March 8, 2024

Dedicated Bus Lanes Project Completed on University Boulevard in Wheaton

Montgomery County Executive Marc Elrich and County Council President Andrew Friedson on March 8 gathered at Wheaton Forest Local Park to celebrate completion of the dedicated bus lane project on University Boulevard (MD 193) between Amherst Avenue and Dennis Avenue in Wheaton.

Also joining the event were Councilmember and Transportation and Environment Committee Chair Evan Glass, Councilmembers Gabe Albornoz and Natali Fani-González, Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority (WMATA) Senior Vice President for Bus Services Leroy Jones, Maryland Department of Transportation State Highway Administrator Will Pines and Montgomery County Department of Transportation Director Chris Conklin.

The brightly painted red dedicated bus lanes run along the park border on University Boulevard and were opened for use on late February. The dedicated bus lanes along the more than two-mile section of roadway will allow buses to travel with minimal motor vehicle traffic obstruction along one of the area’s busiest and most congested corridors.

The dedicated bus lanes on University Boulevard are part of a larger MCDOT program, the Bus Priority Project, that will advance similar bus-only lanes. The bus lanes will provide faster, more reliable service along a route with critical service connections to MetroRail, Ride On, Metro buses and the Silver Spring Transit Center. The lanes are designated with solid red paint and “Bus Only” text.

"We are redesigning our approach to transit, to prioritize transportation options that are equitable and climate-friendly," said County Executive Elrich. "The University Boulevard dedicated bus lanes will improve the daily commute for thousands of workers, students and residents along this corridor who depend on public transportation. Additionally, these new bus lanes will also attract new riders to Metrobus and Ride-On services as a more convenient, safe and cost-effective option as compared to using automobiles. I appreciate the work of MCDOT and our partnership with Metro and Maryland State Highway to make commuting via bus better throughout Montgomery County."

The University bus lane corridor serves three Ride On bus lines (Route 7, Route 8 and Route 9) and WMATA’s C2 and C4 Metrobus lines. The C2 and C4 Metrobus lines carry about 9,300 riders each weekday, the second-highest ridership route in the Washington, D.C., region. 

"I want to thank MCDOT for their efforts to create a better bus experience for our customers," said Metro Senior Vice President Jones. "Frequent, reliable bus service provides pathways to opportunity for riders by connecting them to jobs, education, healthcare and vital services across the region. Our region as a whole will benefit from these improvements to our bus service by spurring economic development, reducing traffic congestion and improving health outcomes through the increase in physical activity and reduction in air pollution. Better bus service builds better communities."

MCDOT will monitor the effectiveness and safety of the bus lanes as a pilot program for 12 months. An evaluation will be done in December 2025 to confirm that the bus lanes are beneficial on this corridor.

"The new bus lanes allow us to improve service for thousands of riders with minimal impact on drivers," said MCDOT Director Chris Conklin. "A previous study conducted by the Maryland Department of Transportation showed that the lanes added, on average, fifteen seconds to vehicle commute times during rush hour. WMATA bus speed data showed that bus lanes will benefit transit operations and bus customers. Additionally, if we can make bus service more appealing by increasing speed and reliability, more people will choose bus service over driving. These lanes will move more people, faster."

WMATA partnered with MCDOT to seek approval for the project from the Maryland Department of Transportation State Highway Administration (MDOT/SHA), which maintains jurisdiction over the State road. 

"We are grateful for MCDOT advancing this project to improve Maryland's multimodal transportation system," said State Highway Administrator Will Pines. "Efforts such as these benefit the region by providing better transit connections to life’s opportunities. This project serves as a model for the importance of state and county partnership in Montgomery County and across the state."

The new bus lanes will allow use by emergency vehicles and bicycles. Cars can only enter and utilize the bus lane approximately 100 feet prior to making a right turn, as indicated by striped, red lines.

Details about the dedicated bus lane project on University Boulevard can be found on MCDOT’s  University Boulevard Dedicated Bus Lane project page.