Photo by thisisbossi.

The Transit First! coalition of transit, environmental and labor groups says that Montgomery County is moving in the wrong direction by cutting transit service. According to the budget proposal released today, Montgomery will cut $4.8 million of Ride-On service which helps many transit-dependent riders reach commercial centers and Metro stations.

Meanwhile, Montgomery subsidizes parking in Bethesda, Silver Spring, and Wheaton to the tune of $8 million a year by pouring all parking fines into the local parking districts. As a result, those districts charge below-market prices for public parking. The county is using public funds to subsidize driving while cutting bus service. Transit First! argues that the county should instead dedicate that parking revenue to Ride-On.

Using parking district money to fund alternatives to parking is just the sort of policy Donald Shoup advises. Performance parking, where parking costs enough to ensure some empty spaces, is only half of the Shoup solution. The other half is to use the revenue from the higher prices to improve alternatives. Today, Montgomery County is following neither. The garages are so cheap that at busy periods it’s almost impossible to find public parking, while private garages are still very expensive. Despite this, the county keeps pouring money into making sure those lucky enough to find a scarce space don’t even pay the cost of maintaining that garage.

Planned Ride-On cuts will cause hardships for many riders who depend on the buses to get to work, said Action Committee for Transit president Ben Ross, and would be disruptive to employers as well.  The elimination of weekend service on the T2 route to Potomac, for example, would make the bus line useless for retail employees who must work weekends.

Greater Greater Washington is a member of Transit First! (and I am DC vice-chair). Here is the complete press release.

David Alpert is Founder and President of Greater Greater Washington and Executive Director of DC Surface Transit. He worked as a Product Manager for Google for six years and has lived in the Boston, San Francisco, and New York metro areas in addition to Washington, DC. He lives with his wife and two children in Dupont Circle. Unless otherwise noted, opinions here are his and not the official views of GGWash or DCST.