I'm always a little surprised at how little most people know about our local bus system. I can count on one hand the number people I know who have ever used the RIBS system to get around Reston. Most don't even know how to plan a trip using RIBS or other local buses. We have a connected bus system that few people use.
WMATA's Trip Planner is an excellent online application for planning a transit trip in the metro DC area. Enter the starting location, your destination, and when you want to travel. Trip Planner will then list options available. From my house, near South Lakes High School, the RIBS2 bus runs every half hour. The trip to the Town Center takes 30 minutes and costs $1.50 using either a SmartTrip card or cash. The return trip takes 20 minutes due to the fact that RIBS bus routes are one way, and the that leg of the trip is shorter.
While there is a need to serve a portion of our community that have difficulty walking, not all buses need to make the long detours through the village center parking lots or to the senior housing entrances. For those with special needs, MetoAccess is a shared-ride, door-to-door, paratransit service for people whose disability prevents them from using bus or rail.
Smaller buses could also be an option. Rarely do you see a RIBS bus with more than a handful of users. Why not use smaller, less costly buses for these local routes. If the demand increases they could be replaced with larger buses. Perhaps the electric vehicles demonstrated at a recent Reston for a Lifetime meeting are another option.
When Metro comes to Reston, we're going to need to do a better job of getting residents around Reston without cars. Bicycling is one obvious choice (at least to some of us). Many people will want to travel to and from the stations by bus. We'll need more frequent, direct service to the future stations.
The county does have a plan to improve bus service to the future Metro stations. The Reston Metro Access Group report outlines those changes (Chapter 4 and Appendix E). Let's hope the changes are funded and implemented; Metro will be here soon. In the meantime, why not give RIBS a try, if for no other reason than to talk about it intelligently.