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by Aaron Kraut — January 28, 2015 at 9:05 am 169 1 Comment

Capital Bikeshare station at Norfolk and Fairmont Avenues in Bethesda

Montgomery County said today that its network of 51 Capital Bikeshare stations exceeded revenue projections during its first full year.

The county’s Department of Transportation (MCDOT) launched the Bikeshare network with 14 stations in late September 2013 and gradually added stations to three clusters: Bethesda/Friendship Heights, Silver Spring/Takoma Park and Rockville/Shady Grove/Life Sciences Center.

MCDOT says about 35,000 Bikeshare trips were taken from October 2013 to October 2014, with most ridership coming out of the Metro-adjacent stations during the morning and evening rush hours.

There are now 14 Bikeshare stations in Bethesda and Friendship Heights. Many observers of Capital Bikeshare’s success in D.C. and Arlington were interested to see how the system would work in more suburban, and more spread-out Montgomery County.

While early numbers were underwhelming, MCDOT and bicycle advocates pointed to increases in use once the weather got warmer in the spring of 2014.

Trips originating from Montgomery County Bikeshare stations increased by 95 percent in April 2014 compared to March 2014. The county reported 3,182 Bikeshare trips started at a county Bikeshare station in April, compared to 1,630 in March.

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by Aaron Kraut — January 26, 2015 at 8:45 am 386 7 Comments

Bethesda Metro station, file photo via MetroUpdated 8:50 a.m. – Montgomery County Fire and Rescue Services are responding to the Bethesda Metro station on Monday morning for the report of an arcing insulator near the station’s platform.

MCFRS spokesperson Pete Piringer said firefighters on the scene have been told by Metro officials that there is no fire emergency and no smoke.

According to emergency scanner communications, firefighters will clear the scene and allow Metro to handle the problem.

by Aaron Kraut — January 23, 2015 at 4:55 pm 970 36 Comments

County Executive Isiah Leggett at a bus rapid transit event in August 2014Updated at 10 p.m. – Montgomery County on Friday revealed new information about a possible county-dedicated transit authority that could pave the way for a proposed bus rapid transit system.

This fact sheet posted on the county’s website explains how the so called Independent Transit Authority (ITA) could plan, design, engineer, build, fund and operate the county’s existing Ride On bus service and planned Rapid Transit System.

Also on Friday, the Montgomery County Delegation introduced a state bill that would allow the transit authority.

The new organization, first proposed by County Executive Isiah Leggett in December as he kicked off his third term, would be made up of a governing board of at least five members appointed by the county executive and confirmed by the County Council.

The governing board would adopt its own multi-year construction budget, hire its own general manager and senior staff and administer a county transit tax that would have to be set up by the County Council.

That transit tax would replace the current transit tax and wouldn’t be subject to Charter Limits. It would be a key source of funding for the ITA, along with the county’s capital budget, state and federal grants, private-sector contributions, fare revenues and revenues from the county’s Parking Lot Districts — including fees and fines.

“We need to make Montgomery County a more ‘walkable’ and ‘liveable’ community, which will result in a better quality of life for you and your family,” reads the fact sheet. “That future, however, depends on increased transportation investment to accommodate more residents and to encourage job growth within the County.”

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by Aaron Kraut — January 21, 2015 at 2:25 pm 577 15 Comments

Purple Line NOW! social media "profile badge," via Purple Line NOW!  Purple Line NOW! social media "profile badge," via Purple Line NOW!

Purple Line supporters took the occasion of Gov. Larry Hogan’s inauguration day to start a social media campaign aimed at getting his support for the light rail.

The Purple Line NOW! group is asking supporters to change Facebook and Twitter profile pictures, post about the proposed light rail project on Hogan’s official Facebook page and tweet out stats the group says prove how much the Purple Line will benefit the state:

Send a message to the Governor to welcome him. As the governor is sworn in today, here are some sample messages to leave on his Facebook page:https://www.facebook.com/larryhoganmd:

  • Welcome to Annapolis, Governor Hogan! I hope we can work together to keep the Purple Line on track and ensure 1000s of jobs for Marylanders.
  • Let’s @changemaryland and create more jobs by building the #PurpleLine! #MDpolitics
  • Congratulations Governor Hogan, now let’s keep and attract millennials for Maryland with the #purpleline. #MDpolitics
  • Let’s @ChangeMaryland and build the #PurpleLine before we fall behind Virginia’s Silver Line boom. #MDpolitics
  • Hey Governor Hogan, let’s show Virginia and the world we’re #openforbusiness by investing in the #PurpleLine
  • Let’s @ChangeMaryland by giving people an alternative to sitting in traffic with the #PurpleLine #MDpolitics
  • Happy inauguration Governor Hogan, please build the #PurpleLine to fulfill your pledge to bring new families & businesses to Maryland.

It’s the latest in what’s sure to be a first few weeks of Purple Line advocacy — both for and against — that will be presented to the Republican governor.

The estimated $2.45 billion project that would run from New Carrollton to Bethesda was scheduled to start construction later this year. But Hogan has expressed doubts about the project since last fall.

Via Purple Line NOW!

by Aaron Kraut — January 16, 2015 at 1:00 pm 496 5 Comments

Rendering of Purple Line vehicle heading to Bethesda, Image via Maryland Transit Administration

Add most of Maryland’s congressional delegation to the chorus urging Governor-elect Larry Hogan not to cancel or delay construction of the Purple Line.

Senators Barbara Mikulski and Ben Cardin, along with House Representatives Elijah Cummings, Steny Hoyer, Dutch Ruppersberger, Donna Edwards, John Sarbanes, John Delaney and Chris Van Hollen, penned a letter to Hogan on Thursday reminding the Republican that they’ve “fought hard to ensure that federal funds are available” to build both the Purple Line and Red Line.

The Red Line light rail, also from the Maryland Transit Administration, would link Baltimore’s downtown with areas to the east and west:

Recognizing the significance of these projects, we secured the first installment of federal funding for both the Red and Purple Lines in the Consolidated and Further Continuing Appropriations Act of 2015 (Public Law 113-235). If Maryland signs full funding agreements for each project with the Federal Transit Administration by the end of September as currently planned, the Red Line and the Purple Line will each receive $100 million in federal funding this fiscal year, and up to $900 million in federal funding over the entire construction period.

The entire Baltimore and Greater Washington area Congressional delegations have fought hard to ensure that federal funds are available to support the Red and Purple Lines, and we have worked closely with State and local leaders to put in place the many components needed to qualify the projects for federal funding. This is truly an historic opportunity that may never come again, and we look forward to working with you to finalize plans for the Red and Purple Lines in order to ensure that Maryland benefits from the better future these projects will create.

It isn’t the first letter Hogan has received on the subject and it definitely won’t be the last before he’s sworn in on Wednesday. Hogan has said he has yet to make a decision on the future of the $2.45 billion Purple Line.

But he didn’t have good things to say about it during his campaign and since being elected, has strongly indicated he’d rather focus on highway construction around the state.

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by Aaron Kraut — January 9, 2015 at 2:35 pm 0

Capital Bikeshare station at Norfolk and Fairmont Avenues in Bethesda

Capital Bikeshare will use an open house in D.C. later this month to talk about a proposed fee increase and more stations.

Representatives from all four local governments that own Capital Bikeshare stations — D.C., Arlington County, Alexandria and Montgomery County — will be at the open house, set for 6 p.m.-8 p.m. on Wednesday, Jan. 28. The event will happen at the Martin Luther King Jr. Library (901 G Street, NW D.C.).

The proposed price increase would be the first in four years, according to Capital Bikeshare. It launched in 2010 in D.C. before expanding out to downtown Bethesda, Friendship Heights, Silver Spring and parts of Rockville in September 2013:

At the Open House, Capital Bikeshare will offer information on the first proposed price increase in more than four years of operation. Since our launch in 2010, we’ve added more than 200 stations, doubled our regional footprint into two additional jurisdictions, and seen daily trips increase from an average of 1,000 in October 2010 to more than 10,000 in October 2014 – all while the price has remained constant.

The proposed new annual membership fee is $85 and would take effect this spring. Even with the $10 increase, the proposed rate is much lower than other major metropolitan US systems like New York ($149) and on par with Boston ($85); and will help us continue to provide the highest quality service for the first and, by station count, largest bikeshare system in the country. Usage fees for trips over 30 minutes would remain unchanged.

While the proposed price increase seemingly will be the focus of the open house, there will also be “conversations on future expansion,” a topic that could interest those hoping to see Capital Bikeshare stations pop up in places such as the Pike District/White Flint.

by Aaron Kraut — January 8, 2015 at 9:10 am 416 0

Disabled Red Line train stranded just south of Grosvenor station aroudn 8:30 a.m., photo via @scottryanwill

A disabled Red Line train just south of the Grosvenor-Strathmore Metro station is creating long delays and some unhappy riders on Thursday morning.

At 9 a.m., MCFRS units were called to the station for a report of someone suffering from “cold exposure.”

Metro says Red Line trains between Grosvenor and Medical Center are single tracking because of the disabled train, which some Twitter users photographed frozen still on the tracks just above the southern intersection of Rockville Pike and Tuckerman Lane.

That was around 8:30 a.m. At 9 a.m., Metro said an inbound train had arrived on the tracks usually reserved for Shady Grove-bound trains.

At 9:09 a.m., Metro said the disabled train was being moved off the line and that delays would continue.

Some riders were offloaded at the Grosvenor station and have reported waiting about an hour. The delays have led to more crowded than usual platforms at the Bethesda station.

The weather-related track problems aren’t just affecting the Red Line. Four Metro lines seem to be suffering from some sort of track delays on Thursday morning.

Photo via @scottryanwill

by Aaron Kraut — December 30, 2014 at 2:20 pm 0

Bethesda Metro StationThose who plan to return home from New Year’s Eve celebrations with Metro will have a few extra hours to party Wednesday night.

Metrorail will stay open until 2 a.m. on Thursday morning, two hours later than normal.

To check last train time by station, visit Metro’s station directory. Metrorail will run on regular weekday service during the day Wednesday.

On Thursday (New Year’s Day) Metrorail and Metrobus will operate on a Sunday schedule with off-peak fares all day and free parking at Metro-operated facilities. (Montgomery County parking facilities will be free too.)

Metro will provide extra eight-car trains before and after the Winter Classic at Nationals Park.

Still looking for a New Year’s Eve event. Check out our guide to seven events in Bethesda.

by Aaron Kraut — December 29, 2014 at 11:35 am 932 39 Comments

Friday afternoon rush hour traffic on Rockville Pike near NIH and Walter Reed, one of Bethesda's worst chokeholds

The acting director of Montgomery County’s Department of Transportation says the local road network “is essentially built out” and county transportation planners will focus on walkability and transit.

“I plan to take a hard look at all of MCDOT’s policies and procedures to ensure that they are consistent with our emphasis on smart growth principles,” said Al Roshdieh, who took over for retired MCDOT director Art Holmes last week.

Roshdieh made the comments in an interview published by the county a few days after some transit advocates, business leaders and bicycle boosters asked County Executive Isiah Leggett to look for “a visionary leader” to bring forth a sea change in how MCDOT operates.

“This approach is not just about focusing on Ride On or bikesharing or more sidewalks. It’s about taking a holistic view of all of MCDOT’s efforts and asking the question: How do we create the type of community that truly enhances our quality of life and how can our transportation system contribute?,” Roshdieh said.

Roshdieh officially took over last Monday. The 25-years veteran of Montgomery County’s government was MCDOT’s deputy director under Holmes.

In a press release, Chief Administrative Officer Tim Firestine credited Roshdieh with leading the county’s recent Pedestrian Safety Initiative, Capital Bikeshare rollout and planning for a Bus Rapid Transit network.

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by Aaron Kraut — December 8, 2014 at 9:05 am 749 32 Comments

Planning Board Chair Casey Anderson (file photo)The chair of the Montgomery County Planning Board and his counterpart in Prince George’s urged Governor-elect Larry Hogan last week not to kill or delay the Purple Line.

Montgomery Planning Board Chair Casey Anderson and Prince George’s Planning Board Chair Elizabeth Hewlett sent a letter to Hogan outlining their arguments for keeping the 16-mile light rail project on track.

“We know that money for the DC suburbs is a hard sell in some other parts of the state,” the two wrote. “But as appointed officials responsible for strengthening the key assets in our counties — particularly those assets needed to be competitive within the DC metro areas for jobs and residents in the future — we urge you to support the Purple Line as beneficial to the economic health of our region and state.”

Hogan, the Republican who upset staunch Purple Line-supporter Anthony Brown in November’s election, indicated during the campaign that he’s not in favor of the Purple Line and would consider delaying it.

Construction on the roughly $2.4 billion transit system is set to begin in 2015, though the state has delayed a deadline for bids to design and build the project until after Hogan is in place.

Anderson and Hewlett told Hogan a decision to cancel or delay the project “would be a serious mistake” because it could mean losing out on $900 million of federal funding and promised transit-oriented development in places such as Chevy Chase Lake.

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by Aaron Kraut — November 5, 2014 at 12:20 pm 826 26 Comments

Larry Hogan (left) with New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie at the Original House of Pancakes last month

A number of Purple Line advocates are doing their best to put a positive spin on Republican Larry Hogan’s upset gubernatorial victory, despite past statements from the Anne Arundel County businessman that suggest he’s no fan of the light rail project.

“While much of Maryland’s political watchers may still be reeling over Republican Larry Hogan’s historic upset last night of Democrat Anthony Brown, those grappling for new pieces of conventional wisdom may find themselves surprised on at least one key issue,” read a Wednesday morning press release from the pro-Purple Line Coalition for Smarter Growth. “Despite what many said during the heat of the campaign, long-planned new transit projects like the Purple Line or Baltimore’s Red Line are not dead in the water because of Hogan’s victory. Nor should they be when one looks at the merits of each project as well as Hogan’s key campaign focus — the economy.”

The press release goes on to say that “Hogan is more open-minded about the Purple and Red lines than opponents gave him credit for.”

Ben Ross, a Bethesda resident and one of the Purple Line’s most ardent supporters, tweeted that no matter Tuesday night’s outcome, the Purple Line is “in better position than Nov 6, 2002. Which was a much better position than Nov 8, 1994. Been there, done that, can do again.”

The Action Committee for Transit, a local group of Purple Line supporters, provided a slightly different tone during the election with a short guide to the Maryland governor’s race. It highlighted Hogan’s September vow to block the Purple Line and his focus on using transportation dollars on highways and roads — not transit.

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by Aaron Kraut — October 27, 2014 at 9:10 am 1 Comment

(Updated at 10:25 a.m.) Red Line trains are no longer single tracking between the Grosvenor-Strathmore and Medical Center stations in Bethesda after a cracked rail outside the Grosvenor station.

The single tracking had Metro advising riders to consider using the J2, J3 or J5 bus routes to avoid delays. Outbound Red Line trains to Shady Grove were bypassing Medical Center and Grosvenor altogether in an attempt to reduce delays during the morning commute.

Metro first reported the problem just before 8:30 a.m.

At 10:18 a.m., Metro reported trains were no longer single tracking, though passengers could expect residual delays:

by Aaron Kraut — October 21, 2014 at 1:20 pm 358 7 Comments

A Bethesda Circulator shuttle in Woodmont Triangle

(Updated at 4 p.m.) The Bethesda Urban Partnership on Tuesday launched a new phone app that will provide the location of all buses in the Bethesda Circulator system.

The app, available for Apple and Android devices and at BUP’s website, will give riders of the free shuttle service a better idea of wait times at each stop.

The 2.1-mile, 20-stop bus loop around downtown Bethesda has become increasingly popular since BUP took over operation of the old Bethesda Trolley in 2006. 

Bethesda Circulator bus live locator app, via BUPMonthly ridership on the Circulator surpassed 30,000 trips for the first time in the history of the service in April and increased again in May. BUP said daily ridership was up an average of 30 percent in September 2014 compared to September 2013. The buses average more than 1,200 riders per day.

Riders will now have the ability to know when within the 10-15 minute timeframe the Circulator will arrive at their stop. To download the free Bethesda Circulator  app, visit your smart phone or tablet’s App store and type “Bethesda Circulator” into the search tool.

Android users should type in “bup” when prompted for an account code while downloading the app.

BUP promotes the service as a way to get to and from Metro but it also hopes people use it as a way to park in less popular parking garages before hitching a ride to activity centers such as Bethesda Row.

BUP officials have received plenty of requests to expand the shuttle route to places such as Battery Lane and Bradley Boulevard. But any expansion relies on increased funding. BUP’s transportation, marketing, beautification and programming activities rely largely on parking fees collected at public garages, lots and curbside meters in the downtown.

Via BUP

by Aaron Kraut — October 14, 2014 at 3:25 pm 302 0

Bethesda Metro StationIf you regularly use the Bethesda Metro station you may be eligible to help Metro test new payment methods for its “next-generation fare payment system.”

Metro on Tuesday announced it has started recruiting up to 3,000 riders to take part in the pilot program.

Riders selected will use transit cards, contactless bank cards or mobile wallet apps on their smartphones to ride Metrorail and Metrobus, plus pay for parking at some locations.

Metro will install the new-generation faregates at 10 stations and on six bus routes, including the Bethesda Metro station and J4 bus route that runs from the Bethesda station to College Park.

Customers who regularly travel between Bethesda, Ballston, Eisenhower Ave, Farrugut West, Gallery Place, Navy Yard, Pentagon, Pentagon City, Shady Grove and Suitland could be eligible for the pilot. Metro will test the parking payment methods at Shady Grove and Suitland.

For more information and to apply, see Metro’s page describing the program.

by Aaron Kraut — October 9, 2014 at 10:10 am 504 4 Comments

Kenk's amphipod, Photos via Brett Hartl/Center for Biological DiversityThe Friends of the Capital Crescent Trail is going to plan B to find a group of endangered shrimp-like creatures it says would be harmed by construction of the Purple Line light rail.

The Friends group (FCCT) on Wednesday asked the Town of Chevy Chase for another grant — this time $25,388 that would mostly go toward DNA testing of the water and sediment of Rock Creek and Coquelin Run. FCCT claims the testing would let researchers from the University of South Dakota “determine that a seep is occupied even if they do not capture a specimen.”

The FCCT and two environmentalists in the Town filed a federal lawsuit in August seeking to stop the Purple Line, which they said would degrade and harm the habitats of two species of amphipods – the small, shrimp-like creatures known to live in seeps along Rock Creek in Washington, D.C.

With the help of a $15,000 grant from the Town of Chevy Chase, the FCCT hired American University biologist Dr. David Culver to survey for amphipods last winter and spring near the proposed Purple Line route.

He didn’t find any amphipods, but did find new areas of seeps and wetlands where three species of amphipods could live, FCCT claimed.

“These three species are rare and elusive,” the FCCT wrote in its grant request. “Therefore, [Culver] may not find them even if they do inhabit the seeps. Having a DNA test to supplement his survey make it much more likely that he could detect the presence of the species.”

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