After years of isolation, the Montgomery County Council has approved new funds for a Ride-On bus service for Tobytown along River Road in Potomac.
The debate above funding for the new bus route continues even after the council voted to approve the new service, which is set to begin in October 2017.
Montgomery County Executive Ike Leggett said the additional $247,600 the council approved for the bus costs the County too much.
Leggett originally proposed the bus route to Tobytown, a community of 60 people, would cost $160,000 for the first nine-month period and $213,000 annually.
The council added $246,600 in its reconciliation budget to expand the service beyond what Leggett proposed.
“You could almost give the people free cab rides and it would come out cheaper,” Leggett said.
The small predominately African American community is located along River Road adjacent to the Chesapeake and Ohio Canal that runs along the Potomac River.
For Leggett, the Tobytown route is one among many funding additions the Council made to its Fiscal Year 2017 reconciliation budget he considered ill-advised.
“It’s hard to send a large number of buses to that area,” Leggett said.
County Council President Nancy Floreen (D) defended the Council’s additional funding of the Tobytown route, saying the bus service was badly needed.
“If there is a better way to solve the problem we will be very interested in it,” Floreen said.
Floreen said the funding for in this year’s budget was the most cost effective way to solve the issue of bringing public transportation to the residents in Tobytown.
“We have people who are pretty isolated there and are tying to get to work,” Floreen said.
According to a memorandum from Deputy Council Administrator Glenn Orlin to the Council Transportation, Infrastructure, Energy and Environment committee, pilot programs for a Tobytown bus service “tried and failed” twice in the last 10 years.
It has not grown since, so there is no reason to believe this pilot will fare any better,” said Orlin in the memo.
However, Council member Hans Reimer (D-At large) pitched the route as a means of community inclusion for an area where some poorer residents do not own cars.
“It’s a community that has been cut off from public transportation,” he said.
In a 2015 letter to Leggett, Council members Roger Berliner (D-1) and Sidney Katz (D-3) said all the evidence “suggests that improving transportation for low-income community creates greater economic opportunity and the chance to end a cycle of poverty.”
The new proposed pilot route would operate between Rockville Metro Station and Tobytown and will provide needed transportation to the 60 residents in Tobytown.
The proposed bus service will have with stops that include Shady Grove Hospital, the Universities at Shady Grove, Travilah Elementary School, Robert Frost Middle School and Thomas S. Wootten High School.