After months of studying potential options for a free shuttle service, the Town of Chevy Chase has presented residents hoping to avoid downtown Bethesda traffic with two options ahead of a public hearing on June 12.
Chevy Chase At Home, a senior village operating in the Town, first presented the idea of a mid-day shuttle service for senior residents last year. The idea was to help people avoid construction, traffic and parking areas when heading to shops and the Metro station in Bethesda.
But after the idea was first publicized, Town residents from different age groups and with different needs expressed interest in it. Some would like to use the shuttle to commute to and from the Town in rush hour. Some would like it for evening hours to avoid the parking crush at Bethesda Row.
Town Councilmember Al Lang and the Town’s Public Service Committee have suggested the service run from 7 a.m. to 8 p.m. to also include commuters, but that proposal is not currently on the table.
The two options under consideration are a four-hour (10 a.m. to 2 p.m.) shuttle that would run either once-an-hour or twice-an-hour and a taxi reimbursement program that assume 50 monthly users reimbursed at a maximum of $30 per month.
Cost is a big factor. The shuttle (proposed route map provided by the Town above) would cost $10,000 for signs, benches and printing and $132,000 for the operation of a bus every 30 minutes. The once-an-hour shuttle option would cost $66,000.
The taxi reimbursement program would run the Town $18,000 a year.
As a comparison, the 7 a.m. to 8 p.m. shuttle option was projected to cost $215,000 a year to operate for one bus an hour and $428,000 for two buses an hour.
The Town Council hopes the public hearing provides some direction on the matter.
“The Council would like to come away from the public hearing with a clear sense of which, if any, alternative service residents would support,” wrote Town Councilmember David Lublin in an email to residents.
Map via Town of Chevy Chase
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Groups Starting Two New Senior Villages — The increase in baby boomers reaching retirement age has meant more people who want to age in place, but who might need help with the daily tasks required of remaining in their homes as they get older. That’s opened the door for the senior village concept, and two more are set for the area. [Bethesda-Chevy Chase Regional Services Center]
Flickr photo by ehpien
The MetLife Foundation and Generations United presented the honors at a ceremony attended by county officials and Rep. Chris Van Hollen (D).
The designation means the organizations think Montgomery County is one of the top places to live for people of all ages. The awards are meant to highlight the importance of solidarity between residents of different generations.
“We congratulate Montgomery County for earning this designation,” executive director of Generations United Donna Butts said. ”It takes a great deal of effort and forward thinking to create a community where members of every generation want to live. Montgomery County has worked to ensure its residents enjoy a vibrant, meaningful place to live, are treated with respect and caring, and have ample opportunity to work together for the betterment of all.”
Dunedin, Fla., Itta Bena, Miss., and Westchester County, N.Y., also received the award.
Generations United is a D.C.-based lobbying group for intergenerational programs.
Montgomery County was honored in part because of its Intergenerational Resource Center and nonprofit Interages, created in 1986. Programming from the group includes seniors mentoring immigrant students, a shared site adult and child day care facility in Silver Spring, activities in senior centers and other arts and tutoring programs.
“Prior to joining the County Council, I worked in advocacy related positions on behalf of younger people and also seniors, and I love serving in a County that takes pride in building a better future for all generations,” Councilman Hans Riemer (D-At large) said. “This award honors our progress. We actively work to serve our seniors and young families by planning more walkable communities, improving public transportation, providing great recreation services, libraries and health care, boosting affordable housing and valuing inclusiveness.”
Board of Education President Christopher Barclay and Office of Community Partnerships director Bruce Adams were also in attendance.
Councilwoman Nancy Floreen (D-At large) on Monday told a group of Bethesda and Chevy Chase residents it’s unlikely Montgomery County will ever implement rent control and that advocates of the measure sometimes use inaccurate information to make their case.
A Friendship Heights resident and member of the Western Montgomery County Citizens Advisory Board asked Floreen, of Garrett Park, about renters’ rights.
The issue has been prominent among seniors in Friendship Heights, where residents of the Willard apartments have faced a pair of five percent rent increases since last fall. They are unhappy Montgomery County’s volunteer guideline for a 2.8 percent rent increase last year was disregarded.
“Is there going to be rent control in Montgomery County? I think not,” Floreen said. “The traditional challenge is that to the extent that rents are controlled, the history is disinvestment in those buildings or minimal investment. But after a while, the buildings get worse and worse and the government has to step in. …And that’s expensive and costly to everyone.”
Councilman Marc Elrich (D-At large) who helped institute rent control in Takoma Park, said at a Montgomery County Renters Alliance forum last year in Bethesda that he received no support for a similar measure he proposed a few years ago at the county level. Takoma Park’s rent stabilization limits rent increases to the rate of inflation.
“I did not and have not yet had a single council member come to my door and even say, ‘Can we talk about this?’ I was told it’s dead on arrival,” Elrich said.
Elrich said he was contemplating a modified proposal that would require building owners to submit a request for why they need to increase rents by more than 150 percent of the inflation rate.
Renters now make up roughly 30 percent of Montgomery County’s population, a number that should increase as the county continues its gradual shift toward higher-density, urban-style development.
And while Floreen agreed with renters’ advocates that tenants need more of a voice in the political process, she said the county’s existing regulations protecting against landlord abuse may already be enough.
“There are a bunch of recommendations that the county executive is implementing on tenants’ rights,” Floreen said. “I’m not sure they’re not working.”
The 0.5-square mile town of just more than 2,800 people east of downtown is floating the idea of spending between $89,000 and $118,000 a year to run a midday shuttle from the Town Office to points in Bethesda that could include the Bethesda Metro station.
The idea was put forth by Chevy Chase At Home, a nonprofit senior villages organization that provides car rides, community events and other volunteer services to seniors in Chevy Chase who want to remain in their homes but need assistance.
Chevy Chase At Home Vice President Frances Pitlick said the multiple construction projects going on in Bethesda make it difficult for people in the organization to get to the area, even between rush hours. Many of the group’s participants live east of Connecticut Avenue, making a walk to Bethesda Row or any other popular Bethesda area too lengthy.
At a discussion of the proposal during Wednesday night’s monthly Town Council meeting, the group decided to develop potential shuttle routes through a committee before holding a public hearing sometime early next year.
Town manager Todd Hoffman said about 125 people responded “yes” to the question of using a shuttle between the Town and Bethesda on the annual Town survey. That’s about 35 percent of respondents.
The 14-person shuttle would run between rush hours and stop at as many points as requested by the Town. The contractor could provide it for a six-month or one-year timeframe the Town would use as a trial run. The company told Hoffman it can record how many people use the shuttle, though it would be difficult to pinpoint how many of those riders are from the Town or even Chevy Chase.
Most on the Council seemed to agree that people from outside the Town (including those who use the Montgomery County Recreation Department’s Jane E. Lawton Community Center next to the Town Office) should be welcome on the shuttle.
Hoffman detailed two options, a shuttle circuit from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. on weekdays that would cost the Town almost $90,000 a year and one with a two-hour block in the morning and a two-hour block in the afternoon would cost $118,000.
With Montgomery County’s senior population on the rise, so is the number of “senior villages,” organizations of volunteers that provide in-home visits, rides to the doctor office, help with chores and a host of other services to those who wish to age in their homes.
On Monday, the Washington Area Villages Exchange (WAVE) came to the Bethesda Chevy Chase Regional Services Center for its quarterly meeting.
Hanne Caraher, 75, was in the audience, listening to an attorney describe the steps necessary to create a non-profit Senior Village. Caraher lives in Bethesda, in a residential neighborhood off Old Georgetown Road where she senses there’s a need.
“It’s kind of an established neighborhood. We don’t have many new families moving in so people are aging around me,” Caraher said. “I’ve lived here since 1961. That’s my good luck and many people haven’t moved either.”
The desire of seniors to age in their homes is almost universal, said Miriam Kelty, who helped create the “Neighbors Assisting Neighbors” program about five years ago in the Bannockburn neighborhood.
“We know that older people would prefer to stay in their own homes, or at least their own communities,” said Kelty, who helped start the organization after retiring from the National Institute On Aging. “We also know that physical, social and intellectual activity are very critical to aging well.”
The Bannockburn program is all volunteers and requires no fee or membership. Seniors can ask for help with transportation, household chores and equipment loans and can attend a monthly educational event on things such as container gardening, digital photography or even “tough conversations that you need to have with your children.”
The nearby Burning Tree Village has operated since about the same time, providing many of the same services to seniors in the neighborhood of 450 households.
Montgomery County has the most seniors in the state, according to the county’s Division of Aging and Disability Services, a number that has grown by 130 percent from 1980 to 2010 thanks in part to the “silver tsunami” of baby boomers aging into retirement.
“We really see a neighborhood as an extended family,” said Burning Tree Village Board member Nancy Aronson. “These days people don’t often live near their family. I have a daugther in Hawaii, a son in Connecticut. It’s hard for people even if they have children nearby. But we provide people who are happy and willing and available to help.”
Caraher’s project is just beginning. She’s hoping to find interested members to form a steering committee soon.
“We want to support a good quality of life,” Kelty said, “a satisfying quality of life that we know from the data people want by staying in their own homes.”