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AAA Mid-Atlantic Against Taking Lanes For Bus Rapid Transit

by Aaron Kraut | October 7, 2013 at 1:30 pm | 298 views | 11 Comments

Potential look for a Bus Rapid Transit vehicle in Montgomery County, via County Planning DepartmentAAA Mid-Atlantic on Monday said the Montgomery County Council should delay any action on its bus rapid transit master plan, the same day a Council committee held its first of five worksessions on the plan.

AAA Mid-Atlantic is most concerned with the proposal to take away regular traffic lanes, including on Rockville Pike/Wisconsin Avenue, and dedicating those lanes to bus rapid transit-use only.

In May, AAA spokesperson Lon Anderson told us proponents’ claims that drivers would flock to bus rapid transit, “makes one wonder if they’re smoking something funny.”

On Monday, Anderson said dedicated bus lanes should be created by adding lanes, not by using existing ones:

First and foremost, in a county that has some of the nation’s very worst congestion, primarily because it has not added road capacity to keep pace with its growth, reducing that capacity by “repurposing” general lanes on some of our county’s most clogged arteries is a recipe for even worse gridlock.  Dedicated lanes should be created by adding capacity to our arteries, not by subtracting it.   The goals here must be reducing, not exacerbating gridlock on our county’s major arteries.

Anderson also questioned whether the county can afford the system outlined in the Countywide Transit Corridors Functional Master Plan, though no price tag is attached to the system. The price would be determined at the planning stage by the Montgomery County Department of Transportation. Budgeting for conceptual studies on the MD 355 corridor is underway.

During the Council’s Transportation Committee worksession on Monday, Councilmember Nancy Floreen (D-At large) questioned whether the projected traffic improvements of bus rapid transit are worth the cost.

“The question is, what are we actually doing with this plan? As far as I can tell, we are talking about a $3 to $4 billion project for ultimately a 1.2 percent reduction in travel miles, a 2.7 percent reduction in time spent in traffic all to achieve a 1.5 percent average increase in speed for cars, except for Silver Spring and Bethesda, where traffic gets worse,” Floreen said.

Floreen has expressed her opposition to parts of the Planning Board-approved master plan.

At a public hearing on Sept. 24, she questioned Stewart Schwartz, executive director of the Coalition for Smarter Growth, about who was funding the group’s advocacy for bus rapid transit.

On Monday, Floreen said the county’s Transit Task Force, which recommended a 160-mile, $1.8 billion bus rapid transit system, “are mostly advocates for particular property owners.”

“It’s just not true,” said task force chair Mark Winston. “It’s simply not the case.”

Floreen also sought clarification on why county planners recommended an 81-mile BRT network when an outside consultant, New-York based Institution for Transportation and Development Policy, found only a Rockville Pike route would have enough riders to justify building one.

“Some of the systems they are looking at were in other parts of the world where the population densities are more intense,” said Planning Board Commissioner Casey Anderson. “They’re looking at what they consider to be a quote-unquote gold standard. Their standard of judgement is based on a different frame of reference.”

The Committee took no action on Monday. The tentative schedule for the remaining worksessions follows the jump.

Oct. 11: Review and make recommendations on east-county routes, including:

•  US 29 (Corridor 9)

•  New Hampshire Avenue (Corridor 5)

•  University Boulevard (Corridor 8)

Oct. 14: Review and make recommendations on mid-county routes, including:

•  Georgia Avenue (Corridors 1 & 2)

•  Veirs Mill Road (Corridor 10)

•  Randolph Road (Corridor 7)

Oct. 18: Review and make recommendations on west- and north-county routes, including

•  MD 355 (Corridors 3 & 4)

•  North Bethesda Transitway (Corridor 6)

Oct. 21: Review and make recommendations on any follow-up issues

Photo via Montgomery County Planning Department

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  • PBienenfeld

    Where did the $1.8Billion come from? Last I heard the figure was $10Billion. This morning’s work session showed this proposed plan is confusing, contradictory, and will not decrease congestion. Most of the work is being completed already, in DOT and in ‘sub-committees’ of the ‘Committee for Transit,’ making the Council irrelevant. I attended the ‘work session’ this morning and have to wonder why, as a taxpayer, I am paying for ‘work sessions’ when most of the planning has already been completed in secret.

    • ELNIGMA

      seriously, I’m told by George Leventhal that the BRT was only in a Master plan Draft and not been approved. Just what is this?

      • PBienenfeld

        It doesn’t matter at this point if it’s been ‘approved.’ It is already happening in secret ‘sub-committee’ meetings of the Committee for Transit. Good luck finding out about their decision-making process. Mr. Leventhal may not know how much has already been decided. Council at this point is irrelevant.

        • ELNIGMA

          I think Mr. Leventhal probably knows now after seeing the just released schedule of meetings for next week – none of which are designed for the public to refuse/object outright to having their streets “repurposed” and their tax dollars wasted in the billions.

    • Scott T Williamson

      The $10 billion figure was an estimate applied to an earlier, far larger, 160-mile plan. The current plan is only 80.6 miles, and the envisioned build-out is more conservative now. Cost estimates range from below the $1.8 billion figure to a little over $3 billion.

      The T&E committee meetings are public, not secret – I attended the first one just by walking in, as anyone can do. Also, the lead planners (Larry Cole & Casey Anderson) and lead DOT official (Charles Lattuca) are easily reached as well. Rather than being secret, this process and those involved are open and accessible.

      The county will have to deal with the expected 20% population growth and 39% rush-hour growth somehow. Rapid transit can change the course away from more roads, more congestion, and more sprawl. And it can be very cost-effective. Consider: the ICC alone cost nearly $2.5 billion – for one 18-mile road. An intersection upgrade can cost $70 million – for one intersection. Using existing roadways to move more people, more efficiently, can dramatically reduce congestion, draw development to existing corridors, and reduce the need to take large numbers of homes and businesses to keep widening roads for more and more cars.

      See http://www.communitiesfortransit.org for more information on the plan if you like!

      • Not Buying It

        Actually the BRT WILL promote sprawl and will NOT reduce congestion. There isn’t a single transportation engineer that will tell you the BRT will reduce congestion. It’s being used to enable massive sprawling development in White Oak where there is no metro station. Only the politicians and interest groups like yours will say this will reduce congestion. Most of us know better and have seen this movie before.

  • ELNIGMA

    So.. when can the public object again? I don’t want my streets “repurposed”!!

    • Vernon6

      ‘Your’ streets. LOL

      • ELNIGMA

        Yes, mine, at least enough that if they do this stupid thing, they plan to tax me extra. Seriously, that’s part of the plan!

      • Alex Knight

        Funny how people seem to think driving a car is their God-given right.

        • ELNIGMA

          Funny how people think only they should have freedom, other people should not. Like those who managed to get BRT off their areas of the county because they don’t like it trying to force it on others.

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