Category: Better Public Transit

TAKE ACTION: The future of bus rapid transit in Montgomery County

CSG won Montgomery County’s 2013 Countywide Transit Corridors Plan, which envisioned a new Flash bus rapid transit (BRT) system along major roadways. We’ve advocated to implement the plan ever since, and this past month we won actual construction funding for BRT on Veirs Mill Road and MD-355 between Germantown and Rockville! These, along with other routes, are moving forward with planning, design, and construction.

BRT is a higher quality bus service that operates more frequently; has limited stops; runs in a dedicated bus-only median or curb lane; and offers features like all-door boarding, wi-fi, and off-board fare collection. Montgomery’s first Flash route opened along US-29, although it doesn’t have dedicated bus lanes (working on that!).

See below for many, many opportunity to get involved and provide input on the upcoming BRT projects! When providing input, we’d urge you to share the following:

  • Prioritize median, dedicated bus-only lanes — this is the gold standard for BRT and keeps buses fast, reliable, and out of traffic
  • Routes should connect the places where the most people live and work
  • Bus stops should be easy and safe to access for people walking and biking

MD-355 (Rockville Pike)

The MD-355 will connect Clarksburg, Gaithersburg, Rockville, North Bethesda, and Bethesda. The project is in the preliminary engineering phase and seeking feedback. Residents from anywhere in the county can take the feedback survey.

Visit the MD-355 BRT project website

New Hampshire Avenue

New Hampshire Avenue BRT would connect Colesville, White Oak, Adelphi, Silver Spring, and other communities along the corridor. This route is in the study stages, and they need community feedback on station locations and other features. Register for the online meeting, and/or arrive anytime during the open house hours!

Visit the New Hampshire Ave BRT project website

North Bethesda Transitway

The North Bethesda Transitway will connect the Montgomery Mall Transit Center to either the White Flint or Grosvenor-Strathmore Metro Station. The county want your input on the termini point and stop locations. Register for the June 9 or June 21 online open house, or attend the June 13 in-person open house.

Visit the North Bethesda BRT project website

Sign up to testify for free fares!

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.

Letter to MDGA Leadership re: the proposed suspension of the Maryland gas tax

On behalf of the Transform Maryland Transportation Coalition (formerly Save MD Transit), we thank you for your support of the Transit Safety & Investment Act during the 2021 General Assembly. The bill will help assure MTA’s current maintenance needs will be addressed over the next five years. 

Letter re: 495/270 Toll Lanes in Montgomery County Economic Development Strategic Plan

Montgomery County Council
100 Maryland Ave. 6th Floor
Rockville, MD 20850
March 17, 2022

Dear Councilmember:

We are writing with respect to the Council’s consideration of the draft County economic development plan. We urge you to support the removal of a recommendation on page 30 to “Cooperate with state and federal resources to facilitate expedient expansion of the American Legion Bridge, the Capital Beltway (Interstate 495) and I-270…” and to oppose any substitute language that suggests support for the toll lanes.

We appreciate the Council’s effort to seek efficient transportation in this corridor. Because the Maryland Department of Transportation’s Supplemental Draft Environmental Impact Statement (SDEIS) lacked key analyses, including on environmental justice and climate change, it would be a mistake to recommend the toll lanes project in the economic development plan. Without a complete SDEIS, the public and policymakers are denied a full understanding of the project’s impacts and an opportunity to provide input that could help shape final decisions.

Environmental Justice Concerns

The SDEIS did not include an environmental justice analysis to show whether the negative consequences of the toll lanes would fall disproportionately on communities of color and low-income residents. Instead, MDOT has deferred this analysis until the Final Environmental Impact Statement (FEIS). Because the public comment process ended on November 30, there will be no opportunity for the public to review the environmental justice analysis and provide input. Embracing the toll lanes without an environmental justice analysis is not consistent with the County’s Racial Justice and Social Equity Initiative which is aimed at making informed decisions to ensure equitable outcomes. 

While MDOT has consulted with stakeholders regarding the impact of the toll lanes on the Morningstar Tabernacle No. 88 Moses Hall and Cemetery, it has not fully assessed the impact on all of the cemetery property, including all potential grave sites. MDOT cannot avoid or minimize disturbance of gravesites at the cemetery in this historic Black community, if it does not know where all the graves are located. 

Failure to Study Impact on Climate Crisis

MDOT also failed to provide an analysis in the SDEIS showing how the operation of the toll lanes would impact greenhouse gas emissions. In its comments, the Maryland-National Capital Park and Planning Commission noted that the toll lanes would shift bottlenecks, but not eliminate congestion in the corridor. Their comments went on to state that, “While some of these bottleneck shifts were expected, the degree resulting from the proposed project is severe on I-270 north of I-370, on the Inner Loop on the top side of the Beltway, and on the Inner Loop in Prince George’s County.” These severe bottlenecks are likely to increase greenhouse gas emissions. It is critical that MDOT analyze emissions from the operation of the toll lanes and provide public review and comment. The County Council has established ambitious goals for reducing greenhouse gas emissions. But it cannot know whether its plan is adequate if it does not know the impact of the operation of the toll lanes.

While MDOT is planning to conduct an analysis of the greenhouse gas emissions from construction activity, they deferred it until the FEIS. This blocks the public and local policymakers from providing input and offering steps to mitigate emissions. 

Purple Line 2.0

Last August, the entire Council urged the Board of Public Works (BPW) to delay a vote on the predevelopment contract with Transurban and allow the State’s bond counsel and financial advisor to review the contract. While the BPW did not heed your call, your request for due diligence was prudent. As you know, Capital Express Mobility Partners (CEMP) has challenged the award of the project to Transurban, arguing that their bid understated the costs of the project and that this would lead to cost overruns, and delays. The Montgomery County Circuit Court recently ruled that MDOT was wrong to ignore the substance of CEMP’s challenge and ordered the agency to review it. During the hearing, the judge expressed dismay that MDOT had not evaluated CEMP’s claims that the Transurban bid was not financially feasible. If CEMP’s claims are ignored, the County risks disruption that could far exceed the Purple Line debacle.

The omission of important analyses in the SDEIS, denying the public the opportunity to provide input and the failure of MDOT to exercise financial due diligence should give you pause. We urge you to strike the recommendation of the toll lanes project from the draft economic development plan. 

Sincerely,

350 Montgomery County
Audubon Naturalist Society
Baltimore Transit Equity Coalition
Bike Maryland
Biodiversity for a Livable Climate
Cedar Lane Unitarian Universalist Church Environmental Justice Ministry
Central Maryland Transportation Alliance
Chesapeake Bay Foundation
Chesapeake Physicians for Social Responsibility
Citizens Against Beltway Expansion
Coalition for Smarter Growth
Corazón Latino
DoTheMostGood
DontWiden270.org
Friends of Sligo Creek
Glen Echo Heights Mobilization
Greater Farmland Civic Association
Greater Greater Washington
Howard County Climate Action
Interfaith Power & Light (DC. MD. NoVA)
League of Women Voters of Maryland
Maryland Legislative Coalition
Maryland Sierra Club
National Parks Conservation Association
Neighbors of the Northwest Branch
Rails to Trails Conservancy
Save Our Seminary
Sligo Creek Golf Association
Smart Growth Maryland
The Climate Mobilization Montgomery County
Washington Area Bicyclist Association
Woodside Forest Civic Association

MoCo Better Buses FY23 Budget Letter

The Montgomery Better Buses coalition strongly urges you to support bus riders and transit workers in the FY23 operating budget, FY23 capital budget, and FY23-28 Capital Improvements Program (CIP). Our coalition consists of nearly 30 groups, including labor, climate and transit advocates, service providers, and community organizations.