February 26, 2020
Montgomery County Council
Council Office Building
100 Maryland Ave
Rockville, MD 20850
Re: Transportation Projects in the FY 21 Capital Budget and FY21-26
Dear Council President Katz and County Council Members,
We, the undersigned, are writing to express our support for the following amendments to the FY 21 Capital Budget and FY 21-26 Capital Improvements Program.
Fully dedicated bus rapid transit lanes on Route 29: Montgomery County has been studying a bus rapid transit (BRT) network for nearly a decade. The first line of the planned countywide network is set to open this May without the fully dedicated right of way that is necessary for bus rapid transit to truly be rapid. The highest quality of service is necessary to show county residents what BRT can do, and why the rest of the network must be funded and built.
The proposed CIP includes $2 million for preliminary engineering of BRT on Veirs Mill Road and $14 million for BRT system development, which includes New Hampshire Avenue and the North Bethesda Transitway. Aside from Route 29, no priority BRT corridor construction funding has been identified — financing for the full 82-mile network remains elusive. This means at least another six years of study without any action, and with a bus rapid transit line that isn’t actually rapid.
Together, the $16 million budgeted for preliminary engineering along these three future BRT lines can be put to better, more immediate use by diverting it to the construction of dedicated median BRT lanes on the southern portion of Route 29.
The 2013 Countywide Transit Corridors Functional Master Plan called for dedicated lanes on the Route 29 corridor, and this promise of gold standard BRT should be fulfilled. Two years ago, the County Council commissioned a study evaluating dedicated bus lanes in the southern portion of Route 29, which should be shared with the Council immediately so that resources can be prioritized on the existing BRT corridor — instead of continuing feasibility studies for unfunded BRT routes.
White Flint northern Metro entrance: Provided the reasons above, we also support diverting the $15 million allotted to preliminary engineering of BRT on MD-355 to fund a second entrance at the north of the White Flint Metro station.
A 2015 report found that Montgomery County’s most successful office clusters are in walkable, transit accessible locations. Marriott’s move from an industrial office park to downtown Bethesda showcased this trend. Business leaders have testified that the second Metro entrance is a must to attract prospective office tenants.
Those who live or work within a half-mile walkshed of transit are significantly more likely to use it. Achieving the staging requirements in the White Flint Master Plan is dependent upon new investments in transit accessibility. Simply put, the northern Metro entrance is necessary for an economically vibrant Pike District. As Montgomery looks to keep itself competitive with Northern Virginia, county leadership must prioritize smart growth infrastructure.
Express bus service on northern MD-355 and Veirs Mill Road: While pursuing gold standard BRT on MD-355 and Veirs Mill Road, we should mirror the success of Ride On extRa and provide express bus service on northern MD-355 and Veirs Mill Road. We should also update the existing bus/right turn only stencils on Veirs Mill Road, pursue a countywide redesign and upgrade of Ride On, and seek funding sources for the BRT system.
Veirs Mill Road is the highest ridership bus corridor in the state of Maryland, and is also vital to bridging the east-west socioeconomic divide. At the same time, residents in Gaithersburg, Germantown, and Clarksburg have dire, unmet transportation needs. One of the highest daily travel flows in the region is from Clarksburg to Germantown, with 4,000 to 5,000 daily trips on all modes. Ride On extRa Route 101 along MD-355 increased ridership by 11 percent and reduced travel times by 25 percent.
Improving our transit system is important for climate, equity, and economic development goals. Transportation is our number one source of greenhouse gas emissions. Commute times are one of the best indicators of socioeconomic mobility, and people who rely on bus service have some of the longest commutes in the county. Our economic growth has stagnated.
We must take bold action to create change, and these three priority investments — funding dedicated lanes on Route 29 for Gold Standard BRT, a second entrance to the White Flint Metro Station, and express bus on Veirs Mill Road — will demonstrate the boldness that Montgomery County residents and businesses want to see.
Thank you for your attention to this important matter.
Denisse Guitarra | Maryland Conservation Advocate | Audubon Naturalist Society
Julio Murillo | Government & Strategic Relations Specialist | CASA
Nanci Wilkinson | Chair, Environmental Justice Ministry | Cedar Lane Unitarian Universalist Church
Jane Lyons | Maryland Advocacy Manager | Coalition for Smarter Growth
Diane Hibino and Kathy McGuire | Co-Presidents | League of Women Voters of Montgomery County
Walter Weiss | President | Montgomery County Faith Alliance for Climate Solutions
Michael DeLong | President | Montgomery County Young Democrats
Shruti Bhatnagar | Chair | Sierra Club, Montgomery Group
Margaret Schoap | Organizer | Transit Alternatives to Mid-County Extended
CC: County Executive Marc Elrich