The Chevy Chase Land Company has launched a free, daily shuttle service between the Bethesda Metro Center and Chevy Chase Lake. Riders can board the shuttle at the Capital One ATM in the Bethesda Metro Center bus bay for departures between 7:00 AM and 6:20 PM, Monday-Friday. The destination point - and departure point for those making the trip in reverse - is the office building at 8401 Connecticut Avenue. This building is right next to the Capital Crescent Trail, a former B&O Railroad right-of-way currently slated to be the route of the Purple Line Metro expansion.
The company's service is remarkable for a number of reasons, and has real utility for residents of downtown Bethesda.
First, having developers sponsor shuttles to Metro stations is one of the most cost-effective ways to reduce the impact of future growth on roads and taxpayer wallets. Kudos to CCLC for initiating this shuttle route voluntarily, and before they have even redeveloped their site.
Second, this is likely a goodwill measure as the company prepares to "reset" relations with the surrounding community, after its larger redevelopment proposal fell flat with the neighbors.
But these good intentions may actually get some cars off the road, if employees at Chevy Chase Lake businesses can now take advantage of a free, door-to-door connection with Metrorail. The schedule is not super-extensive, but certainly a good start.
Finally, Bethesda residents (especially those who aren't confined to a 9-5 desk job) can enjoy some new benefits they might not have considered. For example, the independent, family-owned Chevy Chase Supermarket is now just a free shuttle ride away. Explore what they have to offer.
Try out Tavira, one of the few restaurants offering Portuguese cuisine in the D.C. area. It's right in the basement of the building where the shuttle stops.
Take the shuttle over, and then walk back to Bethesda on the CCT for an easy workout. If Chevy Chase Lake gets a bikeshare station in the future, you'll be able to take a bike back, too.
What's the bottom line? Here's a chance to get familiar with a trip that many more people will be making in the not-so-distant future: Bethesda to Chevy Chase Lake to work, shop or dine. I thought the basic idea of adding buildings to Chevy Chase Lake was fairly sound if the Purple Line was part of the plan. However, I did not initially realize the scope and square footage of the project, until plans were revealed. The eventual compromise should take into account the number of cars we can realistically expect the Purple Line to take off of southbound 185 during morning commutes. (The story below explains why that number could be higher than expected, however). It would certainly help if the company continued this free shuttle service after redevelopment. A free ride to Metro is hard to pass up, especially for those who qualify for the perhaps-not-longed-for-this-world generous Metro subsidy.
A report in the January issue of TRAINS Magazine suggests lowball predictions on Purple Line ridership may be unfounded. Norfolk, VA's Tide light rail service has doubled the ridership numbers planners originally projected. A 7-mile long line, Tide's Lynx-powered service has created such demand that officials are now scrambling to find funds for new ticket machines and a future extension to the naval base.
Many other lines around the country have beaten expectations, too. Here's one idea that might explain Tide's even-greater results: Is there any chance that widely-traveled servicemembers who have been based in transit-advanced European countries are more open to rail service from experience? Given that Bethesda is arguably a military town, too, this could be a factor in the Purple Line's numbers.
Hard to say. That's probably quite a stretch. But the main story here is the doubled ridership in Norfolk. Whatever the reason, citizens nationwide have approved funding for - and are using - these lines as soon as they start operation.