Each morning, Zulma Berrios has had to cross New Hampshire Avenue in Langley Park to transfer from one bus to another.
Starting Thursday, the two buses she takes to get from her home in Prince George’s County to the beauty salon where she works in Wheaton will stop at the new Takoma Langley Crossroads Transit Center.
She no longer will have to cross the six-lane state route. Instead she will step off the K6 Metrobus under the mammoth glass canopy at the intersection of University Boulevard and New Hampshire Avenue and walk just a few steps to catch the C2 or C4 to Wheaton.
“Por fin,” she said in Spanish. “At last!”
The new bus hub at the intersection of University Boulevard and New Hampshire Avenue in northwestern Prince George’s County is opening this week to eager riders after more than a decade in planning and years in delays. Transportation officials from Maryland, Prince George’s and Montgomery counties and Metro gathered at the site on Tuesday to mark the opening with a ribbon cutting and speeches, calling the new hub “a top notch” place for bus boarding and the realization of a dream conceived 15 years ago to provide better and safer bus connections.
“It is going to provide a central off-street location for buses to safely pick up and discharge passengers, allowing them to connect to other routes and also allowing them to connect to the whole region,” said Paul Comfort, administrator of the Maryland Transit Administration, which oversaw construction and will operate and maintain the $34.8 million commuter hub.
“A lot of these transfers have taken place in the past out on the street, in areas which aren’t as safe as they should be,” he said. “Bringing them all together in a safe environment really helps the pedestrian safety.”
With 12 bus bays, the center will be a hub for Metrobus, Ride On, TheBus and University of Maryland shuttles at a single intersection, which sits at the border with Montgomery County. The transit center is also expected to be a future stop for the Purple Line, the proposed light-rail system that would run through Prince George’s and Montgomery. As many as 60 buses will go in and out during rush hour and as many as 12,000 people are projected to make transfers there each day.
On Tuesday, buses were coming in and out of the transit center as drivers familiarized themselves with the facility. The center has bathrooms for drivers and customers and will be staffed daily, MTA officials said.
Metro workers were at nearby bus stops handing out brochures and alerting riders about the changes. Several bus stops in the vicinity of the transit center will be relocated, and Metro anticipates the changes could create some confusion on the first few days after opening. Metro said it plans to have staff available on opening day to assist customers.
The following bus routes will serve the transit center: Metrobus C2, C4, F8, J4, K6 and K9; Montgomery County’s Ride On 15, 16, 17, 18, and 25; and Prince George’s County TheBus No. 18.
On Tuesday, Berrios looked at the transit center from the bus stop on University Boulevard where she catches the C2. She has made the same commute for 12 years and has seen the construction for the last three years. Besides having the convenience of transferring in one central location, she said she is looking forward to shelter when it snows or rains.
“This is going to so much better,” she said. “There’s more space. It is also looking very nice.”
But other commuters in the area were still unaware of the change. Ndi George, of Beltsville, travels to Silver Spring daily with a transfer at Langley Park. He has seen the new glass structure but was surprised to hear it is the new home to the bus lines in the area.
“That’s probably going to be better, but it’s hard to make that change. I am so used to this bus stop,” he said while waiting for the Ride On No. 17. “I will try to remember Thursday.”
Many of the commuters depend solely on the bus to get around. Many come from parts of Prince George’s County to transfer to buses that take them to work centers in Montgomery or vise versa.
The consolidation of all bus lines inside one facility should help improve pedestrian safety, because people will no longer have to cross a six-lane road to transfer from one bus to another. Transportation officials say the transit center also will improve traffic along University Boulevard and New Hampshire Avenue.
Metro General Manager Paul J. Wiedefeld, who was at the MTA when the project was in the design phase, said he felt it was as much a pedestrian project as a transit project.
Prince George’s County Deputy Chief Administrative Officer Barry Stanton described the facility as “an invaluable transit enhancement for this area for many years to come.”
Montgomery County Department of Transportation Director Al Roshdieh echoed the comments that it will enhance safety for the riders.
“It is long overdue,” he said.