Montgomery County’s Ride On extRa limited-stop service is celebrating five years of helping riders get around Route 355 quickly and efficiently. The simple and convenient bus service is hailed for its speed and reliability.
Using extRa is straightforward and has proven to be a convenient option for Montgomery County residents. The service, which launched in 2017, is an interim step to the Bus Rapid Transit system that MCDOT envisions for MD 355.
Ride On extRa makes just 13 stops and operates every 20 minutes Monday through Friday, 5:25 – 9:30 a.m. and 3:25 – 7:30 p.m. between the Lakeforest Transit Center in Gaithersburg and the Medical Center Metro Station in Bethesda. Ride On extRa connects to half of the County’s transit services, including Metrobus, Metrorail, MARC train, MTA Commuter buses and 44 Ride On routes.
Boarding is at one of 13 specially designed stops along the fourteen-mile route. Stops include the Lakeforest Transit Center, Summit Avenue, Westland Drive, Shady Grove Metro, Montgomery College, Rockville Metro, Edmonston Drive, Templeton Place, Halpine Road, Marinelli Road, Security Lane, Tuckerman Lane and Medical Center Metro. Regular bus routes have up to 80 stops along this same stretch for ease of use.
The cost to ride is standard Ride On fare. Riders can pay by using a SmarTrip card or cash. There is no loading of fare cards on buses. As is the case for other Ride On buses, seniors, disabled and kids under 19 ride free.
The extRa buses are specially designed and different buses with low-floor boarding. Each bus features free WiFi access, USB charging ports, information displays and extra padding on seats.
The buses use Transit Signal Priority, making bus service faster, reducing congestion on 355 and creating less emissions. As these buses approach green traffic signal lights, the lights stay green to allow them time to make it through, thus minimizing travel time.
As the County looks for ways to continue to upgrade and improve transit services moving forward, the department of transportation (MCDOT) is working on additional new initiatives. First, Ride On launched a comprehensive study – the Ride On Reimagined Study – in the Fall of 2021. The study aims to take a critical look at the County’s current and future bus network and transit systems, including Metrobus and the planned Purple Line, to pinpoint where improvements can be made. The study is based on experience and feedback from the community, and a survey is currently in progress. The survey can be taken here or at RideOnBus.com until October 7, 2022.
Another program is the Bus Priority Program which focuses on advancements for bus operations including dedicated bus lanes, bus signal prioritization and enhanced bus stops. The first project dedicated bus lanes around the Germantown Transit Center.
The Great Seneca Transit Network is also in planning stages. The plan is for transit hubs at Shady Grove Metrorail Station, the Universities at Shady Grove, and Adventist Shady Grove Hospital. The service, which will also be branded as Ride On extRa, is slated to start in 2024. It will include 11 stations, dedicated bus lanes, transit signal priority at seven intersections and new bike and pedestrian connections.
Montgomery County Department of Transportation’s focus is to provide a seamless transportation system for people of all ages, incomes and abilities that supports the community. In addition, the department aims to reduce the number of single occupant vehicles on the roads, and to help increase the efficiency of the infrastructure and address climate and air quality concerns.
Montgomery County’s Division of Transit Services plans, schedules and manages over 80 bus routes using 385 County owned and operated buses including the Flash, Ride On Bus, Ride On extRa and Ride On Flex. Sixteen of these buses are Ride On extRa. Montgomery County’s transit system is designed to complement the service provided by the other transit providers in the County and is integrated with the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority’s Metrobus and Metrorail and the Maryland Transit Administration’s MARC commuter rail and commuter bus systems.
MCDOT is currently recruiting full-time bus operators to fill positions in all three depots – Silver Spring, Kensington and Gaithersburg. Experience is not necessary and applicants without commercial driver’s licenses (CDL) are encouraged to apply. The benefits package is very competitive, and they offer paid CDL training and opportunities for advancement. Visit https://www.montgomerycountymd.gov/dot-transit/jobs.html to learn more and apply.
For more information visit RideOnBus.com.