Park and Ride Best Option for Some

Maryland’s State Highway Administration recently opened a new Park and Ride lot at the corner of 355 and Monocacy Boulevard, which may offer some relief to the busy Urbana Park and Ride lot. The new ride sharing lot is part of the more than $100 million improvement project that replaced the bridge on 355 and constructed a new interchange on MD 85 for access to and from Interstate 70.

Commuting most anywhere in the Washington, D.C., area can be a challenge at the very least, and for many it’s a nightmare come true. Hundreds of thousands of cars travel daily on I-270, affectionately known as a “rolling parking lot.” On a typical weekday, over 72,000 cars drive on I-270 past the MD 80 exit each hour. At the Clopper Road exit in Gaithersburg, the figure soars to 168,000 per hour.

Finding the best travel option is a trial and error experience for each commuter.

The Urbana Park and Ride lots near the entrance to I-270 are often close to capacity on weekday mornings, highlighting many area residents’ choice to avoid the I-270 trek alone. The MTA 991 commuter bus is a popular transportation option to and from Shady Grove Metro.

Carolyn Huggins of Urbana has commuted to the Federal Housing Finance Agency in downtown D.C. for the past three years. After experimenting with each option — driving the entire route, combining driving with the bus, or riding the bus and then the Metro — she settled on the bus/train option. “Taking the bus at the Urbana lot to Metro is by far the best option for me,” she said.

Of course, working for a company that covers these expenses helps. But, as Huggins explains, “Anything can go wrong driving down 270. I would much rather be sitting or sleeping on a bus than dealing with I-270 in a car each day.”

And it can be very difficult to find a parking space in the morning at Shady Grove. To many, the daily $3.50 one-way bus fee is worth every penny. The cost is less for a monthly pass, and even less if an employer provides assistance, such as with the Smart Benefits Program for employers. (For more information on this program, visit the Washington Metropolitan Transit Authority website at www.wmata.com.)

Dan Hull, also of Urbana, enjoys walking to the Park and Ride, on nice days, then taking the bus to the Shady Grove Metro. He said he hasn’t done it for a while and may not try it again until temperatures stay well below 90 degrees. Otherwise, he and his wife, Heidi, carpool since their offices are close enough together to make it convenient.

Another benefit to using the Park and Ride lot for commutes south is the “Guaranteed Ride Home” (GRH) program. According to the Maryland Transit Authority, the “Guaranteed Ride Home provides commuters who regularly (twice a week) carpool, vanpool, bike, walk or take transit to work with a free and reliable ride home when one of life’s unexpected emergencies arises.”

Commuters may use GRH up to four times per year — by cab, rental car or transit — for free. The service is available Monday through Friday, from 6 a.m. to 10 p.m. To sign up for the GRH program, or for more information, go to www.commuterconnections.com.

To get a copy of the Commuting Options brochure for Frederick County visit http://www.frederickcountymd.gov/documents/Transit/FredCo_CommBro_1.PDF. Other helpful websites include: www.MDOT.Maryland.org , www.trafficferret.com and www.fix270.org.

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