CSG Testimony regarding 355 BRT alternatives review and selection

July 11, 2019

Montgomery County Planning Board

8787 Georgia Ave.

Silver Spring, MD 20910

MD 355 BRT Alternatives Review and Selection 

Testimony for July 11, 2019 

Jane Lyons, Maryland Advocacy Manager

Chair Anderson and Planning Board members, thank you for the opportunity to speak today. I am here on behalf of the Coalition for Smarter Growth, the leading organization in the D.C. region advocating for walkable, inclusive, transit-oriented communities. We support a robust bus rapid transit system on MD 355 and urge the Planning Board to recommend a combination of Alternatives B and C. 

Median bus lanes are the gold standard for BRT, producing the highest ridership, frequency, and reliability. Thus, the two segments with the highest projected ridership, Segment 2 (Rockville/White Flint) and Segment 4 (Gaithersburg/Rockville), should receive two median BRT lanes, in accordance with Alternative B. 

Given the high ridership projections and the long-standing enthusiasm from community groups and business leaders, Flash 2 (Lakeforest Transit Center to Grosvenor Metrorail Station), which includes Segments 2 through 5, should be the first phase constructed, followed quickly by Segments 6 and 7. Prioritizing the construction of Segment 2 in Alternative B between White Flint and Twinbrook will help spur anticipated investment and business development greatly needed by the county, as well as serve the most riders. 

However, Alternative B does not offer dedicated BRT lanes south of Tuckerman Lane to the Bethesda Metro station (Segment 1). While we prefer all-day dedicated curb lanes in both directions for this section, we will accept the Alternative C recommendation for peak direction only lane. High-quality bus transit access to the job centers located along this corridor is critical. Any segment with dedicated curb lanes will require regular enforcement to ensure that cars do not use the lanes and slow down BRT service. 

Regarding the alignment of Segment 7 (Clarksburg/Germantown), we recommend the Snowden Farm Parkway alignment since it is the only option that does not require a road extension or widening, has the most potential for transit-oriented development, and is the only option that offers access to a grocery store. 

We strongly prefer pursuing the conversation on existing travel lanes to BRT to save on right of way acquisition and total costs. Following the selection of a preferred alternative, the county should initiate service planning for effective integration of BRT and local service. The county should also plan for improved bicycle and pedestrian infrastructure near BRT stations. In the interim, pending construction of the BRT, the county must continue to invest in streetscape enhancements, off-peak parking, safer pedestrian crossings, and sidewalk and bikeway improvements along MD 355. 

Finally, we strongly urge that preliminary engineering advance concurrently for both the entire Veirs Mill BRT project and the first phase MD 355 BRT. The Veirs Mill corridor has the highest ridership of any bus route in the state of Maryland and should not be delayed any longer than it already has been. 

Thank you for your time.