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Metro Board will take up Greenbelt restructuring

On Thursday, Metro's Board of Directors will be taking up the proposed restructuring of Greenbelt bus service.

WMATA staff want to restructure Greenbelt's bus service because they feel resources could be used more efficiently. It will result in a reduction in service for some, but an increase in service for others. If the Metro Board approves the changes, they will go into effect in late December.

All of the Metrobus lines in Greenbelt will see changes under the proposal. Prince George's County is also proposing major changes to the TheBus lines in the city, but those changes are part of a different process.


Graphic by author. Underlying map by Google.

Route C2: The biggest change is the truncation of the C2 route. It currently runs from Wheaton to Greenbelt Center (Old Greenbelt).

Under the proposal, it will be cut back to Greenbelt Metro. This line is Greenbelt's most frequent line, and its loss will mean that residents of Old Greenbelt will lose direct one-seat service to the University of Maryland, Langley Park, and eastern Montgomery County.

Route R12: One positive change is the splitting of the R12 into two routes. Currently, the line runs from Deanwood to Greenbelt Metro and then on to Greenbelt Center and New Carrollton. It's an extremely long route, and it suffers severe bunching and scheduling problems.

Under the proposal, the R12 would only run from Deanwood to Greenbelt Metro. It would not serve Greenbelt Center. Instead, that section would be served by a new route, called the G12.

In Greenbelt West, the R12 would continue to serve Beltway Plaza's main entrance. It would also make a longer deviation into Emperian Village (Springhill Lake). The route will be shortened in College Park with a routing to the College Park Metro station via Paint Branch Parkway and River Road.

New route G12: This route is very similar to the current routing of the R12 between Greenbelt Metro and New Carrollton. In Old Greenbelt, the new G12 will have a few slight route alterations, including new service on Lastner Lane in the Boxwood Village neighborhood and service through the University Square apartments off Westway.

In Greenbelt East, the G12 would serve Roosevelt High, following the current route of the R12. The only deviation between Greenbelt and New Carrollton is at Doctors' Hospital, where the G12 will replace the T16/17 service there.

Route T16/17 (G14/16) Currently, the T16/17 runs between Greenbelt Metro and New Carrollton. The buses never run at the same time; the only difference between the two is a rush hour deviation to Goddard Corporate Park (the T17).

The T16 would be replaced by the G16. The rush hour-only T17 would be replaced by the G14, which would have midday service in addition to peak service.

Between Mandan Road and New Carrollton, the routes are identical to the current service except that the G14/16 would not serve Doctors' Hospital or the portion of Good Luck Road between Cipriano Road and the hospital.

In Greenbelt, the G14/16 would not serve Mandan Road or Hanover Parkway, instead, staying on Greenbelt Road to Southway. The route would loop through Old Greenbelt via Southway, Crescent Road, Gardenway, Ridge Road, Westway, and Lakecrest Drive. It would take Greenbelt Road to Cherrywood Lane on its way to the Metro (with a loop through Beltway Plaza).

One positive of this change is later service on the G16 than is currently provided on the T16. Residents of the Lanham and Seabrook areas along the T16/G16 will have service approximately an hour later on weeknights than they do currently.

Timed transfer: Due to citizen requests for neighborhood-to-neighborhood service, WMATA is creating a "timed transfer" at Greenbelt Center (Crescent Road & Gardenway). This location is marked with a circled "T" on the above graphic.

Buses will be scheduled so that a westbound bus on one route arrives at the same time as a westbound bus on the other route. Buses will have a scheduled wait of about 5 minutes to allow for the vagaries of traffic. Eastbound buses will also meet other eastbound buses, but not westbound buses.

This means that someone in the northern part of Old Greenbelt (the G12) will be able to reach Goddard Corporate Park (G14) by transferring at Greenbelt Center. Similarly, someone at Beltway Plaza (G14/16) can reach Roosevelt High or Doctors' Hospital (G12) the same way.

Eastbound buses won't meet westbound buses or vice versa. That means that someone in the northern part of Old Greenbelt can no longer reach Beltway Plaza with a single-seat ride or with a timed transfer.

However, buses on the G12/14/16 will all be interlined. A G12 will leave New Carrollton and travel to Greenbelt Metro, where it will wait approximately 10 minutes and then become a G14/16 to return to New Carrollton.

Metro planners say that a rider traveling from the northern part of Old Greenbelt on the G12 will be permitted to remain onboard the bus at Greenbelt Metro and then travel to Beltway Plaza (or anywhere else) on the route of the G14/16. Although that may or may not be quicker than transferring at a different location, depending on the time of day and individual circumstance.

Why restructure?

Changes to bus service have been very controversial in the community this year. It was first proposed as part of Metro's systemwide bus and rail cuts proposed last spring during the budget crisis. The Metro Board took all service cuts off the table before approving the budget for this fiscal year.

The alterations to Greenbelt's bus service are coming back up at the request of the City and Prince George's County. The alterations should cost about the same that current bus service costs, but will benefit Metro mainly by reducing delays and bunching.

The City Council supported the changes mainly because they feared that if changes were not made, Greenbelt would be at the top of the list for service reductions during the next budget cycle, which will likely be just as bleak in 2011.

As a Greenbelt resident and daily bus rider, I have mixed feelings about these changes. I'm happy with the splitting of the R12, for instance, because the bus line is currently very unreliable. But I regret that we're losing the C2, which comes as frequently as every 15 minutes during rush.

I'm also disappointed that WMATA is unable to provide later evening service and Sunday service. Currently, the last bus to leave for Greenbelt Center is the R12 leaving Greenbelt Metro at 9:59p on weeknights. That is unacceptably early for those of us who rely on transit, and it's a serious impediment in getting people to try transit. Hopefully Metro's next changes in Greenbelt will be the provision of later and more frequent service.

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 Planning Department. His views are his own and do not represent the opinion of his employer. 

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G12-
Will it definitely be using Ivy? The G12 currently stays on Cherrywood. If it's to switch to Ivy, the weave between Ivy and Crescent could be an issue, particularly for eastbound buses. ...Though on a selfish note, I wouldn't mind Ivy since that'd work out quite nicely for me.

G14/G16-
Has there been any discussion of nixing the Beltway Plaza loop, instead focusing on stops along Cherrywood Rd or Greenbelt Rd?

The pros to this would be that the buses won't spend 5+ minutes within the shopping center, which is why I don't use the T16/T17s today.

The potential cons would be that shoppers (potentially carrying bulky items) may be less willing to travel the extra couple hundred feet across the parking lot to the bus stops. Such may also require crossing the streets, which at least has a signal on Greenbelt Rd; but Cherrywood Rd is tricky to cross at the uncontrolled marked midblock crossing.

The two Beltway Plaza stops are heavily used, but most of the people *aren't* carrying bulky items... leading me to wonder if they're approaching from adjacent neighborhoods, transfering, or if they're just doing business at the shopping center which doesn't involve bulky items... all of which might be easily accommodated at the sides of the center.

Lots of cons to consider... but 5+ min is also a decent chunk of time.

by Bossi on Sep 28, 2010 4:34 pm • linkreport

@Bossi:
Yes. Metro wanted to eliminate the loop through Beltway Plaza, but the community objected strongly.

While Greenbelt Road has signalized intersections, not all of them have crosswalks. Some lack pedestrian signals. And most importantly, Beltway Plaza Mall is not connected to any sidewalk on an adjacent street at any point.

Any pedestrian entering the Beltway Plaza site has to walk down entrance roadways and parking aisles.

In fact, Greenbelt Road itself does not have a sidewalk on the north side between Cunningham Drive and 62nd Ave. That would mean that passengers boarding or alighting would have no easy way to reach the stop or place to wait for the bus.

At such time that SHA resolves those issues, the community might not object as much to eliminating the loop.

by Matt Johnson on Sep 28, 2010 4:40 pm • linkreport

The T16/T17 diversion is usually less than 5+ minutes. It is typically more like 3 minutes going west and 4 minutes going east. This is one of the busiest stops in Greenbelt, so there seems to be a needed stop.

by Mr Squid on Sep 28, 2010 4:41 pm • linkreport

@Mr. Squid-

It may vary a lot depending on when you ride. I tried the WB bus during the PM peak six times and each time I spent between 5-11 minutes at Beltway Plaza (I've kept an OCD-level of detail on my commuting times in Excel). After the 6th time, I came to realise I can just walk to the Metro station in the 15-20 minutes it'd take me to go from Crescent/Ridge to Greenbelt Metro.

It's usually held up by a mix of traffic within the parking lot & tight turning radii resulting in the bus being unable to make a turn; or a high volume of passengers (which is technically a *good* thing); or the bus driver taking a smoke break (which I guess they sometimes need to do...).

Especially in the AM and midday, I'd wager the issues with traffic restricting turning radii will be less given that the shopping center is considerably less busy then.

@Matt-

You're right on the missing sidewalk segments, though those tend to be handled by a mix of State & County entities.

As for crosswalks: you're right in that they're not necessarily the most convenient; but more for the sake of others unfamiliar with the area: there *are* crosswalks across 3 of the 4 legs at each signal.

Hopefully once Beltway Plaza finally redevelops (it's at least in the process of doing so), it'll be a great opportunity to take care of a lot of the issues along Greenbelt Road, Cherrywood Lane, and also the internal circulation within the site.

by Bossi on Sep 28, 2010 4:50 pm • linkreport

@Bossi:
If a bridge has approaches on either side, but doesn't cross the river, is it really a bridge?

If a subway has tracks and stations, but no trains, is it really a subway?

If an intersection has striped crosswalks but no ped signals or sidewalks on one side of the street, is it really a "complete street"?

Even if SHA were to stripe crosswalks on all four legs, put up ped signals for each crosswalk, include pedestrian actuation buttons, and complete sidewalks on all streets, pedestrians still couldn't reach Beltway Plaza on a pedway.

They'd still have to walk in entrance roads and in parking aisles. And until that situation is resolved, the community is going to object to loss of the loop.

Generally, the T16/17 and C2 take about 3 minutes or so to make the loop in my experience.

The main reason the T16/17 is so much longer is because it makes it almost to Greenbelt, and then it gets on Kenilworth Avenue to go almost all the way back to the Metro before getting on Crescent Road.

The new G14/16 won't do that.

And yes, the G12 will use Ivy. Since there's a traffic signal at each of those intersections, the buses should be able to get into the appropriate lane easily. Certainly more easily than eastbound buses do on Greenbelt Road when making a left onto Hanover Parkway after stopping at the Greenway Center stop.

by Matt Johnson on Sep 28, 2010 4:57 pm • linkreport

@Matt-

Ahh yes, internal sidewalk circulation, too. That's a common offender that's oft-overlooked... Midpike Plaza in White Flint is one of my biggest pet peeves for that very reason: signs telling pedestrians not to walk in the road, no sidewalk, and 4-ft tall fences ringing the property. Fortunately that's another one eyeing redevelopment.

It's the EB movement from Ivy which can be a bit tricky when there's a steady stream of southbound traffic, particularly if there aren't any NB lefts to trigger the signal or if there are vehicles in front of the bus also waiting for a gap to weave over to get on Crescent; and also given the greater bulk of buses.

Up at Cherrywood/Kenilworth, the right-turn is so light that it's easy to do it. The main caveat with that route is now the potential of hitting the signal at Ivy, but there's no need for the bus to contend with the weave.

Sometimes the weave from Ivy is a breeze, but sometimes I've seen cars go by Cherrywood to Kenilworth & beat me to it. It tends to go both ways when I'm in a car, but I just assume that it'd be quite a bit tougher to weave in a bus. Granted, if it's staying on Ivy I'm all for it since it gives me a chance to hop on if I'm already en route to Metro by foot.

by Bossi on Sep 28, 2010 5:09 pm • linkreport

What about the R3, are the plans for it still the same.

by kk on Sep 28, 2010 7:27 pm • linkreport

@kk:
I believe the R3 changes are not on the table. You can see all of the proposed bus changes that are going before the board if you follow the link in the article from the first sentence (click "on Thursday").

by Matt Johnson on Sep 28, 2010 8:23 pm • linkreport

It's frustrating to be losing "one-seat" service from Old Greenbelt to the University of Maryland. As it is, I have to either wait for a bus, or walk from the north part of Old Greenbelt nearly a mile to get the C2, and then it takes another 30-40 minutes to end up at the University. A ten-fifteen minute car trip ends up taking me a total of more than an hour. This will take me even longer when I have to take a bus to the Greenbelt Metro, take the train to College Park, and take yet another bus (or walk for 30 minutes) over to the University.

Another frustration is the loss of "one-seat" service from northern Old Greenbelt to Beltway Plaza. Transferring adds time, even when the transfers are timed, and when one needs to get to the bus stop early in case the bus (which comes only once every 30 minutes) is early, then wait for a transfer, and then take the second bus, and then do it all over again coming back, it gets to be a frustratingly long errand, particularly for persons like me whose stamina is frequently very limited.

I'm also sad that Sunday and late-night service is not available. For those of us with no other independent options for transportation, this is very limiting.

Do we know at this point how frequently each bus route will run? Are we still looking at bus service (now on the new G12 route) through northern Old Greenbelt every 30 minutes each way? Or will service be less frequent than that?

Thanks very much for your clear explanation of the proposed changes, Matt.

by Stephanie on Sep 28, 2010 11:40 pm • linkreport

@Stephanie:
Each of the buses shown will run at 30 minute headways during rush, and 60 minute headways during peak. The G14 and G16 do not run at the same times of day, so that's not an additional headway.

A few notes:
I agree with you very strongly about the C2. I testified about that at the hearing. I think that is one of the biggest losses in Greenbelt.

It is my hope that at some point (perhaps when the Purple Line opens), there will be direct service between Old Greenbelt and College Park. I commute to Silver Spring, and Greenbelt is the only Metro station in northern PG on the Green Line that does not have direct service to Silver Spring.

From West Hyattsville, Prince George's Plaza, and College Park you can get there. For those of us coming by bus to Greenbelt, that means that we either have to transfer to another bus or transfer to rail to get to College Park, where we again have to transfer.

However
You will still be able to have a one seat ride to Beltway Plaza. Technically you'll be transferring, and there will be a wait involved, but you should be allowed to remain onboard the G12 at Greenbelt Station, where it will magically become a G14 or G16 for service back to New Carrollton (via Beltway Plaza). But I agree it's still a hardship.

And to get to the University of Maryland, you don't necessarily have to take the Green Line. The C2 will still serve Greenbelt Station. You can take the G12 to Greenbelt Station and transfer to the C2 there if you don't want to take the Metro to College Park and another bus from there.

by Matt Johnson on Sep 29, 2010 7:30 am • linkreport

What we don't know yet is the frequency between the county routes and WMATA routes--that may reduce the time between buses and provide better service. Also, the city has endorsed aveeccomendation to allow Greenbelt residents with the opportunity to ride free on Univ. Of MD shuttles (similar to what College Park has set up for its residents) but ghat would require a change in law at the state level. These changes won't erase the loss of the C2 but they help a little...I am hopeful that Greenbelt can be loud enough to push for more service through the County. WMATA has been ridiculous to negotiate.

by Melissa on Sep 29, 2010 9:19 am • linkreport

@Matt and @Melissa, thanks for all of the clarifications, that helps a great deal.

To everybody on TRU-G and otherwise engaged in working for better bus service, I just want to say thanks. I'm incredibly grateful to all of you for advocating not only for yourselves, but for people like me, who wish that they had the energy and stamina to be regularly engaged in the great work that you're doing. Thanks for your work on my and others' behalf.

by Stephanie on Sep 29, 2010 12:22 pm • linkreport

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