Montgomery County Increased Ride On Bus Service Starting


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Montgomery County Increased Ride On Bus Service Starting Sunday, March 13, 2022
The Montgomery County Department of Transportation (MCDOT) increased Ride On bus service beginning Sunday, March 13. The new schedule changes will return bus service to 86 percent of pre-COVID levels. The new increase in service will reflect a 6 percent increase from the temporary January reduction due to the number of employees who were sick from or exposed to COVID-19 during the recent surge.
Routes that will resume service or increase frequency include: • Ride On Flex, the on-demand service in Wheaton/Glenmont and Rockville, will resume service. • Ride On extRa, the limited-stop service along MD 355 between Lakeforest Transit Center and Medical Center, will resume service. • Flash, the bus rapid transit bus line servicing US 29, will resume full weekday service and will continue to service the Food and Drug Administration campus in White Oak. 1

• Ride On buses will increase service on routes 9, 14, 20, 30, 43, 56, 61, 63, and 100.
Trip planning and real-time bus arrival information is available at RideOn.app. Ride On bus service remains free for all riders until at least July 2. “Restoring our bus services are a priority and our service levels are moving in the right direction,” said MCDOT Division Chief of Transit Services Dan Hibbert. MCDOT is actively hiring new operators offering paid CDL license training, a competitive benefits package and ongoing professional development opportunities. Potential applicants can get more information and apply here. Search “bus” or “operator” under the job search tab. “Many County residents depend upon our Ride On bus system for essential trips,” said MCDOT Director Chris Conklin. “We are thankful that many of our bus operators have been able to return to work, and we have ramped up our hiring efforts so that we can continue to increase service levels.”
Montgomery County to Celebrate ‘Transit Driver Appreciation Day’ on Friday, March 18, and Encourages Community Support for Bus Operators
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Montgomery County will join in the worldwide celebration of “Transit Driver Appreciation Day” on Friday, March 18, with County Executive Marc Elrich presenting a proclamation recognizing the day at 12:30 p.m. at the Silver Spring Bus Depot. County Executive Elrich will be joined by County Department of Transportation Director Chris Conklin, UFCW Local 1994 MCGEO President Gino Renne, and other County representatives.
This event will be dedicated to celebrating the service of public transit employees and will be streamed live on the @MCDOTNow Twitter account at https://twitter.com/MCDOTNow.
Since 2009, Transit Driver Appreciation Day has been commemorated on March 18. The County Department of Transportation (MCDOT) is one of many public transportation providers to recognize the public service of transit employees on this day. The County employs more than 650 bus operators to support the transit services that include Ride On, Ride On extRa, Flex and Flash.
“Montgomery County residents rely on our transportation system as a lifeline,” said County Executive Elrich. “When everyday life came to a halt early in the pandemic, MCDOT Ride On bus operators adapted quickly and were on the front lines to keep Montgomery County moving. The dedication, work ethic and resilience of each of these behind-the-scenes heroes have proved them to be leaders in times of need. I’m pleased the County Council recently approved my recommendation for a bus operator and transit coordinator salary increase. We are now providing competitive compensation that is well deserved.”
Ride On bus service provides more than 40,000 riders affordable transportation throughout the County. Many riders do not own or have access to a vehicle and rely upon this equitable system. Currently, fees have been suspended to use Ride On, Ride On extRa, Flash and Flex service through July 2.
MCDOT encourages riders and residents to say “thank you” to their bus driver on this day.
“Bus Operators are essential employees that report to work during poor weather conditions and other difficult situations,” said Director Conklin. “These dedicated men and women have provided the transportation means for thousands of other essential workers, such as medical and food service workers as well as first responders throughout the pandemic. They provide essential trips for thousands of residents who do not own cars. These unsung heroes deserve recognition and thanks for doing an incredible job, every day no matter the circumstance.”
Passengers may also take a photo with a “Thank You” sign, then tag @RideOnMCT and @MCDOTNow on Twitter with the hashtag #TransitAppreciationDay to receive a free SmarTrip card while supplies last. Once the photo is posted, direct message Ride On with an address noting where to mail the SmarTrip card. Comments and notes of thanks are also appreciated.
MCDOT supports about 80 bus routes covering 1,463 miles throughout the County. Bus service was reduced slightly in January due to a number of operators being out sick or
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exposed to COVID-19. On March 13, service was increased to 86 percent of pre-COVID levels.
MCDOT is actively hiring new operators and offering paid CDL license training, a competitive benefits package and ongoing professional development opportunities. More information is available at RideOnBus.com under the "Jobs" tab. Applicants must be at least 21 years old and can apply here.
Ride On - A Look Back at 47 Years of Innovation
On March 25, Ride On will celebrate 47 years of service. For the past 47 years, Ride On has been at the forefront of transit growth and opportunity in Montgomery County. The bus service has continued to learn and adapt to the growing needs of the community, economy, and environment. To fully grasp where Ride On is headed, it’s worth looking at where it has been.
The Ride On system, the first county-run bus service in the Washington, DC area, debuted in 1975 with 20 buses and was designed to provide service in Takoma Park and Silver Spring where large buses could not travel, and a dial-a-ride operation in Gaithersburg. Deemed to be more efficient economically than other public transportation options at the time, within weeks of its introduction, the bus service was transporting twice the number of riders originally projected – nearly 2,000 passengers each day.
Three years after Ride On started service, in 1978, Montgomery County expanded the popular bus service to 22 routes with 79 buses. This move increased ridership from about 4,000 passengers per day to more than 12,000.
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The bus service extended to include Silver Spring, Takoma Park, Langley Park, White Flint, and Wheaton. The Silver Spring Metro station was the focal point. At that time, the Ride On fare was 25 cents and operated Monday through Saturday from 6 a.m. until 8 p.m. with six routes running on Sunday. The first Ride On buses had seats for 19 passengers and cost about $21,000 each. By 1978, 23- to 27- seaters were being phased in at $30,000 a bus.
Once Metro’s Red Line extension to Shady Grove was up and running in 1984, Ride On added more than 20 routes. The buses transported passengers to their jobs in Rockville, Germantown, and Gaithersburg. By 1986, additional service started to Damascus and Urbana from Shady Grove and ridership was at 10 million a year. Ride On celebrated its 25th anniversary in 2000 by painting two buses uniquely to commemorate the milestone and offered 25-cent daily fares and $1.50 regional passes for all passengers for the rest of the year. The bus service offered free weekday rides with its “Kids Ride Free” program.
In 2006, Ride On began accepting SmarTrip® cards. In addition, Ride On debuted its first hybrid-electric buses and had 13 operating by the end of 2007. In recent years, Ride On has expanded to operate three additional services: Ride On extRa, Ride On Flex and Flash Bus Rapid Transit (BRT). Ride On extRa limited stop service, which started in 2017, runs on Maryland Route 355 making 13 stops between Medical Center Station and the Lakeforest Mall Transit Center.
Ride On Flex is an on-demand bus service that began operating in 2019. It carries passengers around Rockville, Glenmont, and Wheaton designated service areas. Riders can request service by using an app or the call center. Flash BRT began offering rapid transit along U.S. Route 29 in 2020, which featured faster service with highcapacity buses. Additional Flash BRT lines are being designed along Veirs Mill Road, MD 355, New Hampshire Avenue and in North Bethesda.
Ride On’s first four all electric buses began service in 2020 in Silver Spring/Takoma Park, ten (10) more electric buses will be added this year and a commitment has been made to transition the fleet to all electric buses by 2035. The electric buses can run a full day on a single charge, offer sustainable mobility solutions, since they significantly reduce GHG emissions, air and noise pollution, and dependence on fossil fuels. In addition, County Executive Marc Elrich’s proposed Capital Improvements Budget includes $655 million in mass transit improvements to decrease the climate impact of transportation in the County, including $154 million to start to convert Ride On to a zeroemission fleet.
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As Ride On looks for ways to continue to upgrade and improve service moving forward, the bus service is working on a few new initiatives. First, Ride On launched a comprehensive study – the Ride On Reimagined Study – last month. 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. Another program is the Bus Priority Program which was created by a group of MCDOT and Montgomery County staff members last year. The program focuses on advancements for bus operations including dedicated bus lanes, bus signal prioritization and enhanced bus stops. The first project created dedicated bus lanes around the Germantown Transit Center.
The Great Seneca Transit Network is also being designed and constructed currently. The plan is for hubs at Shady Grove Metrorail Station, the Universities at Shady Grove, and Adventist Shady Grove Hospital. The service which will be branded as Ride On extRa is slated to start in 2024 and will provide transportation to jobs, education, and healthcare. It will include 11 stations, dedicated bus lanes, transit signal priority at seven intersections and new bike and pedestrian connections.
Today, Ride On has a fleet of 382 ADA-accessible buses, 75% use alternative fuels. The bus system is one of the busiest, and the second largest in the region, which operates 7 days a week on over 80 routes and 5,405 bus stops.
A recent report released by a regional coalition of business and smart growth organizations commends Montgomery County for its Flash bus service, free fares for Ride On service, and leadership in many respects in regards to regional bus service.
On March 25, Ride On will have street teams at 4 Metro stations and 3 Transit Centers – Silver Spring, Germantown, and Takoma Langley Crossroads transit centers; and Rockville, Shady Grove, Glenmont and Friendship Heights Metro stations. The street teams will meet and greet our riders, share information, give away promotional items and free SmarTrip cards.
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Feature Interview with MCDOT Passenger Facilities Manager – Wayne Miller
Please explain your role and your team’s role and its direct impact on Ride On operations.
The Passenger Facilities team’s core responsibility is to provide convenient, accessible and a safe environment for Ride On commuters to access transit services while minimizing any risk to bus operators and vehicles, so that they in turn can take commuters to their destination. To fulfill this responsibility, we are tasked with designating bus stop locations, ensuring accessibility, as well as allocating and maintaining any comfort amenities provided.
The team of 4 full time persons has responsibility for over 5,400 bus stops, 484 bus shelters, 1,424 benches, 3 Transit Centers and 14 Park & Ride lots with the assistance of contractors, other MC-DOT departments, and partner jurisdictions.
What is your team’s relationship with WMATA in regard to bus stops and shelters?
Our team works closely with WMATA’s bus planning and facilities teams to maintain bus stops and shelters within the County’s jurisdiction. WMATA retains responsibility for designating a location as a bus stop and maintains their own signage and poles, while we maintain our signage on these shared poles. All maintenance issues arising around WMATA bus stops are addressed by our team with the exception of the City of Takoma Park, which provides some maintenance and amenities support similar to the Cities of Gaithersburg & Rockville.
How many bus stops and shelters are there and how can a rider request new ones?
There are currently over 5,400 bus stops and 484 active shelters maintained by the County. The Cities of Gaithersburg, Rockville and Takoma Park manage their own bench and shelter program and have an approximate combined 305 active shelters.
New shelters can be requested through our department and if falls within another jurisdiction we will provide the appropriate contact information. Shelters are prioritized
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based on specific bus stop characteristics such as, available space, local commuter features (seniors, young children, shopping, etc.), and ridership. Typically, the higher the ridership at a given location will increase prioritization for a shelter or bench.
Why are some shelters lighted and others are not?
Our goal is to have all bus shelters lit. Approximately 125 of the 484 are currently supplied by solar power and the remainder by Pepco. However, in many locations, trees have overgrown the shelters preventing sufficient solar exposure and requiring us to convert to Pepco to maintain power, as we try to avoid cutting down trees as much as possible. Periodically, shelters my lose power because of disruptions in Pepco supply, power surges or defective equipment. We endeavor to correct these issues as soon as they arise.
Why do some shelters have advertising panels and others do not?
Not all shelters have the ability for advertising as our original shelter agreement stipulated that as many as 100 shelters must be kept ad free for installation at sensitive locations such as schools and churches. The County’s recently implemented Ride On extRa service on Rockville Pike, features bus shelters at all bus stops that do not allow for commercial advertising. Future expansion of the extRa service may or may not continue this approach.
What is MCDOT doing to assist the disabled at passenger facilities?
To provide for safe and accessible bus stops for disabled passengers, the County began a Bus Stop Improvement Program approximately 11 years ago that has provided upgrades to approximately 4,622 bus stops, to include ADA curb ramps with detectable surface warnings, minimum 5 feet wide by 8 feet long level landing area, and a minimum of 4 feet of clearance within and around bus shelters to accommodate comfortable maneuvering of a wheelchair. Required improvements are specific to locations as a result of terrain, availability of sidewalks, and potential conflicts with other modes of transportation such as pedestrians, bicycles, and vehicles.
These upgrades include WMATA designated bus stops and are complemented by similar programs within the jurisdictions of the Cities of Rockville, Gaithersburg, and Takoma Park.
Does your team have any responsibilities at Metro stations?
WMATA provides all maintenance and management of its Metro stations within the County with the exception of the Takoma/Langley Transit Center which is owned and maintained by the Maryland State Highway Administration. Our team does update the posted schedules at the Paul Sarbanes (Silver Spring) Transit Center.
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Many organizations were forced to close or suspend operations due to the pandemic, but Ride On never shut down operations. What role did you and your team play to ensure that Ride On continued its services? Unfortunately, our team has not escaped the impact of the COVID pandemic but has tried to maintain our high level of service by relying more on our Contractors, who have risen to the occasion. That includes continuing to remove trash, repair shelters, install sign poles, temporary bus stop and shelter relocations, etc.
Ride On Reimagined Study Updates
The Ride On Reimagined Study is a comprehensive, forward-looking assessment of the bus network that will result in significant recommended changes to how transit operates in Montgomery County based on current and future needs. This study will take an indepth look at Montgomery County’s existing and planned transit systems, including Metrobus services that operate within the County limits and the future Purple Line. The study will also provide an opportunity to guide the future direction of Ride On through data analysis and community engagement. The study will have the primary goal of recommending system-wide changes that address the current and future needs of the community it serves for both Ride On and Metrobus services. From September 23 through November 1, 2021, the public was invited to provide comments and ideas for the study. We received over 200 comments. The final scope of the study can be found on our website. The study will examine the current conditions and the anticipated future of Ride On’s service area. The study will engage community leaders, activists, transit riders, and support organizations to gather feedback. An evaluation will be conducted to assess route structure, connectivity, span, and frequency of service through market research analysis, review of land use development, and anticipated technology advancements.
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The study will also address the County’s priorities to improve racial equity and prevent climate change. The image of transit services is important to attract riders. Therefore, an evaluation of Ride On’s branding will be examined. In conclusion, the study will set the framework for a plan with recommendations and implementation strategies that best align with the transportation goals of Montgomery County.
• Establish final goals and outcomes with stakeholder input. These goals align with the MCDOT Priority Areas: Safety and Vision Zero, Environmental and Climate Resiliency, and Economic Development and Equitable Access. They serve to set expectations for the study and have measurable impacts to evaluate once service concepts are developed.
• Begin analysis of the network and service’s existing conditions. This analysis includes county service areas and levels, route alignments, travel patterns, and route classifications, such as local or limited service. Existing conditions set a baseline for how the system operates, and what this study aims to achieve in service improvements.
• Initiate data collection that supports the existing conditions analysis. The data collection effort incorporates ridership data, origin-destination patterns, schedule adherence, previous studies, and trip generators. Data provides a quantitative starting point for the service levels and use of the network. Data gathered will consolidate information from the county’s master plans and transit priority plans, to ensure that this study is in alignment.
• Goals and Outcomes: February-May 2022 This task establishes the goals of the study with stakeholder input. Goals will be measurable and quantifiable, and based on the MCDOT priority areas: Safety
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Montgomery County Increased Ride On Bus Service Starting