Bethesda Circulator Expansion Could Be Victim of New Budget Cuts

The money for the expansion is listed in Ike Leggett’s $51 million “Savings Plan”


Aaron Kraut

An expansion to the Bethesda Circulator route is among the cuts that are part of County Executive Ike Leggett’s proposed $51 million “Savings Plan” for the fiscal year that started last week.

Leggett wrote a memo to County Council President George Leventhal this week in which he said the cuts are necessary because of lower-than-expected income tax revenue and recent information that the county will be on the hook for more money than originally expected after the state lost the Wynne case.

Altogether, Leggett said the cumulative revenue loss for next fiscal year’s could reach “well over” $150 million.

The county released the full list of Leggett’s proposed cuts, which includes $10 million less in funding for Montgomery County Public Schools and fewer hours at libraries including Chevy Chase and Little Falls.

Also included is a cut of the $160,000 approved as part of the county’s budget this spring for the Bethesda Circulator expansion.

The free shuttle that runs around downtown Bethesda is operated by the Bethesda Urban Partnership, and has become a popular way for commuters to reach the Bethesda Metro station, as well as other destinations in Bethesda Row and Woodmont Triangle.

After recording record ridership last year, BUP had hoped to expand the route south to Bradley Boulevard and north to Battery Lane starting in January 2016. BUP officials said they had received numerous requests from residents of apartments on both streets for Circulator stops.

The route now reaches as far north as Rugby Avenue and as far south as Bethesda Avenue and has 19 stops.

In 2006, BUP took over operation of the Bethesda Trolley as Ride On planned to shut it down. In 2011, BUP switched out the old-school trolleys for sleek, modern buses and rebranded it as the Bethesda Circulator.

The county council will review Leggett’s proposed budget cuts over the next two weeks and must provide final approval.

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