Montgomery County, Md., has broken ground on Phase 1 of the Great Seneca Transit Network (GSTN). Phase 1 will include two new Ride On extRa bus service lines. The project will continue through spring, with service to begin late summer 2024.
The two new bus lines, designated as “Lime” and “Pink,” will run east-west connections between the Shady Grove Metro to the Universities of Shady Grove in Rockville. The Pink line will link the busy Shady Grove corridor with the Life Sciences Center via Medical Center Drive. The Lime line will use I-370 to provide an express route to RIO, Crown Farm and the heart of the Life Science Center at Adventist HealthCare Shady Grove Medical Center.
“The opening of the Great Seneca Transit Network will be a big boost to the residents and those who work in the Rockville, Gaithersburg and Shady Grove communities,” said Montgomery County Executive Marc Elrich. “The addition of these two express bus routes and dedicated bus lanes will connect Metrorail directly to the Life Science Center and Universities at Shady Grove. The workforce within this transit corridor has nearly doubled since 2010 and these new routes will help support the public transportation needs of employees and students. I have supported this project for years and expect it to help grow our biotech sector and spur economic development.”
Phase 2 includes two additional routes and an extension of the Lime line. The completed interconnected service will link the Kentlands, Crown Farm, King Farm, the Universities at Shady Grove, Adventist Shady Grove Hospital, Shady Grove Metro and Rockville. The infrastructure plan also includes upgraded bus stations, pedestrian and bicycle enhancements along the corridors.
“The Great Seneca Transit Network is a reflection of Montgomery County's commitment to multi-modal transit opportunities that will also help improve access to public health resources and jobs,” said Montgomery County Council President Evan Glass, who also chairs the Council’s Transportation and Environment Committee. “The addition of the Pink and Lime lines will help transform the Life Science Center into a competitive employment district that is accessible to everyone in our region.”
Both bus routes will operate with sections of dedicated bus lanes and “signal priority,” which gives an early green light to the bus lane during peak hours so bus riders can reach their destination faster. The bus schedule is designed to minimize wait times for riders, with service every 10 to 15 minutes on weekdays and every 30 minutes on weekends. The two lines are expected to transport between 4,000 and 5,000 riders each weekday.
“The Great Seneca Transit Network will bolster needed east–west connections within our public transportation system that are faster, more convenient and less expensive than traveling by car,” said Montgomery County Department of Transportation Director Chris Conklin. “The express routes will significantly reduce commute times for travel destinations. Transportation from the Shady Grove Metro Station to Adventist Medical Center via the Pink line will take 21 minutes, less than half of the current 43-minute commute on the existing route. Additionally, we have designed the schedule and frequency of these bus routes to reflect how the members of this community live, work and travel.”
The Montgomery County Climate Action Plan has set a goal to eliminate greenhouse gas emissions by 2035. Eleven zero-emission buses have been purchased. Once they become available, the zero-emission buses will be placed in operation along the first two corridors sometime in 2025. The new buses also will have the upgraded amenities associated with Ride On extRa branded buses such as comfortable seating, level boarding, free Wi-Fi and charging ports.
The GSTN was planned with input from residents, businesses and educational institutions. The express routes will provide needed access to education and healthcare for residents, essential workers and students.
“Having convenient, reliable access to public transit is so important for so many students who attend the Universities at Shady Grove campus and rely on these services to get to class or work on time,” said Universities at Shady Grove Executive Director Anne Khademian. “We’re thrilled about the creation of the Great Seneca Transit Network and applaud Montgomery County’s efforts to build a transit system that will better serve the growing needs of our region.”