Prince George's County Executive Parris Glendening gave qualified support yesterday to a recommendation that the county start its own bus system and reduce or eliminate its reliance on Metrobus service.
A consultant hired by the county gave the County Council yesterday results of a study that showed Prince George's could save $3.5 million a year in Metro outlays if it replaced all Metrobus routes with private or county-run bus service.
As a first step, the study recommended that the county buy 43 buses and implement a bus system similar to Montgomery County's Ride-On service that could "feed" Metrorail stations, all now in the northern and central area of the county. That kind of system, which would replace current Metrobus routes, could result in net savings of $1 million in Metro subsidies, according to the report, and give the county greater flexibility in setting routes and schedules.
During the next five to eight years, the study says, the county should consider phasing out all Metrobus service and replace it with private or county-run service.
Glendening said money the county saved with a feeder bus system could be used to expand service to areas of the county that do not have bus service.
"We're committed to getting added bus service from point to point within the county," said Glendening. "This is the first major public step moving in that direction." He added that he has made no final decision on whether to support the changes.
The report was prepared by ATE Management & Service Co. of Arlington.
The study said that county outlays to Metro, which now total $6.5 million a year, could be cut to $3.5 million if Metrobus service were eliminated in Prince George's. The savings would be achieved primarily through the use of smaller, more economical vehicles on less-traveled routes and a pay scale for drivers and other workers lower than that paid to Metrobus employes.
The study does not call for increased fares.
"I think the proposal is a step in the right direction," said council member Richard J. Castaldi, the county's representative on the Washington Metropolitan Area Transportation Authority, which governs Metro. "All the other jurisdictions in the region are doing it."
Several other area jurisdictions have started feeder bus services: Montgomery has the Ride-On system, Fairfax has the Fairfax Connector, and Alexandria has DASH.
"We didn't have the dollars to do it when other jursidictions were doing it, prior to the modification of TRIM," said Castaldi. "Now we do." TRIM, an amendment to the county charter, imposed a limit on county property tax revenue. TRIM was modified in 1984.
The study projected that the feeder bus system would produce annual savings of $933,000 for the county, even after start-up capital and operating costs are included.
Glendening and the council will decide in the fall whether to go foward with the consultant's recommendations.