Greater Greater Washington

A Metrobus gap on Wisconsin Avenue makes Georgetown and Bethesda too far apart

Between traffic jams, parking problems, and service disruptions on the Red Line, traveling along Wisconsin Avenue can be difficult. Filling the gap in Metrobus service between Bethesda and Friendship Heights could give travelers another alternative.


There is no Metrobus service (shown in red and blue) between Bethesda and Friendship Heights. Map from WMATA.

Today, the 30 Metrobus line on Wisconsin Avenue in DC ends at the city line in Friendship Heights, two miles south of Bethesda, because that's where the preceding DC Trolley line originally ended. There are a lot of Metrobuses that go to Bethesda, but none of them go down Wisconsin Avenue. And the Ride On buses that do go south on Wisconsin stop and turn around at Friendship Heights.

As a result, riders traveling between Wisconsin Avenue and Bethesda or Medical Center must switch to the Red Line or Ride On, waiting as long as 20 minutes to do so.

Montgomery County is looking at building a Bus Rapid Transit line along Wisconsin Avenue to Friendship Heights. After some recent experiences riding on Wisconsin Avenue, I now understand the support for extending it further south.

I have started taking the bus from my home in Bethesda to M Street on weekends when I have no tight schedule. Twice this past week, I chose to take the Wisconsin Avenue bus on weekdays because of salty roads and the prevailing general logistics of where I was one day.

Recently, I attended a 6 pm event at Georgetown University that let out at 8 pm. In the past I'd always taken Metro home to Bethesda and driven my car to the university. On this occasion I was already downtown, so I took the bus. It was getting home that was the challenge.

I got to the stop on Wisconsin Avenue around 8:15 pm and ended up waiting 15 minutes for the bus. When it arrived shortly after 8:30 it was packed full, and people were standing in the aisles. I managed to get a seat because someone whose stop was coming up decided to stand.

It was a long haul up Wisconsin because the crowded bus meant that it stopped at nearly every stop. When we finally reached Friendship Heights, everybody disembarked. Some people got on the subway.

The rest of us had to transfer to a Ride On bus to get farther up Wisconsin Avenue. It was a 15 minute wait. I was getting off at Wisconsin and Bradley Boulevard. So, the final mile of my journey was going to take me at least 20 minutes. My trip home from Wisconsin and N Street took me nearly 90 minutes. Next time, I'll drive.

The next night I had a dinner date at Tenleytown. Again, I decided to take the bus because the stop is very near where I live and I knew there would be friends there who would drive me home. I assumed incorrectly that since it was rush hour, buses would come frequently.

I waited 15 minutes for the Ride On bus that dropped me off at Friendship Heights. I ended up waiting 20 minutes for the Metrobus to complete the second leg of the trip to Tenleytown. Five WMATA buses came into the station and promptly went "Out of Service" while I was waiting.

In all, starting at 6pm, I did not reach Tenley until 7pm. It should not take an hour to go two miles down one of the region's busiest corridors at rush hour.

Now, I could have taken the Metro, but it was a very cold night and the bus stop is much closer. And, to be frank, Metro is becoming too expensive and I want to use less expensive modes of transport.

Eliminating the forced transfer between buses and transit agencies at Friendship Heights would have taken as much as 20 minutes off of my trip. I don't care if Friendship Heights is the border between the District and Maryland. And I don't care if that's where the streetcar historically stopped.

If the 30 Metrobuses went all the way to Medical Center, they would be more effective in relieving crowding on the Metro and the roads. Even better, a Bus Rapid Transit service with dedicated lanes would encourage more people to leave their cars at home or to avoid the rush hour crowds on the Red Line.

Perhaps, then, Wisconsin Avenue will be known less for bad traffic and parking headaches and instead for positive things such as "record number of bus riders this year."

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Tracey Johnstone is a recovering political pollster who is completing a dissertation on Russian economic reform. She is also secretary of the Action Committee for Transit. She has lived in downtown Bethesda since 1996, and previously lived in Toronto, Moscow, and Alexandria (before the Metro).  

Comments

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When I lived in Glover Park, the 30s were the bane of my existence. Extending them up to Bethesda at least during peak hours like 5-10 and 3-9 or so makes sense to me though I suspect you'd get very little on/offs between Friendship Heights and downtown Bethesda. The real problem with the 30s is the complete traffic jam that exists between 7am and 7pm between Georgetown and Metro Center. Wisconsin desparately needs a streetcar or limited bus with a dedicated lane.

by BTA on Feb 7, 2014 11:30 am • linkreport

There actually had been a trolly line that went up to Rockville. It would be really nice to link Rosslyn to Georgetown and up to Friendship Heights and Bethesda/Purple Line. I know it will never happen, but....

by Andrew on Feb 7, 2014 11:35 am • linkreport

Yes yes yes! You are perfectly right about it!
And it could be particularly useful on the weekend, considering Metro cut 75% of metro service on the weekend by planning single tracking most of the weekends during early 2014 (Like they did during spring 2012, and like they did on the east part in 2013)

by NoNo on Feb 7, 2014 11:36 am • linkreport

Andrew, I've never heard of a trolley that went up to Rockville. I'd always heard they stopped at Friendship Heights.

Tell us more!

by Tracey A. Johnstone on Feb 7, 2014 11:36 am • linkreport

Extending the 30s buses to Bethesda makes some sense, but those routes are too long as is, leading to gaps in headway and bus bunching. WMATA tried running a Rosslyn-Medical Center bus along Wisconsin (the B11) about a decade ago, but discontinued it due to lack of ridership. Perhaps that line would do better now, or perhaps there's not enough demand for service on that section of Wisconsin.

by Sandy K on Feb 7, 2014 11:43 am • linkreport

If this were to happen, I definitely would leave the 32-36 alone (too long as it is!), but the 31 and 37 could both be good candidates for extension!

by A. P. on Feb 7, 2014 11:43 am • linkreport

BTW, 5 WMATA buses "Out of service" in a row is a good score...
I used to ride the bus between Friendship Heights and Porter Street every day, around 5 or 6 pm, and there was an average of 3 Out of Service buses per running bus, my best being 7 in a row...
Interestingly, the number of Out of Service buses was significantly higher on Friday evenings..

by NoNo on Feb 7, 2014 11:45 am • linkreport

NoNo, one thing I didn't put in this piece was that when our bus did come, it was time to change drivers. The driver leaving the bus parked it in such a way that it blocked BOTH lanes of the drive-through. So, not only was the area chocked full with out of service buses, the one running was blocking both lanes. In-service WMATA buses backed up onto the feeder road outside and were honking madly!

It was quite a show.

by Tracey A. Johnstone on Feb 7, 2014 11:48 am • linkreport

Even with he RideOn 34 only running once every 20-30 minutes after 6 pm, I rarely ever see more than seven or eight people boarding the bus at Friendship Heights.

In regards to the 30s, the bus is only really congested between Tenley and GW Hospital, which tells me people often get off the bus at the first opportunity to board the subway.

by DCDuck on Feb 7, 2014 11:48 am • linkreport

You know, DCDuck - I, too, would have just gotten off at Tenley or Friendship and hopped onto the subway, too, but the absence of free transfer is a significant deterrent.

In Toronto, where I also spend a lot of time, there is free transfer from bus, to rail to streetcar and you mix them up without giving it a thought. Here, it can add $2 onto your trip!

by Tracey A. Johnstone on Feb 7, 2014 11:52 am • linkreport

@Andrew,

There used to be a bus that linked Rosslyn to Bethesda a couple of years back, called the B11, that only ran the opposite way of the rush if I am correct.

I think they got rid of it back in 2000 or so. I can't give an exact date. I just remember for a long time you could see the old B11 sticker marks on the bus stops up and down Wisconsin avenue.

by Dan on Feb 7, 2014 11:53 am • linkreport

With regards to buses going out of service at the terminal, it's worst on the E2 and E4. The T2 shares a terminal with those routes, so when an E2 goes out of service it often blocks the T2 from being able to offload passengers, making for a very dangerous situation.

Overall the bus terminal at Friendship Heights is a mess. Who thought it was a good idea to terminate EVERY route there?

by DCDuck on Feb 7, 2014 11:53 am • linkreport

Given how long the routes of the 30s buses are, I don't think it's practical to add the FHeights to Bethesda leg to all routes - instead I would propose extending the 31 only (it starts at Foggy Bottom instead of all the way in SE) and increasing the 31's frequency. I think this would be a win-win, by extending service to Bethesda and also providing greater frequency for riders along Wisconsin Ave - the 30s tend to run off-schedule and crowded during off-peak hours, but the 31 tends to be the exception (due to its shorter route, I assume).

by grumpy on Feb 7, 2014 11:56 am • linkreport

@Dan: the B11was discontinued in 2003 due to low ridership, much like many routes linking Bethesda to points south (such as the N7).

People north of Western Avenue just seem to enjoy sitting in traffic.

by DCDuck on Feb 7, 2014 11:57 am • linkreport

Okay, how 'bout WMATA keeps it simple: a bus that goes up and down Wisconsin Ave. from M St. to NIH?

I think WMATA needs to bring some creativity to this corridor given the congestion and needed repairs on the Red Line.

by Tracey A. Johnstone on Feb 7, 2014 11:59 am • linkreport

You could use a CaBi to traverse the last 2 miles, if a station at the Bethesda end is close to your destination.

by Crickey7 on Feb 7, 2014 12:02 pm • linkreport

Crickey7, yes, as someone who used to bike from Bethesda to Capitol Hill for work, biking is a viable alternative for me. But this was one of those uber cold nights and I was wearing a very heavy coat and had a heavy backpack [with a laptop in it] as well. Tough peddling up the hill to Bethesda.

Also, it was later at night and parts of the sidewalk up Wisconsin are kind of creepy.

by Tracey A. Johnstone on Feb 7, 2014 12:11 pm • linkreport

It'd be nice. The problem is that there really isn't anything along that stretch of Wisconsin. A handful of homes on one side, the golf course on the other.

@DCDuck
I go between Friendship Heights and Bethesda at times, and will jump on the 34 bus if I happen to be there within 5-10 minutes of it showing up. But for the most part, it's more convenient to get on the Metro because the 34 isn't frequent enough. You said you don't see people riding it even though its only every 30 minutes, but that's backwards. That's why no one is riding it.

by Brian S on Feb 7, 2014 12:12 pm • linkreport

The rush hour headways are why it took me an hour to get from Bradley Blvd and Tenley!

What must non-rush be like?!

by Tracey A. Johnstone on Feb 7, 2014 12:14 pm • linkreport

@grumpy:

The 32 and 36 maintain schedule much more often once they get past Farragut Square. Every time I have been on a 30 bus the delay has been between Tenley and GW.

by DCDuck on Feb 7, 2014 12:15 pm • linkreport

@Brian S: I'm not disagreeing with you. I'm saying the corridor os Wisconsin north of Western Ave has both paltry levels of service and paltry levels of ridership. It's not as though the RO34 is standing room only south of Bethesda.

by DCDuck on Feb 7, 2014 12:20 pm • linkreport

Can we just get a dedicated lane for a streetcar from Gtown to Bethesda? So tired of the car traffic and slow, delayed bus service. Enough already. It's AVENUE so let's showcase it like one.

by Ben on Feb 7, 2014 12:23 pm • linkreport

Thanks for writing about this vexing gap in the transportation system.

A similar piece could be written about Connecticut Avenue where the buses also stop at the line though obviously there is a lot less commercial density along Connecticut at least until you get out to Kensington.

But equally vexing to me is the L8 which serves Connecticut Avenue north of the DC line but originates in Friendship Heights.

Left unmentioned in the article is the poor quality of the Ride-On service between FH & Bethesda - the 34 did get the author to Bradley Blvd but after that it does a very time consuming detour on Old Georgetown and Battery Lane that makes a trip out the Medical Center (and the National Library of Medicine) very time consuming and hence unappealing and you can't even get to businesses on Wisconsin Avenue that are north of the Metro so even the bus that exists is of very limited utility. Though contrary to an earlier commenter I've found the bus to often be quite crowded and during the day at least it does run every 15 minutes.

But I'm curious about the B11 and very surprised to hear that it had low ridership and wonder if it wasn't one of these inefficient and slow serve everyone indirect bus routes that no one was willing to use.

But lots of people are transferring between the Wisconsin Avenue buses and the red-line at Tenleytown & FH so it is hard for me to believe a well designed bus route connecting Rosslyn to Bethesda via Georgetown, Glover Park, west Cleveland Park & TT/FH would not have high ridership because the buses and trains are all packed with good bi-directional ridership.

Also worth mentioning is that biking between FH & Bethesda is not particularly easy or safe.

by TomQ on Feb 7, 2014 12:24 pm • linkreport

Let's also not forget the gaps between the 90's buses and the Woodley Park station and the H buses and Cleveland Park (they split before hitting Connecticut)? If Metro wants everyone riding the Red Line like this article seems to suggest, they should make the connections easier!

by xmal on Feb 7, 2014 12:43 pm • linkreport

I used to ride the B11 every so often when it was in operation. I can attest that it had low ridership. For those living in the Wisconsin Avenue corridor in Upper Northwest, it was a nice surprise when it came because it added an additional bus to the crowded 30s and it was always nearly empty. I don't remember the operational headways, but maybe it was like two buses per hour and maybe it only operated during rush hour? I don't remember precisely. I do remember that it was slow and sluggish, not only because of congestion at Wisconsin Avenue & M Street NW, but also congestion at M Street & Key Bridge.

Since it operated in a pre-Nextbus era, the B11 wasn't exactly a bus line to rely on. It was often off schedule and was prone to the same problems every other 30-series bus has heading through Georgetown. Now with bus-arrival predictions, you could make better decisions on whether to take a B11-like bus or use Metrorail.

Back then, I think if you were going between Bethesda/Medical Center and Rosslyn, the faster choice would be taking Metrorail than to press your luck and patience having to deal with congestion in Georgetown. If you were going between Bethesda/Medical Center and somewhere in Upper Northwest or Rosslyn and somewhere in Upper Northwest, then the B11 was an OK choice, but not a great choice. You were probably better off taking the Red Line to/from Tenleytown or Friendship Heights or Orange/Blue to/from Rosslyn and Foggy Bottom and transfer to a 30 bus.

The planned (approximately) 6-week shutdown of the Red Line through Bethesda for major tunnel repairs (whenever that happens) will be a good opportunity to show the usefulness of better surface transit options between Bethesda and Friendship Heights.

It'll be a huge fight to get bus-only lanes on Wisconsin Avenue between Bethesda and Friendship Heights. Just look at all the opposition to building a sidewalk on the east side of Wisconsin Avenue in that stretch. It'll make the Cleveland Park service lane battle look like minor skirmish.

Also, how does the funding breakdown work for buses that cross jurisdictions? Most Metrobus routes don't cross over statelines (and if they do, it's usually to serve a nearby Metrorail/Metrobus transfer hub). If the 31 were to be extended across the D.C.-Maryland line to Bethesda or Medical Center or Rockville or wherever, how would the funding break down between D.C. and Maryland? I guess you'd have to look at the D5 or some of the 80-series buses on Rhode Island Avenue that go into Maryland to figure that out how funding might work in a similar way.

by Michael_G on Feb 7, 2014 12:55 pm • linkreport

@TomQ:

During the past 15 years the trend has been nearly one-sided service cuts on routes between Georgetown, upper NW and Montgomery County. The discontinuation of routes such as the N7, N8, L7, and B11 have all been due to "low ridership".

Generally it seems Metro is willing to put bus service in places where there is no access to Metrorail, but terminate the route as soon as it reaches a Metro station.

by DCDuck on Feb 7, 2014 12:58 pm • linkreport

@xmal: Every H bus that crosses Rock Creek Park on Porter Street/Klingle Road serves Connecticut Avenue & Porter Street NW, a half block north of the Cleveland Park Station. (Yes, they diverge in Mount Pleasant, but come back together at Klingle & Adams Mill roads NW before crossing the park on Porter Street NW. The H3/H4 buses continue on Porter Street NW to Wisconsin Avenue (and onward to the Tenleytown Station), while the H2 bus travels north to Connecticut Avenue & Van Ness Street NW before heading west to the Tenleytown Station).

Regarding the gap for the 90/92 buses between the Woodley Park Station and the old streetcar turnaround at Duke Ellington Bridge, it would be quite difficult to have larger Metrobuses make the very tight turn at 24th Street NW & Calvert Street, not to mention 24th Street NW & Connecticut Avenue. The smaller Circulator buses can make those turns without too much trouble, but adding more buses to the mix at Woodley Park -- already a mess with tour buses for hotel conventioneers -- would make the situation there more difficult.

by Michael_G on Feb 7, 2014 1:08 pm • linkreport

@Michael_G: Every Metrobus route is classified either as being a "DC, Maryland, or Virginia" route, whether they serve other jurisdictions or not. The 80s and T18 are considered MD routes. The D5 is a DC route.

by DCDuck on Feb 7, 2014 1:15 pm • linkreport

When the Purple line opens, there will be an even greater demand to connect the Wisconsin Ave corridor in DC to Bethesda.

I think this route connecting the locations along Wisc Ave in DC to Bethesda is greatly needed. The 30s routes are already some of the highest ridership bus routes in DC and much of this area lacks convenient metro access-- especially Glover Park.

I also think a route connecting Wisc Ave to Rosslyn should be a priority (perhaps more so than a Wisc Ave - Bethesda route). This will give residents along Wisc Ave a lot more travel options once the Silver line opens, providing a connvenient connection to Tysons and Reston.

by 202_cyclist on Feb 7, 2014 1:37 pm • linkreport

With regard to the Wisconsin Avenue service in DC, I think the Circulator is really one strong option. Why not have a Circulator from Rosslyn to Tenleytown? The current Georgetown to Union Station route not only takes a long time to get to Union Station and thus ends up with gaps in service, but also it doesn't go far enough up Wisconsin. The proposal for hopefully this summer to bring it up to Cleveland Park on Wisconsin would help. Or alternative K Street waterfront up to Tenley in a loop would be a nice high frequency corridor.

As for gap in service in MD, half of the corridor is Chevy Chase residential who largely don't want non-cars in their area. Though perhaps some sort of loop that goes from Medical Center on Wisconson to as far south as Bradley could have sufficient usage since there is a lot of business in that area.

by GP Steve on Feb 7, 2014 2:02 pm • linkreport

The 38B connects Georgetown to Arlington.

Given the staunch opposition to the Purple Line I wouldn't hold out much hope for additional bus service in the Chevy Chase area.

by DCDuck on Feb 7, 2014 2:06 pm • linkreport

"It should not take an hour to go two miles down one of the region's busiest corridors at rush hour."

Exactly. With greater and greater development at both Bethesda and Friendship Heights, it is critical that these centers be properly connected.

by Ronit on Feb 7, 2014 2:09 pm • linkreport

With regards to the time component for traveling between the two points, it should be drive at your own risk, not take the bus at your own risk.

by Ben on Feb 7, 2014 2:29 pm • linkreport

considering most of the demand for a bus from Bethesday to Georgetown would be separate from downtown travel which would find Metrorail more efficient. I'd thin a route that just went from M St in Georgetown to Bethesda would be best, maybe even providing direct service to the university area at the south end of the route.

by BTA on Feb 7, 2014 2:36 pm • linkreport

Bethesda is undergoing an apartment/condo building boom.

These residents aren't going to make riding transit or driving any easier.

A good surface route strategy to get folks out of their cars and off some stretches of the Metro would solve a lot of different problems at once.

by Tracey A. Johnstone on Feb 7, 2014 2:48 pm • linkreport

Good article. The gap in bus service between Friendship and Bethesda is something I've long noticed and lamented.

My suggestion would be, as some others have mentioned, for Metro to extend the 31 route from Foggy Bottom past Friendship and into Bethesda. They also should look at running the route on Sundays, as it currently operates only Monday-Saturday.

As some others have mentioned, a direct connection between the Wisconsin Avenue corridor and Rosslyn via the Key Bridge would also be a welcome addition to the 30s line. I say run a Bethesda-Rosslyn route and call it the '33'.

Maybe you re-direct some existing runs of the 32 and 36 to make this cost-effective, but I have no doubts that these changes would attract a significant number of additional riders. I think the issue with discontinued routes in the past was that they operated too infrequently for would-be riders to rely on them. Thus, they entered into something of a death spiral where there weren't enough runs because there were too few riders -- and there were too few riders because there weren't enough runs.

It used to be that Metrobus routes would run all the way in-town to activity centers, but when the Metro system was created it was decided that the bus system would serve as a "feeder" to the rail network rather than as a backbone of the transit network. So you saw a lot of longer routes from suburban areas truncated at stations like Friendship Heights and Anacostia rather than running further into D.C.

I think that since ridership for the rail system has grown much quicker and much larger than expected, planners are re-thinking that concept -- and trying to re-introduce routes in some cases to relieve Metrorail in certain corridors where there are capacity issues.

Of course, buses are still going to run into reliability issues on Wisconsin Avenue as long as they have to trudge through Georgetown without a dedicated lane, but additional service with greater utility would be a good start to resolving some of the issues that cause people to shun the bus.

by Patrick Kennedy on Feb 7, 2014 3:06 pm • linkreport

Thank you thank you thank you for writing this. This has been one my pet issues for nearly a quarter century now.

by Frank IBC on Feb 7, 2014 5:29 pm • linkreport

Regarding the B11, I just found a document related to the purple line published back around the time the B11 was cancelled that says that it was expected to have 20 min headways during peak hours (6-945;16-1945) but it only operated in the reverse direction. It is revered to as the Bethesda Reverse Commute Line with no service in off peak hours. The document is called the Bi-County Transitway/Bethesda Station Access Demand Analysis.

by Dan on Feb 7, 2014 6:56 pm • linkreport

The relative lack of bus service on Wisconsin, actually as far as Medical Center, is a problem when there are problems with the Red Line. There's a general lack of good through service on Rt 355, in general and the lack of redundancy with Metro is one of the things that makes Red Line repairs a problem for people in that corridor.

Metro has cut lines like the L services which served decent numbers of people in off peak hours, despite a general lack of reliable running times.

by Rich on Feb 7, 2014 9:20 pm • linkreport

First of all, I really enjoy nitty-gritty bus service planning posts like these, even though I haven't lived in the area since 2009.

What compounds this issue further is that the distance between Bethesda and Friendship Heights stations is one of the longest stretches between stations within the 10 by 10 square that doesn't cross a body of water. Imagine if Medical Center-Friendship Heights was blessed with the station spacing of Clarendon-Ballston. You would have a station between Cordell and Battery, and could probably justify one at Bradley and another at Dorset (redeveloping the golf course would be go a long way). But the way it is now is you have long stretches of Wisconsin between the Metro stations without convenient, frequent corridor transit.

by Reza on Feb 7, 2014 11:36 pm • linkreport

Since everyone is talking about the Ride On 34 does anyone remember the 42 which was much better it went between Friendship Heights and Medical Center before the 34 got extended. The service was much better and it was on time often more than the 34. I remember the B11 slow as hell!

What I would really like to know is why WMATA doesn’t use other streets for Metrobuses. For example to deal with the Wisconsin Ave problem why not send some routes up Macarthur Blvd or Foxhall Road. It would probably take less time to travel along Foxhall or MacArthur and then some other street back to Wisconsin between Cleveland Park & Friendship Heights than it does to go from Wisconsin & M Street to Tenleytown via Wisconsin Ave.

Another option better than nothing but not the best would be to just extend the D5 to Bethesda, and the D6 to Friendship Heights or Tenleytown.
Maybe there should be a post about all the services and routes WMATA has discontinued over the past 20 years I would volunteer to help with it since I remember most of them and have hundreds of Metrobus schedules from the 80’s and early 90’s

@ Patrick Kennedy
The feeder option happens every time a new station opens the time where a route did not get changed is with the opening on Noma even though they tried. In the recent past when Largo and Georgia Ave-Petworth opened almost every bus that went near those stations got changed. In the case of Georgia Ave-Petworth most of the changes were reversed about a decade later. The biggest change that I can think of was with Anacostia, every single bus used to go further into DC near Metro Center for most and the 90 use to almost go to PG County via MLK and South Capitol. The feeder option has already been done in Tysons with the cuts that happen on the 29th of Dec even though the rail isn’t open.

by kk on Feb 8, 2014 12:43 am • linkreport

Also there are other buses that go between Friendship Heights & Bethesda or Bestheda and Medical Center they just dont use Wisconsin Ave one of them is on the map above the 29 Ride On and the other is the 30 Ride On

by kk on Feb 8, 2014 12:51 am • linkreport

Thanks for writing this. Yes its stupid to end the bus rte at Western Ave. There are other lines in the area that do the same thing. This is a good example of this stupid practice.

by Tina on Feb 8, 2014 9:50 am • linkreport

You know, it reminds me of the years I lived in Southside Hampton Roads. Sometimes, Norfolk and Va. Beach tried to pretend the other didn't exist. It was just stupid. And it was a long-distance call to Hampton. Crazy.

More recently, when Norfolk got the light rail Tide going, Va. Beach wanted NO part of it - sailors, Yankee college students and blacks would be able to go to Va. Beach - GASP!!! - so Va. Beach chose not to participate in the Tide and it stopped at the border. Well, they looked really stupid and are now getting involved.

What we have here isn't that bad, but the effect on the individual citizen is similar. And it's silly to have all those WMATA buses at Bethesda Metro with NONE going down Wisconsin Ave. especially with maintenance and crowding issues on the Red Line, whose stations are miles apart in that section.

by Tracey A. Johnstone on Feb 8, 2014 9:56 am • linkreport

Can we somehow create a movement out of this article? I live very near cathedral commons and I am completely frustrated with the wisconsin ave public transit. It doesn't hold up under the world class microscope. Not even close.

by Ben on Feb 8, 2014 10:07 am • linkreport

Count me in, Ben.

by Tracey A. Johnstone on Feb 8, 2014 10:44 am • linkreport

@ kk - Yes, I remember when the D6 used to run along McKinley Street and 41st Street, then picked what is now the route of the M4 south and west of Tenley Circle.

I also remember when the Maryland L buses ran all the way from Federal Triangle (13th & Pennsylvania) to Wheaton (L4), Garrett Park (L6) and "Glenmont" (actually Aspen Hill, L8). The L6 was ended when the Ride-On system was expanded in 1978, and the other two were cut back when the Red Line was extended into Maryland in 1984. Also, the downtown terminal was moved to McPherson Square when the Reagan Building was built.

by Frank IBC on Feb 8, 2014 5:22 pm • linkreport

@ Reza -

"Imagine if Medical Center-Friendship Heights was blessed with the station spacing of Clarendon-Ballston. You would have a station between Cordell and Battery, and could probably justify one at Bradley..."

If you could watch me as I read this, you would see little hearts and sparkles emanating from my eyes.

by Frank IBC on Feb 8, 2014 5:25 pm • linkreport

FrankIBC, Reza, I'm so glad you two shared this beautiful moment with us.

Seriously, it's a system that makes Bethesda and Tenleytown too far apart.

Let's huddle on this issue.

by Tracey A. Johnstone on Feb 9, 2014 4:34 pm • linkreport

Lots to say about this post. First, scheduled headways for the 30s buses and the Ride On Rt.34 are generally better than the author described. Second, WMATA's Western Garage is located in Friendship Heights so it would not be unusual to see lots of "out of service" buses in that area towards the end of rush hour. Third, it is not particularly efficient for WMATA and the local jurisdictions that fund WMATA to run bus routes that duplicated Metrorail lines. Fourth, the poster could have used Next Bus to tell her when the her buses would arrive at her stop. Fifth, it would be nice if the region decided to have a much cheaper transfer cost for individuals riding bus and rail as part of one trip. That would give us a much better transit network.

by steve strauss on Feb 10, 2014 9:58 am • linkreport

FYI: Steve works for DDOT. Or someone else names Steve Strauss does.

First, thanks for participating in this discussion.

I, too, would expect buses out of commission given the bus barn nearby. But not at 6:30 at night. Isn't that still rush hour?

I - and a lot of the folks waiting - do not have a cellular phone. So, pulling up Next Bus is not an option for us.

I completely agree with making transfers cheaper. I think it would take some stress off the Red Line in trying times.

Clearly, a good number of folks find the Bethesda - Friendship abyss kind of strange.

Thanks for participating and I'll be in touch.

by Tracey A. Johnstone on Feb 10, 2014 11:30 am • linkreport

@ Steve Strauss - the problem with your reasoning regarding the duplication between bus and heavy rail is that the stations are so far apart that the service is not really redundant.

Even just considering Bethesda Wisconsin Avenue is densely commercialized between Bradley and Battery Lane which is 1.2 miles and the density to the west of Wisconsin stretches for several blocks.

The distance between the stations is great for folks commuting from Rockville to downtown when speed equals greater capacity & ridership but it isn't so good for people going a short distance or who don't originate or end close to a station.

But more importantly with the crowding on the Red Line and the limits to its service areas why do we want people from Glover Park to transfer transit modes to get to Bethesda? I have to believe WMATA is netting out to fewer transit riders in this corridor by serving them so poorly by requiring a transfer within the SAME corridor - you should have to transfer between corridors or lines, not within them.

And there used to be a Wisconsin Avenue Streetcar facebook group - since the transit usage in this corridor more than justifies cross border streetcars that effort is probably what should be revived.

by TomQ on Feb 10, 2014 2:17 pm • linkreport

When Metrorail was designed it was the "express only" design of widely spaced stations but then WMATA has tried to shed as much bus service as possible while refusing to institute equitable fares/transfers. We have RideOn because WMATA deliberately underserves MoCo. Is there a difference in wage scales?

FH was indeed a major transfer point from the earliest days of trolley service because it was a political border. DC Transit of MD (sucessor to previous operators charged zone fares on MoCo buses and then you paid again to ride the 30. (and yes 80+ years ago there was streetcar service all the way to Rockville as well as a route out Bradley Blvd to Great Falls.)
Short term a shorter headway bus from Medical to FH seems worth doing. Longer term the fight for dedicated lanes will have to undertaken.

by david vartanoff on Feb 12, 2014 2:30 pm • linkreport

WMATA has a transit mandate for the region but in terms of bus service each jurisdiction pays for services within their borders. And yes it is comparatively cheaper to hire a contractor to deliver bus service or do it in house compared to WMATAs cost scales which is why just about every jurisdiction has it's own separate transit services including the DC circulator and soon to be the streetcar which won't be operated by WMATA either. Basically (thought somewhat oversimplified) any bus transit in the region is there because the local government pays for it.

by BTA on Feb 12, 2014 2:50 pm • linkreport

Ride-On and Metrobus service is actually quite thick at Medical Center and Bethesda. BUT... most of the routes are not there to parallel the red line. Sometimes I usefully get around a red line problem by going to the "other side" of the red line U using such a bus. The J route on East-West Highway can be painfully slow in rush (but hey the guys in cars aren't moving much faster - this is where the BRT idea is panfully obviously right.). But the Ride-On routes from Medical Center and Bethesda to e.g. Wheaton and Glenmont that go across the top U of the red line can be pretty efficient.

by BO on Feb 22, 2014 8:10 am • linkreport

The 30 trolley did indeed end at Friendship Heights. Prior to the 1933 merger of the two trolley companies the line used to run from Georgetown to Rockville, ending near Chestnut Lodge on MD 28 near I 270.

The remaining trolley line was numbered 30. The portion of the route from Friendship Heights to Bethesda and Rockville became several O bus routes. Most of the bus routes in that area have been replaced with Ride-On and the Os are history. So, we still do not have a one-seat ride from Bethesda or Rockville to DC.

The Purple Line will use the former B&O Georgetown Branch right of way. That line will end in Bethesda but the right of way still exists to the C&O canal and to Georgetown. It would be possible to run that line through Kenwood to the canal and follow portions of the 20 trolley line (Cabin John) to Georgetown or through Glover Park to Dupont Circle.

by Bob M on Mar 5, 2014 7:05 pm • linkreport

Think a bus from NIH to M Street would be great, this is especially important as Metro gets closer to making major escalator repairs at the Bethesda station. The Bethesda station only has one entrance/exit and is way far away from Friendship Heights station and Medical Center.

by Todd on Mar 8, 2014 3:50 am • linkreport

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