A group of transit advocates says changes to the Bus Rapid Transit Master Plan by the Montgomery County Planning Board have watered down how effective the future transit system can be.
In a letter, Action Committee for Transit President Tina Slater said new language that would require “a thorough traffic analysis,” before county transportation officials could dedicate lanes exclusively to bus and emergency vehicle traffic “would defeat the purpose of the plan.”
“We would get more asphalt, not better transit,” the letter reads. “To be worthy of support, the bus rapid transit plan must put bus lanes on the most congested roads, not the least congested ones, and include lane repurposing as a major component.”
ACT members worry the new language would allow the conversion of car lanes into bus-only lanes to be “put off into the indefinite future.”
In three worksessions since a May public hearing, the Planning Board and Planning Department staff have worked to calm fears from some residents that a dedicated BRT lane would mean more traffic for drivers because of fewer regular traffic lanes.
The Master Plan as first proposed by planners recommended exclusive bus lanes on roads such as Rockville Pike/Wisconsin Avenue, based on a traffic study that showed daily ridership projections 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 by 2040.
If the Board directs planners to prepare a final Planning Board draft on Thursday as expected, it will be presented on July 22 for transmittal to the County Council.
Other changes to come out of the three worksessions include the addition of information on other Bus Rapid Transit systems into the plan and more explanation of the BRT operational details that would be left to county transportation planners.
Also new to the draft Master Plan is language that lets drivers know the dedicated BRT curb lanes would likely be open to right-turning vehicles. On-road bicyclists who do not have otherwise have dedicated space would be allowed to use the bus lanes. So would emergency vehicles.
Photo via Montgomery County Planning Department