Affordable and accessible public transportation is important for an urban environment, and part of having access is convenience. In Prince George's County, Maryland, officials know the county wasn't providing that as well as it needed to.
At a Department of Public Works and Transportation garage in Forestville, county, state and federal leaders hoped to signal to residents that there will be changes.
“Improving Prince George's access to public transportation is one of the proud priorities of this administration, and transportation is just one area where our administration has made tremendous progress,” said County Executive Angela Alsobrooks.
County employees rode The Bus, the county's public bus system, and talked to riders about what was working and what wasn't.
"Schedules have also been adjusted to include improved transportation on weekends," Alsobrooks said. “We're really just improving the entire transportation network that our seniors depend on and our workforce depends on.
“We had obsolete bus routes; we had obsolete buses,” he added.
Part of the $25 million in federal funds that were touted to help finance these improvements will also be used to purchase 20 new all-electric buses, in addition to the 11 the county has already purchased.
“We listened to the public when they said it was difficult to navigate if you don't have a car in the county, and we want people to be able to go to work again,” Alsobrooks said.
This includes, for example, people who work at National Harbor. Alsobrooks said she has heard from people who said bus service for their routes ended before their shifts and that the buses did not arrive late enough at night.
“It was helpful to hear that. And, of course, that affects security. “It’s inconvenient,” Alsobrooks said.
Over the next year, the project will also review the county's entire public transportation system, including paratransit service, with the goal of implementing those changes over the next five years. And county leaders promise more regular evaluations in the future.
“We have heard the community's concerns about punctuality. We know riders want faster, more reliable and more efficient service,” said Michael Johnson, county public works and transportation director.
“Last year, there were no routes that performed 90% or better in terms of on-time performance. In fact, only five routes reached the punctuality goal of 80%. As of October of this year, Prince George’s County traffic has doubled with 10 routes operating at 80% on-time.”