Sunday, October 5, 2014

A quarter of University Boulevard users are transit riders

University Boulevard is a major east-west connection between Montgomery and Prince George's counties.  In Four Corners, University Boulevard (MD Route 193) carries less traffic than Route 29, meaning it is not talked about as much when it comes to transit issues like BRT.  In most articles I've read about transit issues affecting east county, University Boulevard receives only a passing mention, if it gets mentioned at all.  The conversation usually revolves around Route 29.

Here is an interesting fact to consider:  University Boulevard has the highest ratio of transit riders to overall road users in Montgomery County.  Over a quarter of road users on University Boulevard are bus riders.

In 2012, University Boulevard through Four Corners averaged around 36,000 vehicles a day, the vast majority of which were single-occupant vehicles.

That same year, Metrobus routes C2 and C4 had a combined ridership of nearly 12,000 riders a day, with nearly all riders travelling between Wheaton and Langley Park (the segment in which the C2 and C4 operate concurrently due to high ridership).

C2, C4 route map.  Image from WMATA.

For a suburban area, this ratio is pretty remarkable.  The only other suburban location I found which had a ratio comparable to this was Route 1 in Mount Rainier, where bus riders also account for nearly a quarter of all road users.  No other road in Montgomery County even approaches University Boulevard's transit mode share.  On Route 29, only about one out of six road users is on a bus (~9,000 bus riders compared to ~60,000 vehicles though Four Corners).

So why does University Boulevard have such a high transit mode share?

The C2 and C4 have the highest ridership volume of any Metrobus route in Maryland at almost 12,000 riders per day.  Between Langley Park and Wheaton, the routes share the same alignment, meaning they basically operate as one route.  This shared corridor also has the lowest headways of any suburban bus route, with both the C2 and C4 operating every 12 minutes at rush hour, meaning a bus comes every 6 minutes on the stretch of University Boulevard through Four Corners.  During the morning rush hour, a bus travelling in the direction of Wheaton comes through Four Corners every 5.8 minutes on average (41 buses between 5AM and 9AM including Ride On #9).

The C2/C4 are some of the most frequent Metrobus routes in Maryland.

For an eye-opening comparison: this means our stretch of University Boulevard has more frequent transit service than the majority of Metro lines at peak times.  The Orange, Yellow, Blue and Silver lines operate every 6 minutes during the peak, while buses on University Boulevard operate every 5.8 minutes at peak times.

There are also numerous demographic reasons for the high ridership on the C2 and C4 through Four Corners.  The C2/C4 connect Langley Park and Wheaton, which are both higher density areas with large immigrant populations.  The peak direction of flow for the bus routes is westbound in the morning and eastbound in the afternoon, implying that many riders are commuting from homes in Prince George's County to jobs in Montgomery County.

Ridership is also high because the C2/C4 offer one of the few east-west transit connections in the area.  The numerous bus routes on Georgia Avenue (Y's), Route 29 (Z's), New Hampshire Avenue (K's), Riggs Road (R's), and Route 1 (80's) all run north-south,while only a handful of routes run east-west across the area.  The C2, C4, C8, F4, and J4 are the only five bus routes that run east-west between the Orange and/or Green lines in Prince George's County to the Red line in Montgomery County.

While the University Boulevard corridor may not get as much attention as the Route 29 corridor here in Four Corners, the existing high transit mode share on University Boulevard should not be overlooked as we consider future transit improvements in our community.

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