Montgomery County transit advocates criticize short notice on Ride On bus changes

Transit advocates are criticizing the Montgomery County Department of Transportation, saying that two dozen changes to Ride On bus schedules were made with little notice.

The department announced the changes in a press release five days in advance.

“We’re concerned that people don’t know what’s going on, that some people might be late for work, they might be late to pick up their kids, they might miss a doctor’s appointment,” Ronit Dancis, a board member with the Action Committee for Transit, told WTOP.

In a letter to Transportation Director Christopher Conklin, Paul Goldman, the president of Action Committee for Transit, said that on the evening of Sept. 11, the day the changes went into effect, “there were no signs at any bus stops or stations announcing the route changes.”

While there were posters inside buses that said routes were changing, Goldman said, no specifics were given.

“We are concerned that the information about the proposed route changes was disseminated in a way that put the burden on riders to find out whether and how their route changed,” Goldman added.

According to the Department of Transportation, the route changes include the following:

  • 21 routes have time changes: 4, 5, 9, 10, 15, 16, 20, 26, 34, 37, 38, 43, 46, 48, 55, 59, 61, 63, 79, 83 and 100.
  • Three routes have slight route changes with no bus stop or time changes: 27, 45, 90.
  • 11 routes have decreased frequency due to ridership, and seven routes have increased frequency due to ridership.
  • 13 routes have time changes, but no changes in frequency.
  • Two routes have timing changes for accuracy and frequency: 63, 83.
  • Three routes have a change in hours of operation: 4, 59, 79.

A spokesperson for the Department of Transportation told WTOP in a statement that “we have not removed or added any bus routes. Slight time adjustments were made to raise reliability.”

The department added that the new schedules are online “and have been widely publicized though press releases, social media and postings at transit centers.”

That said, “We want to ensure that our information is reached easily by all of our users,” the department said. “We are open to this feedback and will be looking into additional ways of getting information out to riders.”

The department added: “Ridership data and on-time performance are monitored regularly, and changes are routinely made three times a year. Overall, service levels will remain within 1 percent of where we were. Most of our over 80 bus routes will not experience changes.

We plan to increase bus service this January by about 4%, with the hiring of additional bus operators this fall. All service changes within the last two years, during the pandemic, have been based on bus operator availability.

We are hopeful that our transition to pre-pandemic service levels will continue. We are still transitioning, and receiving feedback from our transportation advocates is critical to our success.”

Goldman’s letter said that putting information online wasn’t in line with the county’s “commitment to equity.”

Anna-Lysa Gayle

Anna-Lysa Gayle is an award-winning reporter and anchor, with five Emmy awards and more. Before joining WTOP, she spent nearly a decade as a TV news reporter for ABC and CBS news affiliates.

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