Testimony to the Montgomery County Council re County Executive Ike Leggett’s Request for Supplemental Appropriation for Study of Rapid Transit System

The Coalition for Smarter Growth supports the supplemental request by the County Executive for $1 million to further advance the proposed Rapid Transit System. We believe that the request is focused on the important implementation issues including service planning, integration with RideOn and Metrobus, bike/ped access, transit signal prioritization, organizational structure and agreements with the state on the right of way. We also have some recommendations, which include ensuring integration with Purple Line and Metrorail service.

We understand the position of our long-time allies at the Action Committee for Transit, and their recommendation that the county first move forward with WMATA’s bus priority corridor network. Yet, we believe that a win-win approach is possible. The outlines of an expanded, integrated, higher capacity and speedier transit network are becoming apparent. It is a system that includes a rehabilitated Metrorail and robust transit-oriented development at all stations on both arms of the Red Line, includes construction of the Purple Line, and includes the most promising of the Phase I Rapid Transit System routes and also integration with the WMATA Priority Corridor Network.

We will all depend on the technical staffs to give us something that works effectively and selects the most effective service mode, not just for today, but for the evolving transit-oriented future, meeting the goal of a much more robust and transformative transit network for the county. Therefore, we believe that the funding should also enable close coordination between the county staff, Planning Board staff, WMATA and state officials to design this interconnected and operationally integrated system.

To gain maximum benefit from this funding, these agencies should deliver to the County Executive and to you a consensus system design that is appropriately tailored to each corridor in terms of mode and level of service, and, is closely linked to  walkable, transit-oriented development where that development is appropriate. By the end of these studies, the technical experts should be able to give you a system that has drawn from the research and data available in the Task Force report, in the Planning Board’s staff report, the ITDP report, the state transit studies and WMATA, including their Priority Corridor Network.

It should be a system that seamlessly links fares, schedules, routes and transfers, and delivers significant increases in ridership of both transit-dependent and the so-called “choice riders.” It should be a system that transforms the county and enhances the movement of people, their access to jobs and services, and increases the economic competitiveness of the county.

As you know, Fairfax County is investing in the Silver Line.  But they, like you, are also engaged in a study of their next generation of transit investments including BRT/LRT options for their commercial corridors and enhanced cross-county suburban to job center services. We hope that you will give them a run for their money in developing an effective transit and transit-accessible future!

Thank you.

Stewart Schwartz

Executive Director