The Washington PostDemocracy Dies in Darkness

Spending cuts to take toll on public transit in Montgomery County

File Photo of a Ride On bus at the Glenmont Metro Station. (NIKKI KAHN/THE WASHINGTON POST)

Some Montgomery County residents will soon see significant reductions in transportation services, including the elimination of some bus lines, due to budget cuts.

A savings plan approved last month by the Montgomery County Council includes about $4 million in cuts to transportation programs, nearly half of which will come from the Ride On transit system. The transit agency will eliminate service on three bus routes that cover neighborhoods in Rockville and Germantown and it will cancel the launch of a new route this fall to Tobytown, a community of about 60 residents off River Road in Potomac.

The county council cut $54.2 million from the 2016 budget it approved just two months before, and  warned more reductions could come because of declining tax revenue.

The transportation department cuts also impact spending on resurfacing and patching of roads, a quality assurance program for Ride On, and Capital Bikeshare initiatives such as free helmets for new bike riders and membership surveys.  The county also will eliminate an airplane surveillance program that it uses to track traffic patterns and incidents during rush hour and that helps coordinate emergency response efforts.

Emil Wolanin, the department’s acting deputy director said he expects the cuts to have “a minimum impact” on the maintenance of roadways.

“We are trying to find ways to minimize the impacts so the service to the public is almost imperceptible,” he said. “That’s our goal.”

The most noticeable changes are likely for bus riders who use the routes that will be eliminated.

  • Route 42: The county will eliminate this route, which travels from the White Flint Metro station to Montgomery Mall, in the Rockville area.  The route provides service approximately every 30 minutes.
  • Route 98: Service will be eliminated on the route that covers portions of Germantown, connecting the Kingsview Park and Ride and the Germantown Transit Center every 30 minutes.
  • Route 83: Weekend service will be discontinued on this route that runs from the Germantown Transit Center to Holy Cross Germantown Hospital.

Discontinuing the service in January will save the county $1.7 million, county officials said. They say the routes are among the lowest performing in the Ride On system, each carrying 175 to 400 passengers daily.

“We understand the important service that Ride On provides to the community at large… and we will be looking at how we can redress these communities in the future to get them needed transit services,” Wolanin said. “Maybe it won’t look like the same thing they had in the past, but we can assure these communities that we will continue to work and try to get these services back as finances allow.”

Riders can attend one of two public forums next month where the service cuts will be discussed. All the forums begin at 6:30 p.m.:  Sept. 17 at the UpCounty Regional Services Center, 12900 Middlebrook Road, Germantown; Sept. 24 at the Executive Office Building, 101 Monroe St., Rockville.

Any comments at those forums, or sent to the county via e-mail ( or fax (240-777-5801) are not likely to change the decision to discontinue the service, officials say. But Wolanin said the feedback will be used in the future budget years to consider restoration of routes or changes to other routes to try to serve the impacted communities.