Author: Jane Lyons

RELEASE: Transportation Planning Board Re-Vote on Governor Hogan’s Toll Lanes

COALITION FOR SMARTER GROWTH

PRESS RELEASE

For Immediate Release

July 21, 2021

Contact

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).

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Sligo Creek Trail Crossing Safety Improvement Sign-on Letter

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.

Sligo Creek Trail is a major part of our transportation system.

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.

Sincerely,

Capital Trails Coalition

Coalition for Smarter Growth

Table 1.  Crosswalk System Deficiencies, Risks, and Recommended Safe System Elements

Crossing System DeficiencyRiskRecommended Safe System ElementMD212 /Riggs RoadMD410 /East West Hwy
Excessive Crossing Distance, Pedestrian & Bicyclist Exposure, Streetscape Encourages High Driver SpeedPedestrian & Bicyclist Exposure, Unsafe Driver Speed especially with presence of blind curves and obstructionsNarrow Travel Lanes, Decrease Exposure, Encourage Drive Safe Speed, Decrease Stopping DistanceXX
Crosswalk Barriers, Utility Poles, Bridges, Walls, and Blind CurvesDrivers and Vulnerable Crosswalk Users fail to see each other, increasing risk of crashesRemove obstructions and barriers, improving visibilityXX
Speed Limit Excessive for Trail, School, and Shopping Urban EnvironmentLikelihood of death for Pedestrians and Bicyclists struck by vehicles traveling faster than 30 mph is HighImplement Safe Speeds consistent with Context-Driven multimodal, urban conditionsXX
Multi-Threat Travel Lanes, Excessive Crossing Distance, Streetscape Encourages High Driver SpeedDrivers Vision of Vulnerable Users Blocked, Significant Exposure to Vulnerable Users, Streetscape Encourages High Driver SpeedBuild a Pedestrian Island Refuge (24 inch wide) in Median, Reduce Exposure from Multi-Threat Travel Lanes, Encourage Driver Safe SpeedX
Multi-Threat Travel Lanes, Excessive Crossing Distance, Poor Driver/Vulnerable User VisionDrivers Vision of Vulnerable Users Blocked, Significant Exposure to Vulnerable Users, Streetscape Encourages High Driver SpeedExtend Bike Lanes on MD212 from Sargent to MD410/East-West Highway Intersection, Reduce Exposure from Multi-Threat Travel Lanes, Encourage Driver Safe SpeedX
Multi-Threat Travel Lanes, Excessive Crossing Distance, Poor Driver/Vulnerable User VisionDrivers Vision of Vulnerable Users Blocked, Significant Exposure to Vulnerable Users, Streetscape Encourages High Driver SpeedImplement Road Diet (6 ->4 Travel Lanes), Extend Crossing Queuing Area using Curb Extensions/Bump-Outs as supported by highway Volume/Capacity, Encourage Driver Safe SpeedX
Crosswalk Width (6ft) does not provide early warning of presence of Vulnerable Users in CrosswalkDrivers speed and braking distance is excessive for conditions; risk of collisions elevatedWiden Crosswalk width from 6ft to 10ft, an, Encourage Drive Safe SpeedX
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 VisibilityNumber of Crashes at and near crosswalks is high, risk of serious injuries and fatalities is significantUpgrade crossing signal to Pedestrian Hybrid Beacon / HAWK or Full Signal (preferred) to provide adequate crosswalk safety for Vulnerable UsersX
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 VisibilityNumber of Crashes at and near crosswalks is high, risk of serious injuries and fatalities is significantUpgrade crossing signal to Rectangular Rapid Flashing Beacon (RRFB), Pedestrian Hybrid Beacon / HAWK (preferred) or Full Signal to provide adequate crosswalk safety for Vulnerable UsersX

RELEASE: CSG and Montgomery Open Streets Coalition Ask SHA for 19 Miles of Shared Streets

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:

  1. 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)
  2. 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)
  3. Frederick Road/MD-355 from Germantown Road/Md-118 to MIddlebrook Road (.8 mi) (Connects Montgomery College/Germantown Campus and Holy Cross Hospital/Germantown)
  4. 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)
  5. 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)
  6. 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)
  7. 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)
  8. 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

Coalition for Smarter Growth’s Statement of Support for Racial Equity and Justice

Coalition for Smarter Growth’s Statement of Support for Racial Equity and Justice

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.

CSG Sign-on Letter: Ride On & COVID-19

CSG Sign-on Letter: Ride On & COVID-19

County Executive Marc Elrich

101 Monroe St, 2nd Floor

Rockville, MD 20850

May 22, 2020

Re: Ride On & COVID-19

Dear County Executive Elrich:

Thank you for your work in suspending Ride On fares thus far during the novel coronavirus crisis. This has protected transit workers and riders, ensuring that transit can continue to operate as an essential public service. Ride On’s continued service means that our front-line workers are able to get to work and those without private vehicles are still able to get food, prescriptions, and other necessary goods.

Montgomery County has an opportunity to “reopen” the transportation network in a way that furthers racial, environmental, and socioeconomic justice, as well as aids in our economic recovery. These functions cannot be achieved without transit. We don’t have to go back to the same congestion, dangerous roadways, and air pollution.

Therefore, we have two urgent requests:  

1.  We ask the county to publicly commit to Ride On fare suspension throughout the duration of the public health emergency

This commitment is necessary to maintain the health and safety of bus operators and riders, as well as keep money in the pockets of those who need it most right now. Due to low ridership, fare revenue this quarter is already nearly half of the budgeted fare revenue, and even under normal circumstances is less than 10 percent of total revenue in the Mass Transit Fund. The benefits of continuing fare suspension throughout the crisis greatly outweigh the costs.

2. We ask that Montgomery County Department of Transportation (MCDOT) pilot bus prioritization, including bus-only lanes, on key corridors in a timely manner.

Efficient service is more important than ever right now. Ride On will need to maintain low headways in order to limit buses to the recommended 20 riders per bus. Bus-only lanes are one of the most effective and low-cost strategies for improving frequency. 

We urge you to consider portions of US-29, Georgia Avenue, Veirs Mill Road, and MD-355 for bus-only lanes, especially in areas along those corridors that typically accommodate street parking. The time to implement this is now, while traffic is still low, so that as more cars return, buses can continue to operate safely and drivers can grow accustomed to bus-only lanes.

Finally, once the immediate public health threat has been addressed, we will need to rebuild trust in public transit so that ridership may recover. Although ridership should not be the sole goal of public transit, moving people out of cars is key to an equitable, healthy, and climate resilient future for Montgomery County.

To do that, transit must be attractive, easy, affordable, frequent, and safe. In the coming year, we urge you to work towards suspending Ride On fares in perpetuity, providing permanent dedicated bus lanes, and redesigning the Montgomery Ride On and WMATA bus network through a public process to improve service in a budget and job neutral way.

Signed,

Jeffrey Weisner

President, Steering Committee

350MoCo

Denisse Guitarra

Maryland Conservation Advocate

Audubon Naturalist Society

Nanci Wilkinson

Chair, Environmental Justice Ministry

Cedar Lane Unitarian Universalist Church

Jane Lyons

Maryland Advocacy Manager

Coalition for Smarter Growth

Olivia Bartlett

Transportation & Environment Lead

DoTheMostGood Montgomery

Amy Ginsburg

Executive Director

Friends of White Flint

Doris Nguyen

Founder

Glen Echo Heights Mobilization

Basav Sen

Climate Policy Director

Institute for Policy Studies

Joe Uehlein

President

Labor Network for Sustainability

Diane Hibino and Kathy McGuire

Co-Presidents

League of Women Voters of Montgomery County

Frank Santos Fritz

Chair, Montgomery County Branch

Metro DC Democratic Socialists of America

Josh Raznick

Lead Organizer, Montgomery County

Progressive Maryland

Diane Cameron

Director

Transit Alternatives to Mid-County Highway Extended (TAME Coalition)

Gino Renne

President

UFCW Local 1994 – MCGEO

CC: MCDOT Director Chris Conklin

Montgomery County Council

RELEASE: Transit advocates call on MTA and Purple Line constructors to negotiate an agreement

For immediate release

May 20, 2020

Contact:

Jane Lyons

410-474-0741

jane@smartergrowth.net

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.

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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.

CSG Comments on Montgomery’s Resolution to Approve FY21 Transportation Fees, Charges, and Fares

Resolution to Approve FY21 Transportation Fees, Charges, and Fares

Testimony for April 30, 2020

Jane Lyons, Maryland Advocacy Manager

President Katz and Councilmembers, thank you for the opportunity to provide testimony on the Resolution to Approve FY21 Transportation Fees, Charges, and Fares. Please accept these comments on behalf of the Coalition for Smarter Growth, the leading organization in the D.C. region advocating for walkable, inclusive, transit-oriented communities.

Firstly, we would like to thank the county for suspending Ride On fares thus far during the novel coronavirus crisis. This action has protected transit workers and riders. Transit continues to be an essential public service right now, ensuring that our front-line workers are able to get to work and that those without private vehicles are still able to get food, prescriptions, and other necessary goods.

Therefore, we urge the county to continue Ride On fare suspension throughout the duration of the public health emergency. Fare revenue this quarter is already nearly half of the budgeted fare revenue, and even under normal circumstances is less than 10 percent of total revenue in the Mass Transit Fund.

We also urge you to begin thinking about transit after COVID-19. There is an opportunity to “reopen” the county’s transportation network in a way that increases our climate resiliency, furthers racial and socioeconomic justice, and aids in our economic recovery. These functions cannot be achieved without transit. We don’t have to go back to the same congestion, dangerous roadways, and air pollution.

Further, once the immediate public health threat has been addressed, we will need to rebuild trust in public transit so that ridership may recover. To do that, transit must be attractive, easy, frequent, and safe. We urge you to consider:

  • Suspending Ride On fares in perpetuity;
  • Redesigning the Montgomery Ride On and WMATA bus network through a public process to improve service in a budget neutral way;
  • Expanding public employees’ telework allowances;
  • Rebalancing road space to prioritize walking, biking, and transit; and
  • Increasing routine bus cleaning.

Thank you for your consideration.