Since County Planners last presented their idea for a Bus Rapid Transit system on Wisconsin Avenue, 12 residents of the Chevy Chase West neighborhood sent letters opposing the project.
This, despite pleas from some of those residents just last month for a more convenient and reliable way between the downtown areas of Friendship Heights and Bethesda. A BRT Transitway on 355/Wisconsin Avenue would conceivably provide that connection.
But members of the neighborhood along what is known as Wisconsin Avenue’s “Green Mile” raised concerns that the system would be a duplicate of Metro’s Red Line and that bus-only lanes would make it difficult to access and get out of neighborhoods.
Larry Cole, lead planner of the Countywide Transit Corridors Functional Master Plan, said the curb bus lane part of the first phase of the Plan would actually make it easier to get out of the neighborhood and that the BRT would serve a different set of riders than Metro and that WMATA buses don’t provide enough routes in the area. WMATA has said a 355/Wisconsin Avenue BRT route would work as a complementary system.
“If you’re only going a short distance on Metro, there is some investment to make in going down into the station and going through the fare gates,” Cole said, “as opposed to just catching a bus that’s right there.”
Planning Board Chair Francoise Carrier said she was pleased with language and graphics that Staff added to the Draft since its first review more than two weeks ago. At that meeting, Carrier sent Staff back to the drawing board to come up with language that would better explain why the County should take a lane of regular traffic away on 355 for a bus-only lane.
“You have really turned this into something that I’m happy to support,” Carrier said. “It’s balanced enough that I feel comfortable with it.”
Cole said in the two weeks since the last meeting on the Plan, Staff received 113 letters in support of the BRT and of dedicating a Rockville Pike lane in each direction exclusively to BRT use. Those letters were prompted by transit advocate the Coalition for Smarter Growth.
The Board approved the Draft Plan, but it’s only the first step. Next is the Planning Board Public Hearing, in which residents on all sides will be invited to testify.