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BRT Supporters: Planning Board’s Proposal ‘Not Acceptable’

by Aaron Kraut — July 22, 2013 at 2:10 pm 218 10 Comments

Potential look for a Bus Rapid Transit vehicle in Montgomery County, via County Planning DepartmentA group of Bus Rapid Transit supporters say the master plan approved by the Montgomery County Planning Board should be redone and the county should move immediately to create pilot BRT projects.

The Action Committee for Transit sent a letter to the County Council today saying the Board’s Countywide Transit Corridors Functional Master Plan will actually make it more difficult to create exclusive lanes for a new bus system that transit supporters hope would coax people out of their cars.

The plan outlines recommended road treatments for 10 bus rapid transit corridors, including a route that would run on Rockville Pike/Wisconsin Avenue through White Flint, North Bethesda, downtown Bethesda and Chevy Chase.

It will to the County Council on Sept. 10 for a public hearing. The most controversial aspect of the Plan is the idea of reserving existing regular traffic lanes for rapid transit buses, which would mean one fewer lane for drivers.

But in the letter, ACT President Tina Slater said the Planning Board already made that scenario less likely with a traffic analysis requirement. Transit supporters have argued the system is the best way to reduce congestion:

Eliminate the concept that creation of bus lanes requires “acceptable” traffic conditions. The idea behind BRT is exactly the opposite — it’s when roads are congested that dedicated bus lanes ensure that people will have an alternative to sitting in traffic.

ACT would also like to see more lanes repurposed as bus lanes and all reversible median lanes — a single bus-only lane that would run one way in the morning rush and the opposite direction in the afternoon rush — eliminated from the plan. The letter also asks that the plan be sent back to the Planning Board so it can develop a plans for a third MARC commuter train track.

To make up for the delay, ACT wants the County Council to “order an immediate trial run of BRT” by dedicating existing lanes for buses on Veirs Mill Road, Route 29 in Silver Spring, New Hampshire Avenue in Takoma Park, Georgia Avenue near its intersection with the Beltway or Rockville Pike in White Flint:

The proposed master plan has it exactly backwards when it says that existing lanes should not be turned into bus lanes unless the flow of car traffic will be “acceptable.” If traffic is moving at acceptable speed, buses can move as fast in the regular lanes as in bus lanes. It is where car traffic is slow that buses move faster in their own lanes. Requiring “acceptable” traffic conditions where bus lanes are created would keep bus lanes out of the places where they will do the most good. Decisions must be based on what will move the greatest number of people, not the most cars.

Thus the plan should include more repurposed lanes, especially on three corridors that the Institute for Transportation Development Policy says will be among the four most successful: Route 29, Georgia Avenue and Veirs Mill Road. These roads are already home to the county’s most-used Metrobus routes. (BRT on Route 355, the fourth corridor identified by ITDP, should move forward in parallel, beginning with the median busway in White Flint which is already in the master plan.)

Opponents of dedicated bus lanes don’t think enough drivers will opt for buses for over cars, meaning the county’s most congested roads could become more congested with one fewer lane.

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  • profplanner

    The ACT proposal to dedicate existing lanes for buses the County already has in use (Metro buses, Ride-Ons) creates two interesting scenarios, both win-win for BRT opponents.

    If it doesn’t work, the BRT is dead, saving County taxpayers saves billons of dollars

    If it works, it will show that the County can achieve BRT aims without the multi-billion dollar expense of a BRT system—just create bus-only lanes on the target corridors (and maybe rush-hour HOV lanes to encourage drivers to double up.) Or maybe just HOV lanes only, to be used by express buses, ridesharing commuters, and the occasional motorcycle.

    • Dan Reed

      Does that mean you’d support dedicating existing lanes for buses on Route 29 in Four Corners? Because that’s what the county’s BRT plan originally recommended in November.

      • profplanner

        Curb lane or “fast” lane?

    • ELNIGMA

      Save those millions – send more buses where they’re used, call for changes at the WMATA for the Red Line to be on time, safe, and for longer hours. Around the world, you’ll find cities you can see where metro trains are currently, know when they’ll arrive, they run all night or near to it, and people can plan accordingly. Here near the Nation’s Capital. we have a dreadful metro system. Weekends you may as well give up trying to use the Metro if you live off the Red Line. It’s funny how those discussing local public transportation don’t talk about this, it’s important and they have some influence to change this.
      Leggett – you got a bigger job to do when it comes to dealing with the WMATA than trying to correct the Silver Spring Station money trap. Don’t lay more cement on a bad design. Get a bulldozer.

  • ELNIGMA

    The “proposed” picture shows cute, pricey, probably quiet and emissionless trams using specially created lanes narrow as those used for bicycles. The actual “proposed” plan is closing existing full-size lanes paid for by the general public to regular traffic for exclusive use by buses. Looks for a preparation for bait-and-switch. If the idea had support and merit, they wouldn’t need to mislead people.
    The public wants more lanes for 355 but for their cars to also use, and places for their cars to park, as well. The Board wants less and less. They should be concerning themselves with the people living here, who often live in post-war-built houses, rather than trying to only appease temporary, childless residents (once they have children, they’ll want a single-family house or separated townhome) – those who don’t mind outrageous condominium fees and are thought to have no problem walking distances and biking.
    New developments are based I think on the Kentlands – as pictured to the Board’s mind, rather than firmed in reality. Do most Kentland shoppers and residents get there by bus? Doubt it. Are they proposing closing lanes on Shady Grove? No.
    Currently there aren’t enough buses running for the more popular areas like Montgomery College during the regular semesters, They’ve been called about this issue a lot. Sometimes this Board doesn’t focus on the existing and successful, instead create new issues at taxpayer expense.

    • rorojo

      So county planners and developers should cater to and promote sprawl rather than try to contain it? I would say you underestimate the desire of those born post-1980 to remain in walkable, livable communities with less cars not more.

      • ELNIGMA

        This doesn’t contain anything, just makes 355 congestion worse. Look at Olney – McMansions are going up everywhere.Those using the bus routes on 355 are doing it right now. Cutting the number of the general public’s tax-paid for lanes isn’t containing sprawl. People who actually live in the areas surrounding and been paying the taxes for years don’t deserve less precedence over proposed condominiums. People buying those condominiums don’t necessarily use less parking spots. I have a post-war house, this doesn’t mean I was around when it was first built. And the attitude of the Board is wishy-washy towards us. Say if you want my post-war house to be able to contain more people, then it shouldn’t be a future issue if I want to add a apartment to it. But the rules only allow so many homes, how many feet apart, to even do that. It’s going to be a fight in such neighborhoods over who gets what. My neighborhood isn’t sprawling – it can’t and won’t. It’s they who prefer development sprawl – putting up new buildings with inadequate parking in a small space for over a thousand people – with all that draw of energy, parking, water, and power – with clearly inadequate plans for roads and parking – but now with the excuse of “preventing sprawl” – from the taxpayer support of the taxpayers who live in these post-war homes.
        If you’re around 33, you likely are still planning on getting a house like mine eventually – single family or townhome with a yard, without the high monthly expenses in condo fees (charges that aren’t tax write offs). My point is still valid – except in retirement communities, apartment condominiums are pretty much temporary housing.

        • rorojo

          Although their living arrangements may be temporary, they are still real people that spend money and pay taxes within the county. It might not be the reality that you want, but with all the building going on and the developments in the works it looks to be inevitable.

          • ELNIGMA

            I’m real people – *currently and in the past* having spent money and paid taxes within the county. Why should my use of the road we’ve paid for be curtailed by someone’s new development?

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