Montgomery County Executive Isiah Leggett wants the Maryland Transit Administration to reconsider its proposal to shut down a commuter bus that delivers people from Columbia, Burtonsville and Olney to the Walter Reed Military Medical Center Campus.
In a letter to MTA administrator Ralign Wells, Leggett said a 45 percent increase in personel at the Walter Reed National Military Medical Center means the county and state must work to encourage greater use of mass transit in the area, not diminish it. He pointed to a traffic mitigation plan developed by the Montgomery County and Maryland Departments of Transportation that touted greater access to transit as one of its key elements.
In June, the MTA will hold public hearings on the proposed closure of ICC Commuter Bus No. 203, which an MTA spokesperson told us earlier this week is averaging fewer than 15 riders per trip. MTA had projected an average of about 20 riders per trip with that number growing to 30 riders per trip over a 24-month period.
Leggett asks the MTA to look at targeted outreach efforts or a redesign of services as a way to redeploy resources the agency says can be better used elsewhere:
Bethesda is one of the most significant employment hubs in Maryland, with traffic congestion that demands greater use of rapid transit alternatives rather than a reduction in service. With the passage of the Base Realignment and Closure (BRAC) law in 2005 that established the Walter Reed National Military Medical Center (WRNMMC) in Bethesda, 3,600 personnel have relocated from the former Walter Reed Army Medical Center in Washington, D.C. It is important to note that this 45 percent increase in personnel at Walter Reed-Bethesda took place directly across Rockville Pike from the National Institutes of Health which has approximately 18,000 personnel.
Collaborating with the Navy, NIH and the local community, the Maryland and Montgomery County Departments of Transportation worked together to devise a comprehensive traffic mitigation strategy that had three key elements to improve mobility and pedestrian safety near WRNMMC. Those elements included: projects to provide short-term operational improvements to nearby major intersections; long-term improvements to provide greater access to and promote greater use of transit; and improvements to pedestrian and bicycle facilities for safe, walkable communities near the medical center. The biggest project which is just about to get under way is the Multimodal Crossing Project at the Medical Center Metro Station, a project that will encourage greater use of bus and rail transit by creating new and safer entrances…
…I understand and appreciate MTA’s need to make better use of available resources. The County continues to need additional transit opportunities for its residents and to encourage more drivers to get out of their cars. There may be opportunities to attract more riders through schedule modification, targeted outreach efforts or a redesign of services. I encourage you to consider redeploying these resources, and I ask that you review and consider putting additional transit resources to the Bethesda BRAC and Shady Grove Life Sciences areas.
Montgomery County BRAC Implementation coordinator Phil Alperson said he will give the county’s view at a public hearing on June 6 in Gaithersburg. Ilaya Hopkins, a Bethesda civic activist and member of the Walter Reed BRAC Integration Committee, is expected to join him.
Arlington County transportation planner and blogger Dan Malouff called the move a “classic bait and switch from highway builders,” who promise a multimodal road to build political support for a project before cutting those other modes later.
Flickr photo by thisisbossi
UPDATE 6:10 p.m. Some in Bethesda are unhappy with the Maryland Transit Administration’s recent proposal to shut down a commuter bus that delivers people from Columbia, Burtonsville and Olney to the Walter Reed Military Medical Center Campus.
The MTA has given notice of three public hearings in which it will propose to shut down three commuter buses that use the ICC because of low ridership. Bus No. 203 delivers people from the Route 29 and upper-Georgia Avenue corridors to Bethesda’s traffic-heavy section of Rockville Pike at the secure Walter Reed base.
Ilaya Hopkins, a civic activist and member of the Walter Reed BRAC Integration Committee, will testify against shutting down the commuter bus at a June 6 hearing in Gaithersburg. Bethesda residents involved in Walter Reed’s BRAC move to the Naval Military Medical Center have long been concerned with added traffic from a large increase in employees traveling to the base.
Phil Alperson, Montgomery County’s BRAC coordinator, said he will also testify against the route cuts. Members of the Western Montgomery County Citizens Advisory Board agreed to oppose the discontinuation of the route at their meeting on Monday.
Arlington County transportation planner and blogger Dan Malouff called the move a “classic bait and switch from highway builders,” who promise a multimodal road to build political support for a project before cutting those other modes later.
“What we’ve done is simply make some proposals,” said MTA spokesperson Terry Owens. “But we’ve looked at ridership on some of the routes and they have not met expectations, thus the proposal is to consider scaling those back to reallocate those resources.”
If the MTA follows through on the proposals, the 203, 202 and 205 routes would be discontinued on August 1.
Owens said the MTA anticipated having an average of about 20 riders per trip with that number growing to 30 riders per trip over a 24-month period. The 203 route is averaging fewer than 15 riders per trip.
“It’s those kinds of numbers that have us taking a look at this and scheduling these public hearings,” Owens said. “We are talking to elected officials, stakeholders and others about our proposal. Certainly, we want input from a wide cross-section before we make any decision.”
Flickr photo by BeyondDC
Bethesda Transportation Solutions had more than 600 people register for its Bike To Work Day festivities on Woodmont Avenue this morning, one of many local “pit-stops” around the area today.
The 13th annual event is meant to encourage bicycle commuting. Getting commuters out of congestion-creating single-occupancy cars and using other forms of transportation is the objecctive for Bethesda Transportation Solutions, a division of the Bethesda Urban Partnership.
District 16 Delegates Ariana Kelly and Susan Lee presented a proclamation from the state of Maryland celebrating the event, which included a bike raffle from Griffin Cycle (4949 Bethesda Ave.), on-site bike registration from Montgomery County Police, and giveaways and information from bike organizations such as the Washington Area Bicyclist Association.
Comptroller Peter Franchot made an appearance. County Councilmember Roger Berliner (D-Bethesda) and Bethesda-Chevy Chase Regional Services director Ken Hartman presented a Montgomery County proclamation recognizing Bike To Work Day.
BTS also presented two bike commuters with a “Bicycle Spirit Award.”
CORRECTION: The added right lane on northbound 355 after Cedar Lane will extend to a point just north of Locust Hill Road, not all the way to the Beltway junction.
Also a clarification: $40 million of the referenced $90 million in federal funding will go toward the pedestrian tunnel crossing at the South Drive intersection. The federal government is providing another approximately $28 million from a separate fund for the project, bringing the rough cost to $68 million. The approximate federal haul for the four intersection projects is $50 million, plus $9.4 million in earmarks from FY 2008-2010.
ORIGINAL POST: Naval Support Activity Bethesda (NSAB) says it takes between 10 and 15 minutes to drive from downtown Bethesda to the Beltway/I-270 junction during rush hour on northbound 355.
The 1.5-mile stretch has become one of the region’s most notorious chokeholds, with added traffic traveling to and from the now-merged Walter Reed National Military Medical Center using intersections that local transportation officials said were already failing.
With both Walter Reed and across-the-street neighbor NIH planning to add employees over the next two decades, the federal government has provided millions in funding to help the Maryland State Highway Administration and Montgomery County try to lighten the traffic load.
We took a trip up Rockville Pike/Wisconsin Avenue starting at 4:30 p.m., on the early end of the after-work rush hour. Starting with the left turn onto Wisconsin Avenue from Woodmont Avenue on the edge of downtown Bethesda, it took ten minutes and four seconds to get to the ramp for I-270 north, a distance of 1.6 miles.
The video, with facts, figures and details of some of the intersection and improvement projects to come, is above. If you don’t feel like reliving that commute, all of the information in the video is supplied after the jump.
The National Weather Service has issued a Winter Weather Advisory for Montgomery County from 4 a.m. Friday until 10 a.m.
Forecasters say the Washington area could see a wintry mix of snow, sleet and freezing rain with accumulation of up to one inch, much less than the monster snows cities such as Boston and New York are expecting.
… WINTER WEATHER ADVISORY IN EFFECT FROM 4 AM TO 10 AM EST FRIDAY…
THE NATIONAL WEATHER SERVICE IN BALTIMORE MD/WASHINGTON HAS ISSUED A WINTER WEATHER ADVISORY FOR A WINTRY MIX OF SNOW… SLEET AND FREEZING RAIN… WHICH IS IN EFFECT FROM 4 AM TO 10 AM EST FRIDAY.
* PRECIPITATION TYPE… SNOW… SLEET AND FREEZING RAIN.
* ACCUMULATIONS… SNOW AND SLEET ACCUMULATION UP TO 1 INCH. UP TO A FEW HUNDREDTHS OF AN INCH OF ICE FROM FREEZING RAIN.
* TIMING… PRECIPITATION WILL OVERSPREAD THE AREA EARLY FRIDAY MORNING AND TRANSITION TO RAIN BY MID MORNING.
* TEMPERATURES… LOWER 30S.
* WINDS… EAST 5 MPH OR LESS.
* IMPACTS… ANY UNTREATED SURFACES WILL BECOME ICY… ESPECIALLY ON ELEVATED SURFACES… DURING THE MORNING COMMUTE.
A WINTER WEATHER ADVISORY MEANS THAT PERIODS OF SNOW… SLEET… OR FREEZING RAIN WILL CAUSE TRAVEL DIFFICULTIES. BE PREPARED FOR SLIPPERY ROADS AND LIMITED VISIBILITIES… AND USE CAUTION WHILE DRIVING.
The accident has the right lane blocked off near Pooks Hill Road, between the Walter Reed and NIH campuses and the Beltway.
Police have requested the green lights be extended along northbound Rockville Pike/Wisconsin Avenue for afternoon traffic leaving Bethesda.
Photo via TrafficLand.com.
Duncan Confident He Will Win 2014 County Executive Race — Doug Duncan, the former three-term county executive who will run again in 2014, says there is “no doubt” in his mind he will win the already jam-packed race. Councilmembers Phil Andrews (D-Gaithersburg), Valerie Ervin (D-Silver Spring) and George Leventhal (D-At large) of Takoma Park have all either said they will run or strongly indicated they will. County Executive Isiah Leggett (D), who followed Duncan, has yet to say whether he would run for a third term. [The Gazette]
Bethesda-Chevy Chase High School Promotes JV Football Coach — Former B-CC JV football coach Josh Singer will take over the varsity head coaching spot left by Rich Noland when Noland stepped down to spend more time with his family. Noland led the Barons to three straight winning seasons and back-to-back playoff appearances for the first time in at least 40 years. Singer, 28, came to B-CC in 2006 and teaches social studies. [Washington Post]
Report Says Washington Drivers Have The Worst Commute In The Country — The report, from the Texas A&M Transportation Institute, says Washington drivers needed three hours for a trip that should take 30 minutes without traffic. It rates Washington as worse than other notoriously bad traffic cities Los Angeles, San Francisco-Oakland and New York-Newark. [AP via WTOP]
Flickr pool photo by Andrew-Benson
Because of pavement temperatures below 20 degrees, the SHA will not pre-treat roads using salt brine that could freeze. Salt from Thursday’s snow removal operations remains on many roadways but SHA officials still warn of slippery and icy conditions during the Friday evening rush.
“We ask that all drivers take their time traveling Friday afternoon and plan ahead. It will be important to watch the weather and time your travel to avoid driving during the snow storm. Rush hour and winter precipitation are a terrible combination since SHA’s snow removal efforts can be severely hampered by traffic, crashes and disabled vehicles – making it difficult for crews to salt and plow the highways,” SHA administration Melinda Peters said in a press release.
The SHA also said schools are likely to adjust their schedules to give its crews space to work. Montgomery County Schools will close two-and-a-half hours early today.
Some more tips for this afternoon’s drive:
• Fill your gas tank, make sure you have window washer fluid, an ice scraper, a charged cell phone and an alternate travel plan should crashes or other incidents block your normal route.
• Listen to commercial traffic reports so you know the latest traffic impacts. Call 511 using a hands-free device.
• If snow starts mid-day, considerer delaying travel until after the snow stops. SHA crews work to achieve bare pavement within four hours after a storm stops. If you do travel, have realistic expectation and be patient.
• Drive focused – Maryland law prohibits hand-held cell phone use and texting while driving.
• Buckle up! It’s the law in Maryland and your number one defense in a crash.
• Move over to an adjacent travel lane away from emergency personnel – a new Maryland law requires it.
• Allow extra time for unexpected delays.
• Slow down and pay attention, avoiding distractions such as cell-phone use, changing CDs and eating. Observe all posted speed limits.
The National Weather Service says around an inch of snow accumulation is possible from midnight to 9 a.m. tomorrow.
It issued a Winter Weather Advisory this afternoon:
…WINTER WEATHER ADVISORY IN EFFECT FROM MIDNIGHT TONIGHT TO 9 AM EST THURSDAY…THE NATIONAL WEATHER SERVICE IN BALTIMORE MD/WASHINGTON HAS ISSUED A WINTER WEATHER ADVISORY FOR SNOW… WHICH IS IN EFFECT FROM MIDNIGHT TONIGHT TO 9 AM EST THURSDAY.
* PRECIPITATION TYPE…SNOW
* ACCUMULATIONS…AROUND AN INCH.
* TIMING…OVERNIGHT INTO EARLY THURSDAY MORNING.
* TEMPERATURES…UPPER TEENS AND LOWER 20S.
* WINDS…NORTHEAST 5 TO 10 MPH OVERNIGHT BECOMING NORTH 10 TO 20 MPH THURSDAY MORNING.
* IMPACTS…ANY UNTREATED SURFACES WILL BECOME SNOW COVERED AND SLIPPERY. ANY SNOW COVERED SURFACES WILL REMAIN SLIPPERY THROUGH THE MORNING RUSH.
PRECAUTIONARY/PREPAREDNESS ACTIONS…A WINTER WEATHER ADVISORY MEANS THAT PERIODS OF SNOW WILL CAUSE TRAVEL DIFFICULTIES. BE PREPARED FOR SLIPPERY ROADS AND LIMITED VISIBILITIES…AND USE CAUTION WHILE DRIVING.
The freezing temperatures could make for a tricky morning commute. The Washington Post’s Capital Weather Gang says another dusting could come during the Friday evening rush hour.
After issuing a Winter Storm Warning of as much as five inches of snow for Montgomery County, the National Weather Service now says the area is under a Winter Storm Advisory, meaning one to three inches of accumulation:
… WINTER WEATHER ADVISORY IN EFFECT FROM 10 AM THIS MORNING TO 1 AM EST FRIDAY…
THE NATIONAL WEATHER SERVICE IN BALTIMORE MD/WASHINGTON HAS ISSUED A WINTER WEATHER ADVISORY FOR SNOW… WHICH IS IN EFFECT FROM 10 AM THIS MORNING TO 1 AM EST FRIDAY. THE WINTER STORM WATCH IS NO LONGER IN EFFECT.
* PRECIPITATION TYPE… SNOW.
* ACCUMULATIONS… 1 TO 3 INCHES.
* TIMING… OCCASIONAL RAIN THIS MORNING WILL MIX WITH AND THEN CHANGE TO SNOW EARLY THIS AFTERNOON. PERIODS OF SNOW ARE POSSIBLE IN THE LATE AFTERNOON AND EVENING. SNOW MAY BE LOCALLY HEAVY AT TIMES… ESPECIALLY SOUTH OF WASHINGTON DC. SNOW WILL COME TO AN END TONIGHT.
* TEMPERATURES… IN THE MID 30S.
* WINDS… NORTHWEST 5 TO 10 MPH.
* IMPACTS… ROADS MAY BECOME SNOW COVERED… ESPECIALLY DURING THE EVENING RUSH HOUR.
A WINTER WEATHER ADVISORY FOR SNOW MEANS THAT PERIODS OF SNOW WILL CAUSE PRIMARILY TRAVEL DIFFICULTIES. BE PREPARED FOR SNOW COVERED ROADS AND LIMITED VISIBILITIES… AND USE CAUTION WHILE DRIVING.
The State Highway Administration is warning drivers to be cautious in the afternoon rush hour. SHA crews will not be able to apply salt brine to the roads before any snow because the storm will likely start as rain.
“Many commuters, especially south of Baltimore, should get into work with little difficulty, but may experience wintry conditions by Thursday afternoon’s rush hour. Each of us needs to assume the worst and have a plan,” SHA administrator Melinda B. Peters said in a press release. “Storms during afternoon rush hours pose certain challenges because SHA snow plows are driving in rush hour traffic, making snow clearing more difficult. If the forecast calls for snow during any commute and you want to avoid hours of traffic congestion, it is best to leave early, telecommute or stay late until the snow stops.”
The National Weather Services says the D.C. area could be hit with five inches of snow tomorrow, though others are already disputing that forecast.
Still, the NWS has issued a Winter Storm Watch from Thursday morning through Thursday night for Montgomery County that calls for heavy snow with accumulations in excess of five inches possible. Whatever the case, rain or snow is expected to continue causing problems during tomorrow’s p.m. rush hour:
WINTER STORM WATCH IN EFFECT FROM THURSDAY MORNING THROUGH LATE THURSDAY NIGHT…
THE NATIONAL WEATHER SERVICE IN BALTIMORE MD/WASHINGTON HAS ISSUED A WINTER STORM WATCH…WHICH IS IN EFFECT FROM THURSDAY MORNING THROUGH LATE THURSDAY NIGHT.
* PRECIPITATION TYPE…SNOW…POSSIBLY HEAVY AT TIMES.
* ACCUMULATIONS…IN EXCESS OF 5 INCHES POSSIBLE.
* TIMING…SNOW MAY MIX WITH RAIN AT THE ONSET…ESPECIALLY SOUTH OF WASHINGTON DC THURSDAY MORNING…BEFORE CHANGING TO ALL SNOW LATE THURSDAY MORNING AND AFTERNOON. SNOW WILL END THURSDAY NIGHT. SNOW MAY BE HEAVY AT TIMES DURING THE AFTERNOON AND EVENING.
* TEMPERATURES…IN THE LOWER TO MID 30S.
* WINDS…NORTHWEST 5 TO 10 MPH WITH GUSTS UP TO 20 MPH.
* IMPACTS…ROADS MAY BECOME SNOW COVERED…ESPECIALLY DURING THE EVENING RUSH HOUR.
A WINTER STORM WATCH MEANS THERE IS A POTENTIAL FOR SIGNIFICANT SNOW ACCUMULATIONS THAT MAY IMPACT TRAVEL. CONTINUE TO MONITOR THE LATEST FORECASTS.
Plenty of people complain about traffic congestion in Bethesda.
That’s the constant challenge facing Kristen Blackmon and her staff at Bethesda Transportation Solutions, a division of the nonprofit, county-funded Bethesda Urban Partnership charged with getting cars off downtown Bethesda roads by encouraging biking, telework, the use of mass transit and other ways to avoid rush hours.
“No one wants to get on a bus and have no idea where they’re going to end up. We’ve had people tell us they’re afraid of putting their bike on the bus. They don’t want to look dumb or hold up the bus driver,” Blackmon said. “There’s this sort of barrier that we have to break, calming the fears.”
BTS works directly with Bethesda employers, serving as a middleman of sorts for negotiating the state’s Commuter Tax Credit process, which provides benefits to companies that offer transit subsidies. BTS helps businesses set up teleworking systems and even will act as a “commuter buddy,” a one-on-one consultation for commuters new to the bus system or bike routes.
Still, motivating employees to embrace alternative options is difficult, even as America’s car-based culture declines.
“One of the biggest things employers tell me is, ‘What can you tell me that I can tell my employees to get out of their car that I’m not already doing,’” said BTS outreach representative Derrick Harrigan, who acts as a face-to-face liaison to Bethesda businesses. “They could be providing a subsidy already and just not getting a lot of people using it.”
The Town of Chevy Chase Council discussed the idea in its meeting last week. Town manager Todd Hoffman said the concept is still in a conceptual stage, with a final determination on whether to establish the service still ahead.
The Council will likely discuss it again at its December meeting and if it decides to go ahead, a public hearing would be held.
“We’re still trying to gather data and trying to gauge if we did it, how long a contract it would be,” Hoffman said. “Maybe it would just be a short-term test to see if people really use it.”
The Town will also look at results from a recent community survey that asked residents whether they’d use a shuttle service to and from downtown Bethesda.
The Bethesda Urban Partnership, the county-funded nonprofit in charge of maintaining and marketing Bethesda, took over operation of a similar shuttle service within downtown Bethesda in 2006 and a few years ago upgraded it with new vehicles to start the Bethesda Circulator.
It includes stops in Woodmont Triangle, the Bethesda Metro station and Bethesda Row, a north-to-south route that does not cross Wisconsin Avenue.
One of the closest Circulator stops to the Town of Chevy Chase is in Bethesda Row, at the intersection of Woodmont and Bethesda Avenues, which requires a walk through the Capital Crescent Trail tunnel to Elm Street Park.
Walter Reed Janitors Say They Haven’t Been Paid — A group of about 220 janitors at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center filed a complaint with the federal labor department claiming they did not get paid as scheduled Friday and were told to still come into work. The contractor that pays them, Gaithersburg-based Escab Enterprises, recently lost its contract on the base and stopped paying the workers’ insurance premiums in June, they allege. [The Gazette]
Montgomery Schools Boss Gives ‘State of the Schools’ Address — County Schools Superintendent Joshua Starr spoke about using creativity and technology in narrowing the achievement gap during a speech yesterday morning at the Music Center at Strathmore. [Washington Post]
Lockheed CEO Says Company Moving On — After the resignation of CEO-to-be Christopher Kubasik because of the revelation of a relationship with a subordinate, Lockheed Martin CEO Bob Stevens said the company will remain on solid ground. Kubasik was supposed to take over for Stevens on Jan. 1 at the Bethesda-based defense company. [Washington Business Journal]
Yesterday’s Morning Metro Commute, In Pictures — Metro went on with weekend repair work and single tracking yesterday morning, as federal workers were off for the observance of Veterans Day. But quite a few other people still had work, as evidenced by the clogged platforms at many stations, including Bethesda. [Washington Post]
Flickr photo by AmyMarieMoore
The State Highway Administration is warning drivers that a mix of rain and slushy snow this afternoon could make today’s after-work rush hour more sloppy than usual.
The SHA says drivers should plan for a longer than usual commute home, despite pavement temperatures that are generally above freezing. While the SHA says that should initially prevent accumulation on roads, officials want people to slow down for slippery conditions.
The SHA will not pre-treat any of its roads with salt brine because above-freezing air temperatures mean the storm will likely start with rain, which would wash away any preventative road treatment. SHA trucks will be put into action if and when the snow starts. Today’s press release claimed more than 360,000 tons of salt stocked up and ready to use this winter.
Last week, Montgomery County Department of Transportation officials gathered at their Bethesda Depot with SHA representatives, contractors and municipal snow plowing crews for their annual “snow summit.” Forecasters are predicting a more snowy than usual winter for the D.C. area.
In the press release, SHA Administrator Melinda Peters said today’s potential first snow of the winter could pose a serious challenge:
Rush hour and snow is a bad combination for commuters and for highway crews. This is central Maryland’s first winter weather this season and although it may be light, the timing couldn’t be worse. SHA crews will treat the roads with salt when it starts snowing but keep in mind, those trucks are in the same traffic on the same roads as commuters and there may be many places where the salt never reaches the road. Pavement temperatures should be warm enough that it doesn’t stick but there are no guarantees. Please give our crews space to treat roadways and plan for a potentially rough commute.