Ride On bus fares in Montgomery County have been free since March 2020 and the Montgomery Better Buses coalition, organized by the Coalition for Smarter Growth, has won an extension of free fares four times. Right now, fares will stay free until June 2022. But we’d like to see free fares extended until at least October 2023, when the county’s study to redesign Ride On and Metrobus routes will be complete.
COALITION FOR SMARTER GROWTH
For Immediate Release
July 21, 2021
Stewart Schwartz, Executive Director, 703-599-6437
Transportation Planning Board Re-Vote on Governor Hogan’s Toll Lanes
Governor Hogan’s strong-arming further exposes biases and flaws in Beltway/270 study, and the distortions of the P3 approach
Today, the regional Transportation Planning Board voted to reinstate the Beltway/I-270 toll lanes project in the long-range transportation plan for air quality modeling. The revote followed a massive political campaign by Governor Hogan, including threats to cut projects, removals of toll road opponents and appointments of supporters, and weak promises of additional investment in transit.
“Rather than establishing the merits of his toll lanes project, Governor Hogan has reinforced the serious bias and flaws in his approach to the Capital Beltway and I-270,” said Stewart Schwartz, Executive Director of the Coalition for Smarter Growth. “He started with the conclusion that he wanted private toll lanes and has failed to analyze comprehensive alternatives.”
“The toll lanes would reinforce the East-West economic divide in our region condemning Prince George’s commuters to either paying very high tolls or sitting in the general-purpose lane traffic that the toll road companies depend on to generate their profits. A far better alternative is Maryland investment in transit-oriented development on the east side of the region, which would increase jobs, shorten commutes, even out the flows on the Beltway and Metrorail, and help address the E-W economic and racial divide,” said Schwartz.
“The P3 process in Virginia and Maryland is resulting in undue influence by multinational corporations, prejudging and biasing the outcome of environmental and alternatives studies,” said Schwartz. “The premature approval of 495Next in Virginia created a threat of a bottleneck at the American Legion Bridge, which has become a way to force concerned Virginia and Maryland jurisdictions to support the further extension of the toll lanes into Maryland.”
“Not only are we not getting objective evaluation of alternatives, these projects also fail to adequately fund good, effective transit, and include non-compete clauses that potentially block important transit investments such as future Metrorail or light rail at the American Legion Bridge.”
“It is astounding to see our local and state leaders pressing forward with massive highway expansion in the face of the existential threat of climate change. In the past weeks, we have heard more about the melting of ice sheets in the Arctic, Greenland, and Antarctica, massive fires in the Western US, deadly flooding in Europe, the US and China, and shellfish cooking on the beaches of Canada amid record heat waves,” said Schwartz. “As this vote took place today, the DC region has a Code Orange, unhealthy air due to particulate pollution from the haze from massive Western wildfires.”
“Going forward, we are urging the Maryland Board of Public Works to delay action on contracts until completion of the environmental impact studies and the addition of a TOD/transit/demand management alternative,” concluded Schwartz.
Our thanks to the following elected officials and their jurisdictions who stood up for fighting climate change, and for transit and sustainable, equitable communities: Mayor Patrick Wojahn (College Park), Mayor Emmett Jordan (Greenbelt), County Executive Marc Elrich ( Montgomery County), Mayor Bridget Newton (Rockville), Councilmember Kacy Kostiuk (Takoma Park), Mayor Pro Tem Adrian Boafo (Bowie), Delegate Marc Korman (MD House), and Councilmembers Brooke Pinto, Charles Allen, and Christina Henderson (DC).
Mr. Tim Smith
State Highway Administration
707 North Calvert Street
Baltimore, Maryland 21202
Dear Mr. Smith,
We, the undersigned, request the Maryland State Highway Administration (MDSHA) implement pedestrian and bicyclist crossing improvements at highways MD-212/Riggs Road and MD-410/East West Highway which intersect M-NCPPC Sligo Creek Trail and highway corridors near the park trail.
These popular Sligo Creek Trail crosswalks at state highway intersections present a significant threat to vulnerable pedestrians and bicyclists as a consequence of inadequate signal facilities, excessive driver speed for conditions, substantial crossing distances, several multi-threat travel lanes, exposure from high vehicle volume, lack of shoulders and center median (MD-410), and obstructed crosswalk visibility. In short, these crosswalk systems are compromised.
We request the following suite of Safe System elements be implemented by MDSHA to provide adequate crosswalk safety:
- Narrow Travel Lanes
- Remove Visibility Obstructions and Barriers
- Build a Pedestrian Island Refuge (MD-410)
- Extend Bike Lanes (MD-212)
- Implement a Road Diet (MD-212)
- Implement Context-Driven Safe Speed
- Upgrade the Crosswalk Beacons
These Safe System elements work together as an ensemble to keep vulnerable crosswalk users and drivers safe. These recommended Safe System elements are summarized in Table 1.
This is a major safety issue.
- Vulnerable pedestrians and bicyclists on key trail crossings, which include school children, are currently exposed to high speed, high volume (23,000 vehicles per weekday) traffic, crossing several dangerous multi-threat lanes with inadequate or non-existent shoulders. The crossing systems are also compromised by obstructed sightlines from the presence of blind (sag) curves, utility poles, and bridge wall visibility blockages.
- These compromised trail crossing systems have resulted in numerous documented Maryland State Police crashes resulting in the crossings being identified as medium to high pedestrian and bicyclists crash “crash hot spots” in the MDOT Maryland Bicycle and Pedestrian Master Plan (2019).
The design ignores equity and land use contexts.
- These highway corridors serve a highly disadvantaged and chronically underserved majority-minority community and included within Maryland Equity Emphasis Area, Priority Funding Area, and Health Outcomes SocioNeeds Area.
- These trail crossings serve a dense urban community (10,000 residents per square mile) with extremely high percent of no-car households (30%) satisfying demand created by numerous nearby (<0.25 mile) amenities including elementary schools, park and recreation centers, and shopping centers.
Sligo Creek Trail is a major part of our transportation system.
- These trail crossings are an integral component of the Anacostia Tributary Trail System (ATTS) serving seven regional and national trail systems thereby helping Maryland promote its rich and diverse cultural, historic, and environmental, and heritage.
- These trail crossings provide 23,000 residents critical links six transit stations from four rail lines (WMATA Purple, Red, Green, Yellow Lines and MVA/MARC Camden Line) meeting growing demand for accessibility within the region’s multi-modal transportation system which include significant Transit/Trail Oriented Development, upgraded nearby bicycle facilities (MD-500, MD-193, Ager Rd), and the 670 bicycle fleet Prince George’s County Bike Share Program.
Our request is consistent with MDOT/MDSHA’s “context driven” engineering guidelines. These MDSHA guidelines include safe speed limits, continental crosswalks, and specialized signals. Similar Safe System elements are being implemented by MDSHA through the MD-500/Queens Chapel Project. Prioritizing Sligo Creek trail crossings is also congruent with MDOT policy goals promulgated by the Maryland Bicycle and Pedestrian Master Plan (2019).
Finally, our Sligo Creek Trail crossing Safe System recommendations are consistent with Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) Safe Transportation for Every Pedestrian (STEP) recommendations, MDOT/MDSHA urban mobility-focused streetscape policy, and MDSHA cost-effective pedestrian safety countermeasures currently being undertaken.
Thank you for your urgent attention to making the M-NCPPC Sligo Creek Trail crossings safe.
Capital Trails Coalition
Coalition for Smarter Growth
Table 1. Crosswalk System Deficiencies, Risks, and Recommended Safe System Elements
|Crossing System Deficiency||Risk||Recommended Safe System Element||MD212 /Riggs Road||MD410 /East West Hwy|
|Excessive Crossing Distance, Pedestrian & Bicyclist Exposure, Streetscape Encourages High Driver Speed||Pedestrian & Bicyclist Exposure, Unsafe Driver Speed especially with presence of blind curves and obstructions||Narrow Travel Lanes, Decrease Exposure, Encourage Drive Safe Speed, Decrease Stopping Distance||X||X|
|Crosswalk Barriers, Utility Poles, Bridges, Walls, and Blind Curves||Drivers and Vulnerable Crosswalk Users fail to see each other, increasing risk of crashes||Remove obstructions and barriers, improving visibility||X||X|
|Speed Limit Excessive for Trail, School, and Shopping Urban Environment||Likelihood of death for Pedestrians and Bicyclists struck by vehicles traveling faster than 30 mph is High||Implement Safe Speeds consistent with Context-Driven multimodal, urban conditions||X||X|
|Multi-Threat Travel Lanes, Excessive Crossing Distance, Streetscape Encourages High Driver Speed||Drivers Vision of Vulnerable Users Blocked, Significant Exposure to Vulnerable Users, Streetscape Encourages High Driver Speed||Build a Pedestrian Island Refuge (24 inch wide) in Median, Reduce Exposure from Multi-Threat Travel Lanes, Encourage Driver Safe Speed||X|
|Multi-Threat Travel Lanes, Excessive Crossing Distance, Poor Driver/Vulnerable User Vision||Drivers Vision of Vulnerable Users Blocked, Significant Exposure to Vulnerable Users, Streetscape Encourages High Driver Speed||Extend Bike Lanes on MD212 from Sargent to MD410/East-West Highway Intersection, Reduce Exposure from Multi-Threat Travel Lanes, Encourage Driver Safe Speed||X|
|Multi-Threat Travel Lanes, Excessive Crossing Distance, Poor Driver/Vulnerable User Vision||Drivers Vision of Vulnerable Users Blocked, Significant Exposure to Vulnerable Users, Streetscape Encourages High Driver Speed||Implement Road Diet (6 ->4 Travel Lanes), Extend Crossing Queuing Area using Curb Extensions/Bump-Outs as supported by highway Volume/Capacity, Encourage Driver Safe Speed||X|
|Crosswalk Width (6ft) does not provide early warning of presence of Vulnerable Users in Crosswalk||Drivers speed and braking distance is excessive for conditions; risk of collisions elevated||Widen Crosswalk width from 6ft to 10ft, an, Encourage Drive Safe Speed||X|
|Existing Circular Yellow Beacon Provides Inadequate Vulnerable User Crosswalk Safety for Highway Speed, Crossing Distance, Multi-Threat Travel Lanes, High Vehicle Volume and Vulnerable User Demand, Lack of Shoulders and Median, and Obstructed Visibility||Number of Crashes at and near crosswalks is high, risk of serious injuries and fatalities is significant||Upgrade crossing signal to Pedestrian Hybrid Beacon / HAWK or Full Signal (preferred) to provide adequate crosswalk safety for Vulnerable Users||X|
|Existing Circular Yellow Beacon Provides Inadequate Vulnerable User Crosswalk Safety for Highway Speed, Crossing Distance, Multi-Threat Travel Lanes, High Vehicle Volume and Vulnerable User Demand, Lack of Shoulders, and Obstructed Visibility||Number of Crashes at and near crosswalks is high, risk of serious injuries and fatalities is significant||Upgrade crossing signal to Rectangular Rapid Flashing Beacon (RRFB), Pedestrian Hybrid Beacon / HAWK (preferred) or Full Signal to provide adequate crosswalk safety for Vulnerable Users||X|
July 1, 2020
Mr. Greg Slater
Maryland Secretary of Transportation
7201 Corporate Center Drive
Hanover, MD 21076
Mr. Tim Smith, Administrator
Maryland State Highway Administration
707 North Calvert Street
Baltimore, MD 21202
RE: Shared Streets Treatments on Maryland State Roads in Montgomery County
To: Tim Smith MD SHA Administrator
Dear Secretary Slater and Mr. Smith,
On behalf of the undersigned organizations, we would like to offer a list of State Highways that would benefit greatly from a “Shared Streets” approach as is being used by Montgomery County Department of Transportation. Recently, SHA itself coordinated with MCDOT and Councilmember Tom Hucker’s office in the closing of the right northbound lane on MD-97 in downtown Silver Spring to facilitate outdoor dining.
We are proposing a similar treatment of longer stretches of some State roads to promote greater connectivity for bicyclists and pedestrians and make it safer for those who do not want to drive or do not have access to a car to make trips throughout Montgomery County walking or by bicycle. These could be commuting to work trips, or shorter ones to go buy groceries, visit the doctor, connect with trails or do other errands. It is vital to provide alternatives to cars that are safe, affordable and are useful in getting people between different parts of the County or even within a short radius of where people live.
The list below amounts to almost 19 miles of state roads. We understand that SHA may want to pilot this concept of partial closures to cars and suggest that the stretch on University Boulevard is a good place to start as it would connect the Wheaton CBD with Sligo Creek Parkway and neighborhoods east of the Parkway as well.
We look forward to your response and hope that you can work with MCDOT and members of the Maryland House and Senate and the Montgomery County Council.
Here is the list of roads we propose as candidates for a Shared Streets approach:
- University Blvd/MD-193 from Colesville Road/MD-29 to Viers Mill Road/Md-586 (3.0 mi) (Connects from Four Corners neighborhood to Sligo Creek Parkway and Trail to Wheaton CBD)
- Viers Mill Road/MD-586 from MD-193 to Matthew Henson Trail (works best in pairing with no. 1 above (2.7 mi) (Connects Wheaton CBD to Matthew Henson Trail)
- Frederick Road/MD-355 from Germantown Road/Md-118 to MIddlebrook Road (.8 mi) (Connects Montgomery College/Germantown Campus and Holy Cross Hospital/Germantown)
- Piney Branch Road/MD-320 from Sligo Creek Pkwy to New Hampshire Ave/MD-650 (1.4 mi) (Connects Sligo Creek Parkway and Trail, New Hampshire Elementary School, Flower Ave and Northwest Branch Trails)
- Old Georgetown Road/MD-187 from I-495 to Executive Blvd (2.6 mi) (Connects Bethesda Trolley Trail, Ratner Museum, Wildwood Shopping Center, Josiah Henson Museum and White Flint)
- Georgia Ave/MD-97 from Norbeck Road/MD-28 to OlneySandy Spring Road/MD-108 (3.5 mi) (Connects Leisure World, ICC Trail and Olney CBD)
- Georgia Avenue/MD-97 & 16th Street/MD-390 from I-495 Overpass to Colesville Road (1.5 mi) (Connects Forest Glen Metro and Montgomery Hills Shopping Center)
- East-West Highway/MD-410 from Georgia Ave/MD-97 to Connecticut Ave/MD-185 (3.2 mi) (Connects Silver Spring CBD, Rock Creek Trail, and Chevy Chase)
Paul Goldman, President, Action Committee for Transit
Jane Lyons, Maryland Advocacy Manager, Coalition for Smarter Growth
Alison Gillespie, President, Forest Estates Community Association
Kristy Daphnis, Chair, Pedestrian Bicycle Traffic Safety Advisory Committee
Peter Gray, Vice President, Board of Directors, Washington Area Bicyclist Association
cc: Montgomery County State Delegates and Senators, Montgomery County Council, Director MCDOT
June 1, 2020
The Coalition for Smarter Growth shares in the deep sadness and anger over racial inequality and injustice. We remain fully committed to furthering racial equity and justice through our work on housing, land use, and transportation. We also stand in solidarity with those leading the much needed work being done to eliminate all cases of police violence and abuse of power.
Our mission is to create walkable, inclusive, transit-oriented communities to confront the environmental, economic, and equity challenges we face. Our communities cannot be inclusive until our streets, public spaces, and neighborhoods are safe and welcoming for everyone. This requires actively dismantling racism embedded in our public and private institutions.
We seek to be allies in the greater fight for a more just and equitable world, and we hope to help address the legacy of generations of racial discrimination and segregation. Among our efforts are to advocate for affordable housing options that prevent displacement and create more integrated neighborhoods and to advocate for better, more equitable bus service. We will also soon host a series of “Courageous Conversations” on the history of racial segregation in Montgomery County, facilitated by our partners at Challenging Racism.
We are seeking to do better at coming together with and incorporating the voices of people of color, and welcome your feedback and guidance as we all work to move forward together.
For immediate release
May 20, 2020
Transit advocates call on MTA and Purple Line constructors to negotiate an agreement
The Coalition for Smarter Growth is urging an agreement between PLTC and MTA that will ensure timely completion of the Purple Line. On May 1, 2020, the Purple Line Transit Constructors (PLTC), the group of constructors responsible for building the Purple Line, announced that they will be exiting the project due to delays and cost overruns.
“The project is already a year behind schedule due to many factors, including lawsuits that have now been resolved. However, failing to negotiate an agreement and having to find a new construction team will undoubtedly result in even more delays and costs,” says Stewart Schwartz, Executive Director of the Coalition for Smarter Growth.
“The Purple Line already has and will continue to spur economic investment along the corridor, including major investments in affordable housing. New economic activity will bring residents new shops, restaurants, and other amenities,” said Jane Lyons, Maryland Advocacy Manager for the Coalition for Smarter Growth.
“The timely completion of the Purple Line will yield many transformational economic benefits, such as establishing an east-west connection between job centers; creating new employment opportunities; and providing people a quick and reliable way to access schools, retail, and other important services,” said Lyons.
“We urge the State to do all it can to negotiate an agreement that keeps the Purple Line’s construction on track. The Purple Line remains of great value for the over 230,000 Marylanders who live along the corridor, and public investment in this project will be repaid many times over by the economic activity it supports,” said Schwartz.
“We thank Maryland and PLTC for the hard work and dedication they have invested in this project so far. Both parties have invested significant amounts of time and resources into the Purple Line. The longer the project is put off, the longer it will take for both the state and its residents to fully see and feel the economic benefits that the completion of this project will bring,” concluded Schwartz.
The Coalition for Smarter Growth is the leading organization in the Washington, D.C. region dedicated to making the case for smart growth. Its mission is to promote walkable, inclusive, and transit-oriented communities, and the land use and transportation policies and investments needed to make those communities flourish. Learn more at smartergrowth.net.