Waldorf-to-D.C. express bus route in the works

More trips to be added to meet increase demand

Friday, June 27, 2008

Rapidly rising fuel costs are forcing more Southern Maryland residents to find alternative ways to get to work and state transit officials are answering the demand by creating a new express bus service that will run daily from Waldorf to Washington, D.C.

The Maryland Transit Administration is proposing to establish the 650 line that would become effective late this year or early next year, according to state transit officials. A new 857-space park and ride lot is almost completed at the Regency Furniture Stadium in Waldorf to pick up commuters who would use the route.

The addition of the bus route is necessary to meet the growing demand for public transportation in Charles County, according to MTA officials. The state will also begin providing riders with two additional round trips on the 901 and 905 bus routes July 1.

The 901 line runs from La Plata to Waldorf to Washington, D.C., and its ridership has increased 8 percent since 2007, said Erin Henson, MTA spokeswoman in an earlier interview.

Ridership on the 905 route that travels from California and Charlotte Hall in St. Mary’s County to Waldorf and into the city has increased 12 percent during the past year, Henson said.

The Maryland Board of Public Works voted in May to set aside $3.3 million in the state budget to expand the commuter bus service throughout the state, according to a Maryland Department of Transportation press release.

As fuel continues to rise and the roads become more congested it is expected that a larger number of commuters will decide to leave their vehicles at home and take the bus to their jobs outside the Southern Maryland area, said Charles County Commissioner Gary V. Hodge (D).

‘‘We have had for some time the fastest growing commuter bus service in the state,” he said. ‘‘It’s been a challenge for the state to keep up with our demand. John Porcari [the state’s secretary of transportation] and the MTA have responded immediately to our suggestion to put a new commuter lot at the stadium.”

Hodge said that it is important that the ridership of the state’s commuter bus service continues to rapidly grow in order to make way for a future light-rail system in Charles County that would run from Waldorf to the Branch Avenue Metro station in Prince George’s County.

The state has allocated $4 million to do a transportation alignment study for a light-rail corridor between Waldorf and the Branch Avenue station, Hodge said.

‘‘We’re aggressively moving forward to get a fixed-rail system here,” he said, adding that the Prince George’s County Council has endorsed the concept.

The 650 commuter bus route is a welcome and much needed addition to the mass transit system in Charles County, said Charles County Commissioner Samuel W. Graves Jr. (D).

‘‘Ridership has been increasing for some time,” he said. ‘‘With gas prices going up, the ridership is going to continue to increase. The bus system must have a very strong ridership and the demand has to continue to go up for us to get a light-rail system in Charles County.”

‘‘It’s imperative and extremely important that we continue to provide transit options to our citizens with the economy and gas prices going the way that they are,” said Charles County commissioners’ President F. Wayne Cooper (D). ‘‘The demand is here now and it will be in the future.”

For now, the state’s commuter bus service is the best way for residents who work outside of the county to get to their jobs without emptying their wallets, Hodge said.

‘‘The commuter bus service is the only option that is available right now for our commuters,” he said. ‘‘It’s a vital service. We need to make sure that park and ride facilities and bus routes keep pace with the growing demand because of the spike in fuel costs.”