Russ Ideo of south Bowie can’t remember the last time he rode the bus in the city and he can’t think of a reason to start.
“They run so infrequent that a lot of people don’t want to use them,” Ideo said. “I want to leave now. I don’t want to wait 15 or 20 minutes.”
Bowie residents and leaders have long complained about problems in public transportation and they will get a chance to voice concerns at 5:30 p.m. Thursday at the Bowie Senior Center, when the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority is hosting a meeting to get residents’ input on how it can improve services.
The meeting is part of an ongoing survey that Metro began Dec. 12 to analyze the use of the bus routes and identify areas for improvement in the Bowie line routes, said Girum Meseret, project manager of the study. Metro regularly reviews its lines to look for areas for improvement, Meseret said. The study of the Bowie routes is expected to close in April and recommendations will be made that month on ways to improve service, he said.
Two other buses, C29 and C28, run through parts of Bowie, however the bulk of service to Bowie runs along the “Bowie lines,” Meseret said.
WMATA bus service along seven routes being studied that go through Bowie vary, but in general, service begins around 5 a.m. and ends around 10 p.m. Buses hit each stop about once per hour, or once every half hour during peak periods such as 6 to 9 a.m. and 3 to 7 p.m.
The start point for each line varies from in and around Bowie however all of the routes take passengers to the New Carrollton Metro Station.
While adjusting bus stop locations can be relatively easy to do, if recommended in the study, other changes — such as adding buses to reduce wait time or creating bus lanes — could be expensive and require further study to determine the full cost, Meseret said.
“We’re trying to see what we can do to help Bowie with issues,” Meseret said.
While Ideo and other residents have said they wish the buses would come more frequently, overall demand isn’t high for the buses, Meseret said.
Ridership has grown since fiscal 2008 on all the of the studied Bowie routes, which run primarily north of the Bowie Town Center, according to a WMATA analysis.
The combined daily ridership on all of the studied Bowie lines is around 2,000, which is well below WMATA’s average of around 7,000 to 8,000 daily riders on a single line or the highs of around 20,000 daily riders the system has on some routes in Washington, D.C., Meseret said. Out of the 54 lines the Metro has that runs throughout Maryland all of the “Bowie lines” are in the bottom 50 percent with the B27 line ranked 53rd and the B29 and B31 line having the lowest ridership out of them all, Meseret said. Bowie residents are attached to their cars, many residents said. Bowie was designed to be a commuter city with residents driving to work in Washington, D.C., or Baltimore, said Bowie Mayor G. Frederick Robinson.
Improved bus service would also aid those who cannot or choose not to drive, said Kevin Russell, a retired Navy printer who relies on public transportation.
“There are some people, seniors, who depend on buses,” he said. “I’d like to see them go to more areas of Bowie where people have to pay extra or take a cab because Metro isn’t available.”