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Developers balk at WMATA’s proposed Red Line service cuts

Developers balk at WMATA’s proposed Red Line service cuts (ABC7)

NORTH BETHESDA, Md. (ABC7) - WMATA general manager Paul Wiedefeld's quest to tighten the mass transit agency's belt has developers with multi-million-dollar projects concerned.

Wiedefeld’s proposed 2018 Fiscal Year Budget calls for cuts across all six rail lines and a number of bus routes. It’s a stretch of the Red Line, however, that is generating a good deal of negative buzz.

Currently, Red Line trains between Glenmont and Shady Grove run every six minutes during the weekday rush. Wiedefled’s proposal would increase wait times to every eight minutes – a 25 percent reduction in service.

Additionally, Red Line trains between Glenmont and Shady Grove currently run every twelve minutes during the weekday non-rush and on weekends. Wiedefled’s proposal would increase wait times to every 15 minutes. Furthermore, every other train in the direction of Shady Grove would stop and turn around at Grosvenor, leaving White Flint, Twinbrook, Rockville and Shady Grove with significantly less service.

"We found out kinda as the rest of the public did,” said Mickey Papillon, General Manager and Vice President of Pike & Rose, a massive mixed-use development that is radically transforming the way people view North Bethesda. “Metro service is one of the main tenants to making sure that this is a vibrant and successful area. We need it here.”

During the last few years, construction in-and-around the White Flint Metro station has exploded. Developers envision Rockville Pike to one day be flanked by swanky towers housing retail, residential and office space.

In 2015, the former White Flint Mall was fully demolished, with the exception of Lord & Taylor, which is embroiled in a longstanding civil lawsuit with property owner Lerner Enterprises. The plan is to construct a modern mini-city where the indoor mall once stood.

About half-a-mile north, Papillon’s Pike & Rose is attracting the interest of millennials seeking a suburban-urban lifestyle and retirees looking to downsize into a more cosmopolitan atmosphere. Phase one of the project, which includes luxury apartments, professional office space, an iPic Theater, music venue, retail shops and upscale restaurants, opened last year. Phase two, which will include a luxury hotel, condos, an REI, L.L. Bean, Pinstripes Bowling Alley, and many other amenities is slated to open later this year. Phase three is still in the works, but expected to only add to the vibrant vibe sprouting from what had been a simple strip mall.

Papillon says WMATA played a critical role in drawing Rockville-based developer Federal Realty to the site. After all, a key concept is fewer automobiles and more pedestrian, bicycle and public transit traffic.

"It's very important not only to us, but everybody who works here," Papillon told ABC7. "We certainly have our own business interests, but we also want to make sure that everybody is working together to ensure that the public is served well by WMATA moving forward."

WMATA, however, contends that trimming service is a necessity amid a noticeable decline in ridership. Slicing service on the Red Line alone would save between $1.2 and $1.3 million per year, WMATA estimates. Fewer trains would also help reduce track congestion, which has tended to be a severe issue on the rail system.

“This is all about right-sizing,” WMATA spokesman Dan Stessle told ABC7.

You can offer your opinion on the proposed service cuts by going to WMATA’s website. All comments must be received by Monday, February 6, at 9 a.m.

The WMATA Finance Committee and Board of Directors will review the feedback sometime in the mid-Spring. Both entities will consider a “menu of options” before making a final decision on the proposed cutbacks by July 1 – the start of the new fiscal year.

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