Blissfully Ignorant About Local Transit

Have you ever used RIBS to get around Reston? Do you even know how to use our local bus system? With the approach of Metro, we'll need a better way to get around without cars.

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 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.

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Terry Maynard January 19, 2012 at 08:42 PM
Bruce--I couldn't agree with you more, but there is a key problem you danced over gracefully: Today one has to PLAN to use RIBS or FC; with a car, all you have to do is get in it and go exactly to the place you want to go to. If a bus doesn't go where one wants to go when one wants to go, most of us (myself included) won't take it. I think that, as Metrorail comes to Reston, the frequency of RIBS buses and the variety of routes will need to increase substantially--all day & well into the evening. Maybe "express" buses from village centers to the TOD areas (at least Town Center) would help. That will be important to making more than just the immediate Metro station areas "smart." Those of us outside that area will continue to be the majority of residents for decades. We are a long way from the high-frequency, diverse route public transit goal now, and I'm not sure FCDOT has grasped that need. Maybe other forces will "drive" more people to RIBS & public transit generally: high gas prices (say $10/gal), restricted and/or pricey parking at destinations, horrible congestion(!) that makes auto travel untimely, & other traffic demand management strategies. And, of course, better pedestrian and biking opportunities will get us out of our cars if not on RIBS. Keep working it!
Laurie Dodd January 20, 2012 at 01:51 AM
I love this article! I have always wanted to know more about the local bus system.
David Chambers January 28, 2012 at 05:14 PM
what i keep missing is discussion about metro station access on the silver line. it's bad enough for local traffic that there are so few roads that cross over the dulles toll road that divides reston in two. does wmata expect metro riders to exit at the same spots as other driving commuters? if so, we should expect worse traffic jams around the wiehle avenue and reston parkway exits. or could people post url links to maps and plans that have anticipated this added problem that the metro would otherwise cause? if so, please post!
Lucinda Shannon February 21, 2012 at 12:51 PM
Great post Bruce. I’m guilty of driving my car when there are so many alternatives available. Most of the time it is because driving is faster and I want to save those few precious minutes. But I’m trying to make a commitment to walking to the grocery store more often and riding the bus to work more often too. I think the more transportation alternatives we have the richer our lives are. And there will come a time in everyone’s life when they will not be able to drive. Do to an injury, aging, or perhaps the car is in the shop. What will we do then? Learning to take public transit helps people keep their independence and stay active in their neighborhoods. And learning to ride the bus, before you are in a crisis and need to, makes things much easier. I’d suggest that, if you are new to public transit and you want to give it a try, find a friend to ride with you.


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