Tag: BRT

RELEASE: Reaction to County Executive Leggett BRT Annoucement

March 2, 2016

Pete Tomao, Coalition for Smarter Growth

Montgomery County – Earlier today, County Executive Ike Leggett released an update to his proposed transportation budget, adding funding to make near term improvements to bus service and continue Bus Rapid Transit studies.

“When the County Executive’s first proposal came out in January it didn’t have the funding needed to make important transit improvements, so we are very pleased to see the changes he and his staff have made,” said Stewart Schwartz, Executive Director of the Coalition for Smarter Growth. “It’s not everything we had hoped for – it depends on state funding to complete the Route 355 BRT study and to add priority bus service on Veirs Mill Road for example, but the County Executive has certainly responded positively to our requests, and those of the Council, to keep moving forward on Bus Rapid Transit, while also providing near term improvements.”

“I’ve ridden just about every route in Montgomery and it’s clear to me that the demand for better transit in the county is strong and we need to be making these investments,” said Pete Tomao, Montgomery County Transit Organizer for the Coalition for Smarter Growth. “Demand for transit crosses socio-economic boundaries, from new immigrants, to seniors, to millenials – including a young mother, Gretchen Goldman, whom I met during my outreach and regularly rides the bus with her young son, Thomas:

“One of the reasons my family and I chose to live here was for the county’s convenience to the city. We’re lucky to live along one of the county’s few express bus routes—the K9 on New Hampshire Ave. Thomas and I ride it regularly. For us, bus access is convenient and quick. It allows us to be a one car family, since we can quickly get to work and social activities in downtown DC or elsewhere in the county.

BRT is about access, it’s about freedom and it’s about equity. In Montgomery County, many do not ride the bus by choice, but by necessity. For them, BRT increases options and decreases burdens. It enhances quality of life and creates opportunities.

When I think about what I want for Thomas’ future, I have a new vision for Montgomery County. I want Thomas to live in a place where he has mobility and independence; where he doesn’t need a car to get around; and where he can have access to safe and affordable transportation options.”

The County Executive is proposing to the Council important investments along Route 355, US29, and Veirs Mill Road, the three primary corridors for the BRT, including:

  • Route 355: Instituting a new Ride On Plus priority service from the Lakeforest Transit Center to Medical Center Metrorail and adding $5 million to the planning budget for the Route 355 BRT proposal. If the state government matches that, it could ensure enough funding for the next phase of the Route 355 planning process.
  • US29: Adding $6.5 million to the planning budget for BRT along US29, with the goal of getting the route up and running within four years.
  • Veirs Mill Road: Requesting that the state prioritize $1.8 million in annual funding for rush hour express bus service along Veirs Mill Road – the busiest bus route in Maryland. The proposed Veirs Mill BRT route already has enough funding to complete planning.

“Looking ahead, our group will continue to work for the funding necessary to build the BRT to the standard necessary to support rapid, efficient and frequent service – service that will attract new workers and new companies and improve access to jobs,” concluded Tomao.

About the Coalition for Smarter Growth
The Coalition for Smarter Growth is the leading organization in the Washington DC 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.


Questions remain on bus-rapid transit in Montgomery Co.

SILVER SPRING, Md. — As the Purple Line gets closer to construction next year, transit advocates are pushing for a bus-rapid transit network to relieve congestion in Montgomery County.

The Coalition for Smarter Growth and Communities for Transit have released a guide that examines how other cities have successfully built such networks.

Montgomery County wants to build an 80-mile network; the first phase would be limited to Md. 355 (Wisconsin Avenue and Rockville Pike), U.S. 29 (Colesville Road and Columbia Pike) and Md. 586 (Veirs Mill Road).

The distinguishing characteristic of a bus-rapid transit system is the bus-only lane, where cars are not allowed to travel. Northern Virginia residents are familiar with this concept; the Crystal City-Potomac Yard Transitway provides similar benefits to local bus service.

“It can produce a 25 percent travel savings for commuters,” says Pete Tomao, of the Coalition for Smarter Growth. “Without other traffic, it can move much faster and reduce delays.”

Bus-rapid transit systems need a couple things to be successful. First, service needs to be predictable and reliable: Commuters are well aware of the regular delays on Metrorail and Metrobus.

“I think every Metrobus rider has experienced the phantom [ghost] bus on their WMATA app,” Tomao says. “That’s why making sure that you have frequent, reliable service is so important. You need to know buses are coming every five to 10 minutes.”

Second, bus-rapid transit systems should offer amenities to make the buses attractive — such as bike racks, Wi-Fi and outlets to charge smartphones and tablets. If the buses are comfortable and modern, people are more likely to give them a chance, Tomao says.

While some people would rather see new lanes everywhere, the biggest controversy has to do with the locations in Four Corners and Bethesda. In both places, there are proposals to take away a current lane for cars and re-purposing it for buses. The concept doesn’t sit well with many drivers.

The timetable is also unclear. For now, county transportation officials are focused on starting construction for the Purple Line. Once that’s off the ground, Montgomery County must decide what it wants to do with the Corridor Cities Transitway. The bus-rapid transit system is likely third on the county list, since it’s still in the early stages.

Money is another hurdle. Like the Purple Line and the Corridor Cities Transitway, the bus-rapid transit system would require state money and state approval, given that the routes would be on state roadways.

Some have privately suggested that while Gov. Larry Hogan supports the Purple Line, he’s unlikely to back any more major transit-based projects in Montgomery County. He prefers road projects to relieve congestion.

Read this at WTOP >>

Bus Rapid Transit Boosters Unveil Wish List for Unfunded Montgomery County System

Two of the groups pushing hard for bus rapid transit in Montgomery County don’t want officials weighing difficult funding questions to forget the features that could make the system a success.

The Coalition for Smarter Growth (CSG), a Washington, D.C.-based smart growth advocacy organization, and the Communities for Transit on Tuesday released a 23-page report titled “Best Practices In Rapid Transit System Design,” to guide residents, transit advocates and policymakers in the county.

The CSG argued for the proposed 81-mile bus rapid transit system, officially known as the Rapid Transit System or RTS, back when it was approved in 2013 as part of a countywide roadway master plan.

Now, the group is pushing for dedicated bus lanes, frequent and reliable service, properly spaced stations, boarding areas on the same level as bus entrances and other features it says are hallmarks of successful bus rapid transit projects around the country.

“Those are the devils in the details that we just don’t want to get lost in the conversation about funding,” coalition member Pete Tomao said Tuesday. “This is an equally important task.”

That conversation about funding is now in full swing as a task force organized by County Executive Ike Leggett considers its final recommendations due at the end of the month.

The latest cost estimate from the county for just the first four RTS corridors (state Route 355 north, state Route 355 south, Veirs Mill Road and U.S. Route 29) pegged construction of the system at $1.6 billion and annual operating costs at $51.6 million.

The county’s Transit Task Force is considering recommendations for how to fund that system through an Independent Transit Authority, including the possibility of a countywide property tax increase, special county sales or gas tax and special taxing districts that would tax property owners closest to the RTS stations.

The CSG report examined more than 30 bus rapid transit systems operating across the U.S. and Canada to look for best practices in station design, dedicated lane placement, branding and other operating procedures.

The report didn’t delve quite as deep into funding mechanisms, though it did recommend a dedicated funding source and showed how each system was paid for.

Almost 48 percent of the Los Angeles Orange Line was paid for by state funds. Almost 42 percent came from a voter-approved half-cent sales tax. The City of Los Angeles and the federal government contributed most of the rest of the funding.

That system, which consists of just one line and runs only 18 miles, has seen an average weekday ridership of 29,845 people this year, according to the report.

It also cost $21 million per mile to build, almost half of the $41.1 million per mile projection the county and an engineering consultant made in July about the first four local RTS routes.

Leggett’s first attempt at state legislation to enable an Independent Transit Authority (ITA) failed earlier this year after staunch opposition from civic groups, the main county employee union and some residents wary of a potential tax increase to fund RTS.

Last month, county officials on the Transit Task Force and Gino Renne, president of the county employee union that represents Ride On workers, hammered out an agreement that would mostly keep Ride On employees as government workers and not put them under the control of the ITA.

With many expecting Leggett to make a second attempt at a state bill to authorize the ITA, transit advocates are planning a “Transit Day of Action” Sept. 9 at the Silver Spring, Rockville and Shady Grove Metro stations.

Tomao, who’s helping to organize the effort, said too many people who currently use transit in the  county aren’t aware of what’s being discussed when it comes to bus rapid transit.

The CSG and the Communities for Transit have also been doing advocacy work in other areas. A few weeks ago, Tomao and others were at the Bethesda Central Farm Market, held in the parking lot of Bethesda Elementary School.

“We had a great response from some people who didn’t take transit very much or who only take Metro to go to work,” Tomao said. “When we showed people the proposal, what bus rapid transit does and how it could complement existing systems, people were very receptive.”

Read this at Bethesda Magazine >>

RELEASE: New report identifies key ways to make Montgomery County’s bus rapid transit succeed

September 1, 2015

Pete Tomao, Coalition for Smarter Growth

MONTGOMERY COUNTY, MD — In 2013, the Montgomery County Council unanimously approved a plan for an 81-mile Rapid Transit network based on modern bus rapid transit. Today, appointed citizen task forces are working with county and state staff and consultants to design the network’s first three corridors. But the success of the system depends on getting the details right in order to provide high-quality, frequent, reliable and rapid service.

A new report, “Best Practices in Rapid Transit Design,” provides a roadmap for what’s needed to make Montgomery County’s Rapid Transit System a success.



The report, released jointly today by Communities for Transit and the Coalition for Smarter Growth, draws lessons from successful bus rapid transit systems throughout the US and Canada. “As of 2015, there are more than 30 bus rapid transit systems in operation across the US and Canada and more than 25 others in planning. Many have been running since the early 2000s, and have greatly exceeded expectations for ridership and service,” said Pete Tomao, the Coalition for Smarter Growth’s Montgomery County Advocacy Manager. “In Eugene, OR, for example, the Emerald Line has doubled transit ridership in the corridor it serves.”

“Our report is designed to assist the citizen task force members, elected officials and staff in their deliberations,” said Tomao. The report identifies and describes over a dozen features of successful bus rapid transit, including:

  • dedicated lanes for vehicles to bypass traffic
  • frequent and reliable service
  • stops spaced farther apart than local buses
  • 10’ general travel lanes
  • comfortable stations
  • offboard fare collection
  • level boarding
  • easy, safe access for people walking and bicycling
  • real time arrival information.

“BRT systems can produce travel time savings of up to 25% compared to other transit and can move far more people between home, work, school and services along our crowded arterial corridors than can single-occupant vehicles,” said Tomao. “The county’s ability to manage growth and traffic, and to attract the next generation workforce and companies, depends on investing in a well-designed system that attracts passengers because of its quality, efficiency, speed, and reliability.”

“In our research, we’ve found that successful systems around the country consistently share the same features, which we outline in our report and which we hope will be incorporated into Montgomery’s system,” Tomao concluded.

Earlier this year, Montgomery County appointed citizen task forces for each of the network’s first three bus rapid transit corridors: Route 355, Viers Mill Road, and Route 29. The task forces began meeting in Feb 2015 and are split into five groups — MD 355 North, MD 355 South, US29 North, US 29 South, and Veirs Mill Rd. Key decisions include whether to provide dedicated right-of-way, street and station design, fare collection, stop locations and more.  The corridor task forces are separate from the Transit Task Force appointed to recommend how to finance the system and who should operate it.

About the Coalition for Smarter Growth

The Coalition for Smarter Growth is the leading organization in the Washington DC 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.

About Communities for Transit

Communities for Transit (CFT) educates the public on the planned & unanimously-approved Rapid Transit System for Montgomery County, MD. CFT focuses on community outreach to build awareness of the compelling case for rapid transit as an effective response to our unsustainable traffic problems.  Learn more at communitiesfortransit.org



Fact sheet: Benefits of Rapid Transit for Montgomery’s Veirs Mill Rd corridor

Fact sheet: Benefits of Rapid Transit for Montgomery’s Veirs Mill Rd corridor

• More than 6,000 (15.4%) of commuters along the Veirs Mill Road corridor have commutes longer than 60 minutes.
• Since 1990, the number of residents in this corridor with these mega-commutes has nearly doubled.
• 22.7% of corridor residents take transit to work: nearly twice as many as in 1990. Almost half of these transit riders
take the bus to work.
• The median income of Veirs Mill Corridor residents is nearly $20,000 less than the median income in Montgomery
County overall. Almost 44% of Veirs Mill Road corridor residents are foreign-born.

Fact sheet: Benefits of Rapid Transit for Montgomery’s 355 corridor

Fact sheet: Benefits of Rapid Transit for Montgomery’s 355 corridor

Today, transit access is more important than ever. Residents along the 355 corridor need the RTS as a transit option.
• Nearly 12,000 (14.5%) of commuters along the 355 corridor have commutes longer than 60 minutes.
• Since 1990, the number of residents in this corridor with these mega-commutes has more than doubled.
• 18.1% of corridor residents take transit to work: nearly twice as many as in 1990.
• The median income of 355 corridor residents is over $8,000 less than the median income in Montgomery County overall. Nearly one t…

Montgomery County to hire three new department heads

Kelly Blynn, who leads a “next generation of transit” campaign for the Coalition for Smarter Growth, credits the department with launching the new system of Bikeshare stations around the county. But she said Montgomery is lagging behind Northern Virginia, where a walkable Arlington and the new Silver Line hold strong appeal for those seeking less car-centric lives. “A director who understands transit, walking and cycling will be key for the county’s economic development,” Blynn said.