Tag: metrobus

Testimony before the WMATA 2025 Special Committee in Support of the WMATA Momentum Plan

The Coalition for Smarter Growth is the leading organization in the Washington D.C. region dedicated to making the case for smart growth. Our 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.

Having helped win remarkably strong regional consensus for transit-oriented development as the framework for regional growth — reflected in the Region Forward and Economy Forward vision plans of the Council of Governments, and in the priorities of local leaders — the Coalition for Smarter Growth views investment in the Next Generation of Transit as a top priority and essential for supporting this regional vision.

We view the Momentum plan as the vision and framework for setting regional transit investment priorities and for working with all of our jurisdictions to create an expanded, well-maintained, and seamlessly integrated transit system our region needs to remain healthy, prosperous, efficient and competitive.

The Coalition for Smarter Growth is fully committed to achieving the Next Generation of Transit, as reflected in our report earlier this year. Key components include:

  • Rehabilitating and improving our Metrorail system as the region’s top priority investment;
  • Ensuring high-capacity public transportation networks to support a sustainable region of livable, walkable centers, and neighborhoods;
  • Expanding and improving the bus system by adding more service and providing bus priority on roadways is critical to meeting growing ridership demand and using our roads more efficiently;
  • Seamlessly integrating, physically and operationally, Metrorail, new priority corridor networks, bus rapid transit, light rail, streetcars, commuter rail and our bicycle/pedestrian infrastructure.

The Momentum Strategic Plan effectively makes the case for the value of the Metro system to our region and of reinvesting and strategically expanding the system. We believe that WMATA, through an extensive consultation process with COG and the jurisdictions, is the best entity for leading the strategic planning for our region’s Next Generation of Transit.

Perhaps no statistic stands out in the Momentum plan more than the value of investing in 8-car trains, which provide 35% more capacity-equal to 35,000 more passengers per hour to jobs downtown. To achieve this with roads, we would need 16-18 new lanes of highways. For comparison, widening just 2.5 miles of I-95 recently cost state and federal taxpayers $261 million or $52 million per lane mile.

Other statistics that we find compelling are that:

  • Regional riders will save an additional $100 million per year by purchasing less fuel and other out-of-pocket travel costs.
  • The region will avoid building 30,000 new parking spaces, saving $675 million.

Investing in Metro is the most critical step in supporting compact, efficient transit-oriented development, lowering per capita infrastructure costs and saving land.

If we are to continue our regional success and grow without reaching total traffic gridlock, we must rehabilitate Metro, maximize the capacity of the existing system and strategically expand Metro and connecting transit services. This must be our top priority.

Thank you.

Stewart Schwartz
Executive Director

Activists say transit priority essential to traffic relief

As Montgomery County planners tweak wording in a draft transit master plan, some activists say prioritizing the 10 corridors and 79 miles of proposed future bus rapid transit is essential to easing traffic gridlock.

The county’s planning board on March 18 rejected the first draft of the Countywide Transit Corridors Functional Master Plan, sending it back to the staff to soften language and explain why the plan recommends giving transit priority over cars and drivers.

The planning board is scheduled to discuss the updated draft at 9 a.m. April 4.

Action Committee for Transit President Tina Slater expressed disappointment that debate over transit priority has delayed the plan’s progress, even if only for a few weeks.

Unlike the county’s Ride On bus system, which is mired in the same traffic that gridlocks cars, BRT will give residents an option they never have had before by moving riders more rapidly in dedicated lanes, she said.

The population of Montgomery is expected to increase by 205,759 people by 2040, according to a Montgomery County Demographic and Travel Forecast, based on a 2012 Metropolitan Washington Council of Government report. Slater questioned how even more residents will get around if the county does not prioritize transit.

“We are going to have a major transportation problem on our hands if we don’t do something now,” she said.

Stewart Schwartz, executive director of the Coalition for Smarter Growth, saw the planning board’s delay as doing its homework to ensure the right routes and dedicated service are recommended.

However, Schwartz said his organization feels there are more corridors poised for dedicated lane service than the staff recommended.

During the discussion on March 18, Planning Commission Chairwoman Francoise M. Carrier said she quarreled with the plan’s “categorical statements that transit gets priority all the time everywhere.”

Carrier argued that any priority should be expressed in more nuanced language.

Acting Planning Director Rose Krasnow said that under the existing procedure, roads get priority, all the time, everywhere, which has greatly harmed the quality of life.

Planning Board Commissioner Casey Anderson cautioned watering down the language.

If the board were discussing a rail line, it would not debate whether it was fair to give it priority over other traffic, he said.

But both the problem and advantage of BRT is that it can operate in a myriad of ways — dedicated lanes, dedicated right-of-way, mixed in traffic, etc. — depending on where it is built.

“And that’s great because it’s very flexible,” Anderson said. “The problem is, whatever is in this plan then gets negotiated down from there. And so this is the high-water mark. If you don’t put it in the plan now, it’s not going to get better for transit, it’s only going to degrade.”

Dedicated lanes, signal priority and queue jumping are proven approaches to bus transit and are being implemented in Montgomery by the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority with its MetroExtra limited stop bus service, Schwartz said.

About 700 people ride MetroExtra every day on its route on New Hampshire Avenue, and more routes are planned.

“There’s no better option to manage growth in traffic while maintaining economic competitiveness than investing in dedicated lane transit and transit-oriented communities,” Schwartz said.

Historically, the county approach to traffic congestion was to widen roads.

Yet, many routes proposed in the draft transit master plan cannot be widened, Slater said.

“The only thing you are left to do if the road is as wide as it is today, and you are trying to stuff more people down it, is to put people on something that can move more people than a car,” she said.

But to give BRT dedicated lanes north of the Beltway only to let it snarl in the urban traffic for fear that taking a lane could worsen congestion for the cars would defeat BRT’s purpose, she said.

Once built as planned, BRT will be its own advertisement, Slater said.

Drivers sitting in traffic who see buses bypassing the gridlock will consider taking a bus to get to their destination more quickly, she said.

Reduced from the 160-mile network of 20 corridors recommended last May by the Transit Task Force, planning staff have proposed a 79-mile network of 10 corridors, including U.S. 355 north and south, Georgia Avenue north and south, U.S. 29, Veirs Mill Road, Randolph Road, New Hampshire Avenue, University Boulevard and the North Bethesda Transitway.

Read the original article here >>