It responds to increased demand for more public transit options to National Harbor, one the fastest-growing areas of the Washington region.
Transportation and other officials say the NH2 will help address transportation needs of many of the 7,000 people who work at National Harbor. The new route also debuts just in time for the opening of the MGM National Harbor casino resort, which is adding 3,600 new jobs to National Harbor, already a booming entertainment hub with hotels, restaurants and shopping.
“Crowds are going to be flocking to Prince George’s County and it is important that we provide transportation alternatives to our visitors,” said Prince George’s County Executive Rushern L. Baker III. “This route will also provide a new convenient amenity to visitors to National Harbor to visit our friends and neighbors in Alexandria and Northern Virginia.”
Metro celebrates launch of NH2 service b/t @AlexandriaVAGov & @NationalHarbor starting Sunday. VIDEO: preview ride with MD, VA & #WMATA GM pic.twitter.com/kobbuM0Jo9— Metro (@wmata) October 20, 2016
As the waterfront community continues to grow, this year with the opening of the $1.4-billion casino, residents and transportation officials say better transit is needed for the larger workforce and to alleviate growing traffic congestion in the area.
Officials from Maryland and Virginia joined the developer of National Harbor and Metro for a preview ride Thursday. Officials said the new route will make it easier for residents, employees and visitors to travel between Northern Virginia and Prince George’s, without having to go through the District via the Metro system.
Metro General Manager Paul J. Wiedefeld said, “it makes it easier for the many visitors to National Harbor and Alexandria to enjoy dining, shopping and entertainment while also providing a convenient option for employees to get to and from work.”
Metro is starting the service as a pilot to allow the agency to evaluate ridership demand. If successful, the line will be added as a permanent route next year. Annual ridership is projected at about 230,000.
Some advocates hope a successful bus line might help revive plans to bring Metro to National Harbor. A proposal to extend rail from Alexandria’s Huntington Metro station over the Woodrow Wilson Bridge to National Harbor has been on the books for more than a decade, but is not a priority for the county or state.
Access to public transportation has been an issue at National Harbor since it opened in 2008. There is no Metro station within walking distance of the 350-acre development on the shores of the Potomac River. The closest Metro station is Huntington, about five miles away across the Wilson Bridge in Alexandria. The nearest Prince George’s station is Southern Avenue, seven miles away.
Metro’s NH1 line connects National Harbor to Metro’s Green Line at Southern Avenue. The county’s own small bus system runs trips to the complex, but only on weekdays.
The new service will cost $2.9 million a year to operate and will be funded with local subsidies, Metro said. The Peterson Companies, developer of National Harbor, is contributing $500,000 to offset Metro’s operating costs.