Tag: moco brt

RECAP: Silver Spring Rapid Transit Open House

On Wednesday, February 26, Communities for Transit and the Coalition for Smarter Growth debuted a new public meeting format during our Silver Spring Rapid Transit Open House. The meeting, attended by 44 local residents, contained a short presentation with videos to show different road treatment options and station features.  Following the presentation, attendees were invited to visit different kiosks around the room, where eight large information boards were placed, in order to learn more and ask questions about the matters of RTS that were most important to them. The Seventh State blogger, David Lublin, describes his take on the Open House and the RTS plan, including our new RTS Map, designed like the WMATA Metro Map.

To read original article, please click here. 

Photo courtesy of Communities for Transit.

RELEASE: Strong majority of Montgomery voters support county’s plan for a Bus Rapid Transit Network, according to new poll

A poll commissioned by the regional advocacy organization Coalition for Smarter Growth found strong support among Montgomery County voters for investment in a new Bus Rapid Transit network (BRT). After listening to a list of positive and negative perspectives on Montgomery County’s planned BRT network, likely Montgomery voters expressed support for the system by a margin of 71 to 22 percent.

Plans for express bus system in the works for eastern Montgomery County

Plans are in the works for bus rapid transit along U.S. 29, but officials say it will be at least five years before construction begins.

About 50 people attended a Coalition for Smarter Growth meeting on Nov. 13 at the White Oak Community Recreation Center to learn about the plans for U.S. 29, which are part of a larger plan to improve accessibility and mobility throughout the county. At the meeting, the group updated residents about the county’s current transit corridors functional master plan.

“It definitely doesn’t happen overnight,” said Larry Cole, transportation planner for the Montgomery County Department of Planning.

Cole said major construction on U.S. 29 won’t begin before important steps are taken, such as public outreach, and enough study in each location where the 60-foot-long buses will run.

The plan is to have public transportation with fewer stops and with its own lane in the highway.

Ten corridors, dedicated express highway lanes that serve to minimize travel time and move more people, are included at the rapid transit corridor map.

A Burtonsville station would serve as terminal for U.S. 29, with bus routes from Burtonsville to the Washington, D.C., line and 11 stations along the way among them: Burtonsville’s Park and Ride; Briggs Chaney’s Park and Ride; White Oak Transit Center; U.S. 29 and Fairland Road; U.S. 29 and Tech Road; Lockwood Drive and Oak Leaf Drive; Route 29 and Hillwood Drive; U.S. 29 and MD 193; U.S 29 and Franklin Street; U.S. 29 and Fenton Street and the Silver Spring Transit Center.

The station in Burtonsville would be at Briggs Chaney Road within walking distance from the Eastern Regional Service Center. “The important thing is that the master plan organizes and sees how all these [stops] work together,” Cole said.

According to Chuck Lattuca, manager for the Rapid Transit System Development, officials are studying the layout of highways, corridor lanes, number of stations, and where each station will be in the corridor.

Lattuca said the costs are still unknown, but the rapid transit will “definitely be a lot less expensive than light rail.”

Out of 81 miles dedicated to buses from the proposed rapid transit system, 70 percent will be in dedicated lanes and “the rest will be in some kind of mix traffic,” Lattuca said.

Mark Winston, a member of the Rapid Transit Task Force, said a lot of work needs to be done before construction begins.

“This functional plan is just the beginning. … This is a project that will benefit the community … as people learn more about this they become more comfortable,” Winston said.

According to Cole, it is important that the community understand the timeline of the bus rapid transit project. He said there will be future opportunities for residents to express their concerns and opinions.

“From our perspective as an organization, U.S. 29 should be a top priority in implementing the county’s bus rapid transit plan. The corridor has some of the highest density tracts in the county, [and] has some of the highest concentrations of poverty,” Kelly Blynn of the Coalition for Smarter Growth wrote in an email to The Gazette.

The Montgomery County Council will meet and possibly vote on the proposed Bus Rapid Transit project on Nov. 26.

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BRT Advocates Urge Council to Make Friendship Heights Connection

The Coalition for Smarter Growth says the County Council needs to extend a bus rapid transit route planned for Wisconsin Avenue south to Friendship Heights.

The proposal took a big hit on Friday, when the Planning Department, which included the BRT line all the way to the D.C. line in its master plan, reversed course and agreed with Council staff that it should stop at a planned Bethesda Metro entrance on Elm Street.

The three-member Transportation Committee was split, producing a 1-1-1 vote for keeping the section of BRT to Friendship Heights, getting rid of it entirely and drawing it as a dotted line to indicate the county would study it if and when D.C. looked at transit of its own for Wisconsin Avenue.

The Coalition, a D.C. based nonprofit advocating for bus rapid transit, put out a press release on Monday urging the full Council to reconsider:

Stopping the route at Bethesda, instead of connecting it an additional 1.5 miles to the D.C. border could shortchange the area and the county in several ways, supporters said.

“With traffic congestion rising and the possibility of local Metro stations shut down for extensive repairs, residents in our area are seeking more options for getting north to Bethesda and beyond, or to Friendship Heights and D.C.” said Chevy Chase resident Ronit Dancis. “BRT would be a great new option for our neighborhoods.”

Residents in the Chevy Chase West neighborhood are opposed to BRT south of Bradley Lane because of safety issues and because they think it would make it more difficult to turn in and out of the neighborhood. Council staff analyst Glenn Orlin dismissed those fears, but said he was against extending BRT into Chevy Chase because he didn’t see who would use it.

The Coalition for Smarter Growth’s release cites developers JBG and the Chevy Chase Land Company as supporters of extending BRT south. Both developers have properties in downtown Bethesda and Friendship Heights. Other supporters include the Friendship Heights Transportation Management District Advisory Committee, the Bethesda-Chevy Chase Chamber of Commerce and Ward 3 Vision, a partner group of the Coalition for Smarter Growth that operates in D.C.

“Cutting short this key route would sever an important transit connection between Montgomery County and D.C., putting more cars on the road and make both Bethesda and Friendship Heights less competitive locations for business,” the Coalition of Smarter Growth’s Kelly Blynn said in the release. “Extending the route has few downsides. The plan proposes wider sidewalks and an improved pedestrian environment, while recommending no changes to the median or street width.

“Connecting the Montgomery Rapid Transit to Friendship Heights will enhance transit connections with D.C and its extensive bus network and the city’s own growing express network. The BRT link on 355 between Bethesda and Friendship Heights is a critical connection that needs to be made,” Blynn said.

The Transportation Committee will host two more worksessions on BRT on Tuesday.

Click here to read the full story. 

Montgomery County Debates Bus-Only Traffic Lanes For New Transit Network

Montgomery County lawmakers are considering plans for an 80-mile express bus network that is raising a divisive issue: how many car lanes should be turned into bus-only lanes?

About 80 percent of the lanes in the proposed bus rapid transit—or BRT—network would be new lanes, adding capacity to the existing corridors. About 20 percent would be “repurposed.” That’s the technical term for changing a lane now used by all traffic into “bus-only.” And AAA-MidAtlantic is asking Montgomery County to scrap that plan.

“The last thing we need to be doing is taking capacity away from traffic,” says AAA spokesman Lon Anderson. He says studies show “repurposing” lanes for buses makes traffic worse, and he calls the BRT plan lawmakers are now considering a recipe for gridlock.

Supporters say Anderson is cherry-picking his studies. Kelly Blynn at the Coalition for Smarter Growth—a major proponent of the BRT plan—says many studies have shown taking away lanes from cars actually reduces congestion.

The planning department actually hasn’t looked at each corridor yet to determine how things will change precisely because they are still at this 30,000-foot planning level. But when they ran their modeling with this proposed network, overall traffic congestion went down and traffic speeds went up.

How many lanes to “repurpose” is one of the most controversial aspects on the county’s plan, along with the potential cost and effectiveness.

Anderson says a study by the Institute for Transportation and Development Policy found only two corridors in Montgomery County currently have enough population density to support BRT.

“Those two corridors are Route 355 and I-270. ITDP indicated the other proposed routes in the county did not have sufficient density to make it work. Therefore, if you don’t have enough people to ride it, you’ll be spending a lot of money and taking lanes away from general purpose traffic, and you will wind up with worse traffic.”

The Coalition’s Blynn says projected job and population growth will provide plenty of future BRT riders.

“A lot of the places around the United States that have successful BRT systems have very similar densities to Montgomery County. Already a lot of the bus lines in the county have higher ridership than some of the successful BRT lines in places like Cleveland and Eugene, Oregon,” she says.

The ITDP study is great in many ways, but it didn’t do any modeling into the future. It looked at current bus ridership. It did not forecast out what things will look like in 2040, which the Montgomery County planning department has done.”

Click here to read the original story.

Bus Rapid Transit Supporters Fire Back At AAA Mid-Atlantic

A group of bus rapid transit supporters say AAA Mid-Atlantic’s opposition to bus-only lanes is rooted in a “fatally flawed,” traffic-solving approach of building more roads and more lanes.

Next Generation of Transit, a project of the Coalition for Smarter Growth, on Thursday issued a response to AAA Mid-Atlantic’s testimony from Monday.

The Coalition is lobbying for the Planning Board’sCountywide Transit Corridors Functional Master Plan, which establishes the framework for a 10-corridor, 81-mile bus rapid transit network in the county. The plan is now in front of the County Council’s Transportation Committee.

In May, AAA spokesperson Lon Anderson said proponents’ claims that drivers would flock to bus rapid transit, “makes one wonder if they’re smoking something funny.” AAA is against dedicated bus rapid transit lanes where it would mean the loss of a regular mixed traffic lane.

Next Generation of Transit said dedicated lanes will mean a better chance to solve traffic issues at a cheaper cost than building new lanes and roads. The group also said AAA Mid-Atlantic “misused and took out of context,” a report from an outside consultant that concluded Rockville Pike/Wisconsin Avenue was the only road in Montgomery that could support a gold standard bus rapid transit system:

AAA’s approach of continuing to solve our traffic problems by building ever more and wider roads is fatally flawed.  Solving our traffic challenges means focusing on moving people, not just cars, and that means using our existing infrastructure most efficiently.  By making it attractive to walk, bicycle, and take a high quality bus rapid transit service, we can provide more choices and make the transportation system work better for everyone – especially those who need to or choose to use a car.

Dedicating travel lanes to transit will provide a better chance for our road network to function more effectively – and will do so at far less cost to our communities than the other major option – increasing the size of our major arterial roads. Many jurisdictions that have dedicated roadspace to transit or bicyclists have seen no impact or even an improvement in traffic.  Even LA has dedicated lanes to buses this year on their congested Wilshire Boulevard, knowing that the only way forward is to focus on providing options to move people, not just cars.

The bus rapid transit proposal before the County Council right now is a great opportunity for Montgomery County to provide new transportation choices along major roads like Rockville Pike where new construction is bringing thousands of new residents. Experts like the Institute for Transportation and Development Policy (whose report AAA misused and took out of context) say that the 355 corridor, in addition to US29, Veirs Mill, and Georgia Avenue are all good candidates to start upgrades to transit service to achieve a BRT network.  Montgomery’s own planning department who conducted much more detailed modeling indicates a similar prioritization of corridors.

To solve our transportation challenges, we must look to the future, not an auto-oriented past.  That’s why a diverse coalition of over 36 business, civic, environmental, and social justice organizations have come together to call for a future that includes a robust bus rapid transit network for Montgomery County.

The Council’s Transportation Committee will hold a worksession on the proposed east county BRT corridors on Monday morning.

Click here to read the original story.

Dedicated lanes are integral to Montgomery BRT

Following two well-attended public hearings last week on the proposed Bus Rapid Transit system, the Montgomery County Council will now consider transit routes, approximate station locations, and rights-of-way. But one of the most significant policy issues will be whether the county gives transit priority on key routes with bus-only lanes.

Dedicated lanes allow for much faster, much more reliable service, which in turn attracts more riders and lowers costs per passenger. They make rapid transit a real alternative to driving in traffic, but removing general travel lanes to create bus-only lanes can be a hard sell to some members of the public. After all, many people consider it common sense that eliminating a lane of traffic will cause traffic to exponentially worsen.

Fortunately, evidence suggests that eliminating a lane often has no serious adverse effect on traffic. It may seem counter-intuitive, but removing a lane can occasionally cause traffic to flow better than it did before.

In 2002, a team of researchers looked at hundreds of situations where transportation planners reallocated roadspace away from general car travel. Most situations they examined experienced little to no increase in traffic, and in many cases local transportation planners reported, “the traffic has disappeared and we simply don’t know where it has gone to.”

The empirical evidence from dozens of case studies demonstrates that reducing roadspace for cars, especially when paired with providing better transit options for residents, can actually improve traffic operations. All of the case studies looked at affected and surrounding roads, and over half the cases saw more than a 10% reduction in traffic in the area.

Of the bus lanes studied in their report, there was an average 5% decrease in overall traffic. The study concludes that people make a much wider range of behavioral responses in these cases, including switching modes from driving to transit, chaining trips, or shifting their travel times away from peak hours.

Other recent traffic studies on repurposing lanes for transit have predicted a similar result. In Alexandria and Arlington, where the Potomac Yard-Crystal City BRT line will open in 2014, the traffic analysis for the environmental impact statement indicated that dedicating one curb lane in each direction to transit vehicles would cause no significant change in traffic flow.

In fact, modeling indicates that where repurposed curbside lanes are planned in Crystal City, exclusive lanes for buses help to channelize automobile flow and reduce traffic delays compared to not doing anything at all. In other parts of the corridor, the modeling predicted minor increases in traffic at a few intersections, balanced out by reductions in traffic at other intersections. Meanwhile, transit planners from Seattle tell us that their traffic study predicts a similar result on Aurora Avenue where plans call for repurposing two curb lanes for transit service.

In New York, data on traffic flow following the creation of bike lanes and bus lanes, as well as closing some streets to car traffic completely, indicates that traffic speeds have actually improved. The data matches similar observations in Brooklyn that travel times on Prospect Park West decreased after city planners converted a car lane to a bike lane several years ago.

The Maryland State Highway Administration is already planning on giving lane repurposing a try along the Purple Line on University Boulevard. SHA will reallocate two center lanes to the light rail line instead of widening an already large arterial road. The agency will make other improvements in the surrounding area to mitigate potential traffic impacts and keep people moving.

Planners and traffic engineers will be able to learn from that experience as they implement BRT in Montgomery County. The BRT plan recommends repurposed lanes where forecast transit ridership exceeds the capacity of a general traffic lane to move single occupant vehicles, a simple but sensible threshold.

While there are choke points along some of the corridors, in general, the proposed BRT routes are wide roads with six or more lanes. Montgomery planners and transportation officials alike seem to understand that continuing to widen these roads forever is not desirable, given the negative impact on neighborhoods and the long-term ineffectiveness of such an approach.

Lane repurposing offers the opportunity to move more people in Montgomery County’s limited road space. When combined with simultaneous improvements to bike and pedestrian networks that connect neighborhoods and work centers to the BRT stations, dedicated bus lanes offer Montgomery its best chance to create safer roadways that encourage walking, biking, and transit use.

Experience from other cities show that we can’t assume that traffic will increase. If we build a great system that can actually attract riders, traffic may not change much at all, and in fact may even decrease.

Photo courtesy of Oran Viriyincy. Click here to read the original story.

Montgomery BRT Supporters Unveil Coalition at Hearing

Last night, a coalition of 32 civic, business, activist and environmental organizations announced their support for Montgomery County’s proposed Bus Rapid Transit network at the first of two public hearings on the issue at the County Council in Rockville.

After 5 years of study, this fall the Council will consider a plan to build an 82-mile rapid transit network on several major roads, including Rockville Pike, Georgia Avenue, Veirs Mill Road, and Columbia Pike. Planners say that BRT will allow us to move more people on existing roads as the county grows from 1 million residents today to 1.2 million in 2040.

David Moon of advocacy group Communities for Transit and the Coalition for Smarter Growth unveiled their list of “strange bedfellows” who support the plan, ranging from the Sierra Club to ULI Washington and CASA de Maryland. Before the hearing, they held a press conference to call for a BRT network that has dedicated lanes, frequent and reliable service, bike and pedestrian improvements along transit corridors, and “Metro-like features,” which include widely spaced stops, stations with safe, comfortable waiting areas, and fare collection at the station.

The Montgomery County Young Democrats have also lent their support. “We hosted a forum this summer about what young people need in order to settle down in Montgomery County,” said Katie Mullen, a Young Dems member who lives in Burtonsville. “Of the almost 100 people in attendance, the #1 priority wasn’t more night life, affordable housing, or new industry. The #1 priority was to greatly expand public transit across the county, in particular a comprehensive Bus Rapid Transit network with dedicated lanes.”

Opponents of the BRT plan who spoke at the meeting came primarily from two neighborhoods: Chevy Chase West, which is adjacent to a proposed route along Wisconsin Avenue, and the Four Corners area of Silver Spring, near proposed routes along Route 29 and University Boulevard. They cited concerns about the cost of building BRT, the inconvenience to drivers if the county repurposes existing lanes for buses, and claimed that public hadn’t gotten enough opportunities to give feedback.

Councilmember Marc Elrich, who first proposed a BRT network, contested claims that the county was preparing to condemn 3,000 properties for a system that hasn’t been fully designed, or that it was a “sellout” to real estate developers.

“I’m probably the last person on earth, or at least in this room, that would do something on behalf of developers,” he said. “It happens that [development] serves the rest of county residents in the ability to grow our tax base and deal with county traffic. There is no way to not see the development that is coming in the plans.”

Click here to read the original story.

Montgomery County groups Speak out in Favor of 80-Mile Bus Rapid Transit System

A coalition of 32 groups representing civic associations, environmental activists, smart growth advocates, and real estate developers testified in favor of constructing an 80-mile bus rapid transit (BRT) network in Montgomery County over the next decade during the first public hearing held on the issue by the County Council Tuesday night.

The hearing officially began what will be a months-long public process that will culminate in county legislators deciding whether to build what observers say is the most cost-effective way to cope with crushing traffic congestion. Montgomery County’s population—already bulging at one million people in 500 square miles—is expected to grow substantially.

“Our task force recommended a 160-mile system. An [80-mile] system is a good start. We hope it gets fully implemented and when it is successful the county will add additional corridors,” said Mark Winston, the chair of county executive Ike Leggett’s transit task force and chairman of the group Communities For Transit.

While building heavy Metro rail costs hundreds of millions per mile (see: Silver Line; 23 miles, $6 billion) or a light rail system costs tens of millions per mile (see: Purple Line; 16 miles, $2.2 billion), bus rapid transit is relatively cheap. Winston estimates the county’s BRT network could run $15 to $25 million per mile in capital costs. During the hearing a representative of Leggett’s office was unable to provide a cost estimate.

The BRT network will require building new lanes for buses as well as repurposing existing car lanes with traffic signal prioritization, otherwise the express buses would just sit in traffic with everyone else.

“Dedicated lanes allow for the fastest, more reliable service and the most effective alternative to sitting in traffic,” said Stewart Schwartz, the executive director of the Coalition for Smarter Growth, who said the region is at a “crossroads” when it comes to dealing with growth, congestion, and climate change.

“On a day to day basis our suburban transportation networks are in gridlock due to the pattern of development and lack of adequate transit options. With expected population growth, conditions will get worse unless we change course,” Schwartz said in his testimony.

Several opponents of the BRT network raised a range of issues in their testimony: whether the county would displace homes and businesses to clear the way for the bus lanes, the unknown cost of construction, and whether it’s fair to take away car lanes.

“It won’t reduce crime. It won’t increase employment. It won’t lessen the effects of global warming. It won’t promote gay marriage and it most assuredly will not reduce traffic congestion,” said Silver Spring resident James Williamson, sarcastically mocking supporters’ claims about the benefits of BRT.

Paula Bienenfeld of North Bethesda Neighborhoods said the county is aiming to displace thousands of homeowners and businesses to acquire right-of-way for the bus lanes and stations.

“We have learned that over 3,000 properties have already been assessed for taking along Colesville Road, New Hampshire Avenue, Rockville Pike and Georgia Avenue,” she said. “All will be cleared wholesale if you approve this plan.”

Her claim was strongly dismissed by County Council member Marc Elrich, who said no decisions about right-of-way or eminent domain have been made.

“Nothing is going to be taken and nothing is going to be done until we get down to the level of looking at every single route,” said Elrich as Bienenfeld repeatedly tried to interrupt him.

“You need to listen because you had your chance to speak and I want to be clear from my end so people can hear a different perspective,” Elrich said to Bienenfeld. “I’m probably on the minimalist side of taking right of way… repurposing lanes and minimizing any intrusion on residential communities.”

The Council has scheduled the first of several work sessions Oct. 7. The public process is expected to take months with a vote possible by the end of the year.

Because of the excessive cost and impracticality of building heavy underground rail throughout the suburbs, BRT is emerging as a preferred alternative. Alexandria is constructing a BRT network which is set to open in 2014 consisting of a new median bus lane along most of the route and repurposed curb lanes within Crystal City. Other major cities are pursuing BRT; Cleveland, Oakland, and Los Angeles have decided to dedicate general traffic lanes just to transit.

Photo courtesy of Montgomery County Planning Department. Click here to read the original story.

Rapid Transit System for Montgomery County Earns Support from Diverse Coalition of Over 30 Environmental, Civic & Business Leaders

Rapid Transit System for Montgomery County Earns Support from Diverse Coalition of Over 30 Environmental, Civic & Business Leaders

ROCKVILLE, MD – Advocates representing over 30 environmental groups, civic associations, businesses, and grassroots organizations alike gathered outside the Montgomery County Council building Tuesday evening to announce their support for a proposed new high quality Rapid Transit System (RTS) based on successful bus rapid transit networks around the nation and across the globe.