covered in these docs.

by Payton on Sep 5, 2013 8:44 am • linkreport

Payton-link didn't work for me, but I found the suggested changes here:

by Mony on Sep 5, 2013 9:41 am • linkreport

Maybe leaving the B30 as it is, but increase capacity (articulated buses, shorter headways--every 30 minutes would be good, 20 would be better). Perhaps two versions of the B30 - one serving Greenbelt, the other to New Carrolton (to provide enhanced access to the Metrorail network)

A new route B31 would make the local stops, Arundel Mills, etc.

MARC/Amtrak to the airport is ok, but clumsy. From the platform, the passenger has to take elevators (which sometimes don't work) to a bus stop, then use a shuttle bus to the terminal. The same type of arrangement that LAX, etc. gets dinged for...

by cph on Sep 7, 2013 2:08 pm • linkreport

B30 was too much of a good thing for Metro not to be tempted to mess up. Sure enough....

by Tom Coumaris on Feb 10, 2015 8:58 pm • linkreport

Add a Comment

Name: (will be displayed on the comments page)

Email: (must be your real address, but will be kept private)

URL: (optional, will be displayed)

You can use some HTML, like <blockquote>quoting another comment</blockquote>, <i>italics</i>, and <a href="http://url_here">hyperlinks</a>. More here.

Your comment:

By submitting a comment, you agree to abide by our comment policy.
Notify me of followup comments via email. (You can also subscribe without commenting.)
Save my name and email address on this computer so I don't have to enter it next time, and so I don't have to answer the anti-spam map challenge question in the future.


Support Us