Ride On fares rise to match those of Metro to narrow budget gap
Free rides for kids, Code Red days also suspended
Ride On is increasing its fares, beginning Sunday, to coordinate with new fares set by the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority for Metro buses.
County officials say the fare changes are needed to make transfers between Metrobus and Ride On buses simpler, and they also will help close the county's nearly $1 billion budget gap for fiscal 2011.
Among other changes, Ride On no longer will give free rides to children in the summer and also will collect fares on Code Red days, when the pollution and humidity combine to create smog. In the past, the county suspended fares on Code Red days to encourage more motorists to take public transit to reduce pollution.
The new fares will be $1.70 cash, and $1.50 with a SmarTrip card.
Although the "Kids Ride Free" program is being suspended, those 17 and younger can purchase a monthly pass for $11 with unlimited rides or an $18 summer youth cruiser pass, which is good through August.
Code Red days saw at best minimal increases in ridership and cost the county $45,000 on weekdays, Ride On officials said.
Metro suspended its Code Red program this year as well, and the Northern Virginia Transportation Commission suspended its program last year.
Traffic signal tweaked
to help with delays
A reader sent us this question on the traffic signal timing at the intersection of Quince Orchard Road at Great Seneca Highway:
"I live near [Quince Orchard High School]. On Quince Orchard Road heading east in the morning between 8 a.m. to 9 a.m. it has become more common over the last year or two to take more than one light cycle to get through the light at Great Seneca. Maybe 2 or more years ago it never happened.
"Now it is once or twice or three times a week, and even when I make it through the light it is barely.
"Occasionally the line is really backed up because of congestion on Great Seneca and left turners from Quince Orchard Road west on to Great Seneca block the road (actually, it seems like most of the time there is not enough time for those left turners to all get through, and there are almost always cars still in the intersection when our light turns green)."
"Can we extend the time on the lights please? Was the time reduced, or has the traffic on Quince Orchard increased? Thanks!"
Traffic signals are maintained by the county, even on state roads. Here's the response from the Montgomery County Department of Transportation's spokesman Thomas Pogue.
"Based upon your reader's inquiry we made some minor timing adjustments to give Quince Orchard Road/MD 124 more green light time during the morning peak hours.
"Even with these adjustments, motorists traveling through this intersection may not always get through it on the first signal light cycle.
"The volume of traffic at the intersection is very high during the morning and evening peak hours.
"This is exacerbated whenever I-270 delays are worse than normal or there is an incident on I-270 because Great Seneca is one of two alternate routes for motorists in these situations.
"However, we will continue to monitor the intersection of Great Seneca Highway and Quince Orchard Road/MD 124 during the peak hours."
Hot tracks slowing trains
On Tuesday, CSX issued "heat orders" for MARC trains on the Brunswick Line, the seventh time this month that high temperatures have delayed trains.
When the temperature nears 90 degrees, the heat can cause the tracks to expand, resulting in a kink where the tracks join, MARC officials said.
When heat orders are issued, the trains running between 1 and 7 p.m. operate at 20 mph under their normal speed, resulting in delays of 10 to 15 minutes. In some sections, the trains run at nearly 80 mph when not under a heat order.