The Prince George’s County Department of Public Works and Transportation is planning changes to TheBus service on all 4 routes operating out of Greenbelt Station.

Prince George’s wants to better allocate resources to run buses at higher frequency. But several Berwyn Heights officials are upset about the plan, because they think residents don’t want — and won’t ride — a bus with more frequent service.

The County is holding a public hearing on the proposed changes tomorrow evening at 7pm at the Greenbelt Community Center. The Greenbelt Community Center is located at 15 Crescent Road in Old Greenbelt, which is accessible by Metrobus routes C2, R12, and T16 and by TheBus route 15.

Proposed TheBus service in Greenbelt. Map by author.

These changes are planned to improve ridership and to work with the revised Metrobus service plan adopted by the WMATA Board in late September.

Two of the lowest ridership lines in the County, the 11 and the 15, operate out of Greenbelt Station. Prince George’s County wants to change these routes, because without an improvement in ridership, it is likely they will be cancelled altogether within the next few years.

The largest change will be taking the equipment and workers used to operate routes 11 and 15 and merging them into one route. This new route will be called route 11. It will run every 30 minutes. The route will no longer serve Beltway Plaza (as the old 11 did), but it will continue to serve the Federal Courthouse. It will serve Old Greenbelt and Greenbelt East, but it will no longer serve NASA Goddard.

Existing TheBus service in Greenbelt. Map by author.

Passengers needing to reach NASA Goddard will have to use Metrobus G14/16 or TheBus 15X. In the past, the County was considering adding some additional service on the 15X (which is currently rush-hour only), but I’m not sure if that is still in the cards.

Additionally, I believe the 15X should be rerouted so that it can stop in Old Greenbelt. Currently, there are no stops on route 15X between Greenbelt Station and NASA Goddard. A stop at the Greenway Shopping Center would be helpful as well, since it’s the only stop in Greenbelt (aside from the Metro station) where all the other routes in the city stop.

In order to serve Berwyn Heights, which is losing its route 15 service, the County proposes rerouting route 16 through the town. This will mean better service for Berwyn Heights, which currently only sees one bus per hour in each direction. Route 16 runs every 30 minutes.

But not everyone is happy about this. In a recent Gazette article, the Mayor of Berwyn Heights, Cheye Calvo, objected to the change. Saying “Every [20] minutes, there’s going to be a bus driving by people’s houses… It is going to be a change in frequency that is a rather significant one ... When I see the bus right now, it’s empty.”

Author’s note: Initially, this post failed to mention that the Mayor and Council voted 4-1 to take the official stance with the county that they will not oppose the plan. This is contingent on the County reviewing the change in several months to see whether ridership has increased. I apologize for the omission.

There are reasons that the 15 has low ridership. One reason is that it only comes once an hour, throughout the day. Another reason is that it takes a very circuitous route. In my case, it takes more than twice as long to get to Greenbelt Metro on route 15 than it does on Metrobus route R12.

TheBus 16 has much better ridership than route 15. So even if no new riders from Berwyn Heights start taking the bus, the Mayor will likely see more people on it.

One Councilman, James Wilkinson, says that he thinks the bus would be better on the periphery of the town. That would mean the least impact for current riders on route 16, but it would mean less mobility for Berwyn Heights residents. That means it’s especially important for Berwyn residents who want better bus service to come to the hearing.

Better frequency and more logical routing are clear benefits to these changes. But bus service in Prince George’s has a long way to go.

Currently, TheBus does not operate past 8 pm or at all on weekends. That needs to change if Prince George’s is to become a more accessible, sustainable, and livable place.

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.