Tag: Rockville Pike

Transit Advocates Pushing For Support In Bus Rapid Transit Debate

Transit advocates are going on the offensive after the Montgomery County Planning Board expressed some reluctance toward the idea of wiping out a lane of regular Rockville Pike traffic for Bus Rapid Transit-exclusive lanes.

That idea, presented in Planning Staff’s Draft Countywide Transit Corridors Functional Master Plan a few weeks ago, almost immediately drew skepticism from residents and Planning Board members.

The D.C. based Coalition for Smarter Growth sent an email to supporters on Thursday asking people in favor of the BRT-dedicated lane to email Planning Board members ahead of next week’s second meeting on the Draft, set for Thursday, April 4.

In it, CSG asks “Will we continue to place cars above all else in the decisions we make, or will we begin to make a shift towards providing better options for people than sitting in traffic?”

Montgomery’s proposed Rapid Transit System can transform travel in our county, but there are a number of potential hurdles. This week we are approaching one of those hurdles and we need your voice.

A key part of the Rapid Transit System’s recipe for traffic relief is giving priority to rapid transit vehicles over cars where it’s the most efficient use of our roads. It’s also a principle that has been part of Montgomery’s general plan since 1993. But in hearings last week, some members of the Planning Board appeared to waver in their commitment to this key principle.

As the hearings pick up again, we need to make sure that Montgomery residents are voicing their support for lane priority so that we don’t end up with a watered-down system that makes no impact on reducing traffic.

County staff are hard at work calculating which roads would be the best fit for a high-quality, reliable Rapid Transit System to connect our communities and complement Metro and the coming Purple Line.

Priority lanes for transit aren’t a new idea. 20 years ago, the 1993 Master Plan’s transportation section stated we should “Give priority to establishing exclusive travelways for transit and high occupancy vehicles serving the Urban Ring and Corridor.”

Communities committed to prioritizing transit, like Arlington, Bethesda, and many others have seen success in relieving traffics, providing better options for people to get around, and improving quality of life.  But last week’s Planning Board discussions indicate that they may be wavering on that fundamental point, and that they may need some convincing that prioritizing transit where it’s most efficient is the right decision for the county.

Without a commitment to that concept, building a high quality Rapid Transit System could be very difficult. The debate really comes down to this: How will we share the road?  Will we continue to place cars above all else in the decisions we make, or will we begin to make a shift towards providing better options for people than sitting in traffic?

Many are against the proposal to make three-lane northbound and southbound Rockville Pike from the Beltway to the D.C. line into two lanes of regular traffic with a lane that would be dedicated exclusively to the BRT system, perhaps with stations and boarding areas in the median.

Residents have complained that the BRT system won’t be convenient enough for them to use for non-commuting purposes and that ridership would not offset the traffic impacts of reducing three lanes of already clogged traffic to two.

The Planning Board sent Planning Staff back to the drawing board in order to find new language for the Draft that would put drivers at ease.

“To me, this document screams that we don’t care what happens to drivers and I’m not comfortable taking that position,” Planning Board Chair Francoise Carrier told lead Planning Staff member Larry Cole during the first worksession on March 18.

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Planners Say Rockville Pike Could Handle Major Bus Rapid Transit System

Montgomery County planners think Rockville Pike is the county’s best candidate for a “true” Bus Rapid Transit route, meaning the traffic-clogged artery could support a two-lane median busway similar to major systems that serve millions of riders in other countries.

The finding came today in a briefing from planners in front of the Montgomery County Planning Board and a little more than a week after it was revealed that an outside consultant found a potential 150-mile BRT system in Montgomery County would not have enough riders.

Today, planners presented a modified 87-mile BRT system they said would attract more riders than the outside report from the New York-based Institution for Transportation and Development Policy suggested.

“ITDP’s report’s focus is on which corridors are best suited to high-quality “true” BRT with frequent all day service. The report finds that MD355 is the best candidate for this treatment, but expresses a concern that if future BRT ridership is only double the existing bus ridership, it would be very low compared to other BRT operations nationwide,” reads the Planning Staff’s memo. “ITDP did not do any ridership forecasting however, whereas our transportation modeling work has shown that the forecast 2040 ridership on MD355 is far higher and we are confident that we should begin planning for a two-lane median busway for most of this corridor.”

The Planning Staff briefing also found that the proposed North Bethesda Transitway BRT route (with a previously estimated daily ridership of 8,000 to 10,000 riders) was a corridor that could stand alone, without the benefit of a county-wide network.

The Coalition for Smarter Growth, a D.C.-based nonprofit lobbying for smart growth initiatives and transit funding, had supportive words for the latest proposal.

“The planning staff’s network is smaller than the full Transit Task Force proposal but also much larger than the Institute for Transportation and Development Policy (ITDP) proposal.  The staff’s analysis is both rigorous and practical, and results in a network that can be effectively implemented,” Coalition for Smarter Growth Stewart Schwartz said in a statement.

Daily ridership projections by 2040 presented at a Coalition for Smarter Growth meeting last week show between 44,000 and 49,000 riders for a southbound MD 355 system and between 22,000 and 34,000 riders for a northbound MD 355 system. The projections for the North Bethesda Transitway range from 4,000 daily riders to 10,000.

Photo by Juanman 3 via Wikipedia; route map via Montgomery County Planning Department

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Testimony before Rockville City Planning Commission:Support for Site Plan Application STP 2012-00112, 1900 Chapman Ave

We are pleased to express our support for the 1900 Chapman Ave project which will replace the old Syms building and surface parking lot with two street-oriented moderate-density apartment buildings. These new homes will be within a few hundred feet of the Twinbrook Metro station. We commend this proposal as the kind of transit-oriented development this city and region needs to remain sustainable and competitive.

Montgomery County: White Flint Sector Plan

We would like to express our support for the White Flint Sector Plan and urge the Council and County Executive to support it too. We strongly support the County focusing growth here at a Metro station rather than new areas that require major new public infrastructure investments like the Gaithersburg West Plan, which we oppose in its current form. We need to make the distinction – we should focus growth around our Metro stations and revitalize major commercial corridors like Rockville Pike. Conversely, the great amount of development proposed in the Gaithersburg West Plan fosters sprawl, long distance commuting, increased traffic, air and water pollution. Overzoning Gaithersburg West undermines the redevelopment of Rockville Pike and Metro station areas – the very areas where we should be encouraging sustainable, transit-oriented development and great urban boulevards and streets.