On Thursday, Metro’s Board of Directors will be taking up the proposed restructuring of Greenbelt bus service.

WMATA staff want to restructure Greenbelt’s bus service because they feel resources could be used more efficiently. It will result in a reduction in service for some, but an increase in service for others. If the Metro Board approves the changes, they will go into effect in late December.

All of the Metrobus lines in Greenbelt will see changes under the proposal. Prince George’s County is also proposing major changes to the TheBus lines in the city, but those changes are part of a different process.

Graphic by author. Underlying map by Google.

Route C2: The biggest change is the truncation of the C2 route. It currently runs from Wheaton to Greenbelt Center (Old Greenbelt).

Under the proposal, it will be cut back to Greenbelt Metro. This line is Greenbelt’s most frequent line, and its loss will mean that residents of Old Greenbelt will lose direct one-seat service to the University of Maryland, Langley Park, and eastern Montgomery County.

Route R12: One positive change is the splitting of the R12 into two routes. Currently, the line runs from Deanwood to Greenbelt Metro and then on to Greenbelt Center and New Carrollton. It’s an extremely long route, and it suffers severe bunching and scheduling problems.

Under the proposal, the R12 would only run from Deanwood to Greenbelt Metro. It would not serve Greenbelt Center. Instead, that section would be served by a new route, called the G12.

In Greenbelt West, the R12 would continue to serve Beltway Plaza’s main entrance. It would also make a longer deviation into Emperian Village (Springhill Lake). The route will be shortened in College Park with a routing to the College Park Metro station via Paint Branch Parkway and River Road.

New route G12: This route is very similar to the current routing of the R12 between Greenbelt Metro and New Carrollton. In Old Greenbelt, the new G12 will have a few slight route alterations, including new service on Lastner Lane in the Boxwood Village neighborhood and service through the University Square apartments off Westway.

In Greenbelt East, the G12 would serve Roosevelt High, following the current route of the R12. The only deviation between Greenbelt and New Carrollton is at Doctors’ Hospital, where the G12 will replace the T16/17 service there.

Route T16/17 (G14/16) Currently, the T16/17 runs between Greenbelt Metro and New Carrollton. The buses never run at the same time; the only difference between the two is a rush hour deviation to Goddard Corporate Park (the T17).

The T16 would be replaced by the G16. The rush hour-only T17 would be replaced by the G14, which would have midday service in addition to peak service.

Between Mandan Road and New Carrollton, the routes are identical to the current service except that the G14/16 would not serve Doctors’ Hospital or the portion of Good Luck Road between Cipriano Road and the hospital.

In Greenbelt, the G14/16 would not serve Mandan Road or Hanover Parkway, instead, staying on Greenbelt Road to Southway. The route would loop through Old Greenbelt via Southway, Crescent Road, Gardenway, Ridge Road, Westway, and Lakecrest Drive. It would take Greenbelt Road to Cherrywood Lane on its way to the Metro (with a loop through Beltway Plaza).

One positive of this change is later service on the G16 than is currently provided on the T16. Residents of the Lanham and Seabrook areas along the T16/G16 will have service approximately an hour later on weeknights than they do currently.

Timed transfer: Due to citizen requests for neighborhood-to-neighborhood service, WMATA is creating a “timed transfer” at Greenbelt Center (Crescent Road & Gardenway). This location is marked with a circled “T” on the above graphic.

Buses will be scheduled so that a westbound bus on one route arrives at the same time as a westbound bus on the other route. Buses will have a scheduled wait of about 5 minutes to allow for the vagaries of traffic. Eastbound buses will also meet other eastbound buses, but not westbound buses.

This means that someone in the northern part of Old Greenbelt (the G12) will be able to reach Goddard Corporate Park (G14) by transferring at Greenbelt Center. Similarly, someone at Beltway Plaza (G14/16) can reach Roosevelt High or Doctors’ Hospital (G12) the same way.

Eastbound buses won’t meet westbound buses or vice versa. That means that someone in the northern part of Old Greenbelt can no longer reach Beltway Plaza with a single-seat ride or with a timed transfer.

However, buses on the G12/14/16 will all be interlined. A G12 will leave New Carrollton and travel to Greenbelt Metro, where it will wait approximately 10 minutes and then become a G14/16 to return to New Carrollton.

Metro planners say that a rider traveling from the northern part of Old Greenbelt on the G12 will be permitted to remain onboard the bus at Greenbelt Metro and then travel to Beltway Plaza (or anywhere else) on the route of the G14/16. Although that may or may not be quicker than transferring at a different location, depending on the time of day and individual circumstance.

Why restructure?

Changes to bus service have been very controversial in the community this year. It was first proposed as part of Metro’s systemwide bus and rail cuts proposed last spring during the budget crisis. The Metro Board took all service cuts off the table before approving the budget for this fiscal year.

The alterations to Greenbelt’s bus service are coming back up at the request of the City and Prince George’s County. The alterations should cost about the same that current bus service costs, but will benefit Metro mainly by reducing delays and bunching.

The City Council supported the changes mainly because they feared that if changes were not made, Greenbelt would be at the top of the list for service reductions during the next budget cycle, which will likely be just as bleak in 2011.

As a Greenbelt resident and daily bus rider, I have mixed feelings about these changes. I’m happy with the splitting of the R12, for instance, because the bus line is currently very unreliable. But I regret that we’re losing the C2, which comes as frequently as every 15 minutes during rush.

I’m also disappointed that WMATA is unable to provide later evening service and Sunday service. Currently, the last bus to leave for Greenbelt Center is the R12 leaving Greenbelt Metro at 9:59p on weeknights. That is unacceptably early for those of us who rely on transit, and it’s a serious impediment in getting people to try transit. Hopefully Metro’s next changes in Greenbelt will be the provision of later and more frequent service.

Matt Johnson has lived in the Washington area since 2007. He has a Master’s in Planning from the University of Maryland and a BS in Public Policy from Georgia Tech. He lives in Dupont Circle. He’s a member of the American Institute of Certified Planners, and is an employee of the Montgomery County Department of Transportation. His views are his own and do not represent those of his employer.