Metrobus looking at how to improve service in Oxon Hill

Metrobus looking at ways to improve service in busy corridors. (Luz Lazo/The Washington Post) Metrobus looking at ways to improve service in busy corridors. (Luz Lazo/The Washington Post)

Metrobus planners are looking at how to improve bus service in Oxon Hill, an area they say shows potential as a strong bus transit corridor.

The development activity in this part of southern Prince George’s County, particularly at or near National Harbor, has driven up demand for bus service in the recent years. Metro says it wants to find ways to provide more options to residents, workers and visitors in the area.

At two public meetings this week, Metro offered some preliminary recommendations for improvement, including adding weekend and evening service to some of the bus lines, boosting service to the Oxon Hill Park and Ride, and the new Tanger Outlets, and creating a bus connection between Oxon Hill and Alexandria.

“Things are happening in this area that are bringing quite some activity,” said Al Himes, assistant planning manager with Metrobus. More development projects in the pipeline suggest there could be more ridership growth, he said, during one of the meetings Thursday night.

Tanger Outlets opened in November with 80 outlet stores and added 900 full- and part-time retail jobs to the county. MGM International is planning to build a $925 million casino complex at National Harbor and will bring thousands of jobs.

In a survey of bus users in the area, Metro found that a majority said the frequency of buses is not as often as they like. Also a majority of respondents said there is need for more late night and weekend bus service. At National Harbor, many restaurant and hotel workers have long complained about limited transit options, particularly at night and during the weekends.

One of the preliminary recommendations is to adjust service in the D lines to provide service to Oxon Hill Road and provide a connection to the outlet mall and eventually to the MGM casino, which is slated to open in mid-2016.

Another proposal is to adjust current bus routes to provide a connection from Fort Washington to Alexandria. County residents and workers at National Harbors have said they would like to have the service connecting Prince George’s to Northern Virginia.

Metro planners say they are considering an option to provide service to Eisenhower Avenue Metro Station, right across from the Wilson Bridge. However, a change to routes P17, P19, and W13, which now travel to Downtown Washington, is under consideration, Himes said. But by re-routing to a Metrorail station instead, Metro could provide more frequent service, longer service hours, and weekend service.

Wes Samuels, a Landover resident who rides the Oxon Hill bus lines to run errands or to get to National Harbor, said having buses connecting to Northern Virginia make sense. But instead, Samuels said, the service should be to the King St.-Old Town Metro, which would provide a connection to the Yellow and Blue lines.

Metro officials say the Eisenhower Metro is considered because of bus capacity issues at King Street, and riders would still have access to the Yellow Line. Some residents are also suggesting that Metro run a supplemental bus from National Harbor to Eisenhower Metro.

Some community leaders say they welcome the ideas to increase transit options in an area of the county where residents have complained about limited transit service.

“This part of Prince George’s County has been overlooked,” said Zeno W. St. Cyr II, president of the Riverbend Citizens Homeowners Association in Fort Washington.

Metro’s study of the Oxon Hill bus routes show that southern Prince George’s, and in particular the National harbor area, is now viewed as an important employment hub.

“Now is the time to consider what transportation options will need to be implemented in order to accommodate the increase of transportation needs,” he said.

The recommendations are part of an ongoing study of the Oxon Hill bus lines, which connect southern Prince George’s to Metro stations and downtown Washington. The study is scheduled to be completed in April and is part of the transit agency’s efforts to improve Metrobus service on some of the region’s busiest bus corridors.

Any final recommendations from the study will go to the Metro Board of Directors for approval.  Improvements could be phased in starting in the spring of 2015.

Riders can review the preliminary findings and recommendations, and comment and provide their own recommendations for service at Metro’s study Web site.

Luz Lazo writes about transportation and development. She has recently written about the challenges of bus commuting, Metro’s dark stations, and the impact of sequestration on air travel.
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