The Bethesda Transportation Management District (TMD) Advisory Committee needs a resident near downtown Bethesda (map here) to take one of the committee spots reserved for the local citizens advisory board.
The TMD Advisory Committee reviews parking rates, government and private projects and pedestrian safety measures in Bethesda with the ultimate goal of increasing the amount of people who use mass transit or means other than cars to get into and out of the area.
Bethesda Transportation Solutions, a division of the Montgomery County-funded Bethesda Urban Partnership, promotes carpooling and incentives for other transportation options to cut into the daily traffic slog in and around the downtown area.
Members on the committee serve three-year terms without compensation and meet on the third Friday morning of every other month in Bethesda.
Applicants should send a brief resume detailing pertinent experience, interests and community activities by August 15 to the Western Montgomery County Citizens Advisory Board: 4805 Edgemoor Lane, Bethesda, MD 20814.
For more information contact Karen Thon at the Bethesda-Chevy Chase Regional Services Center at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Montgomery County’s bikeway coordinator said an extension of the Bethesda Trolley Trail in North Bethesda should be complete by September and it will use a street marking unique to many suburban areas.
Patricia Shepherd told the White Flint Implementation Committee on Monday that the county is prepared to begin a .29-mile extension of the trail from the northern terminus of its off-road portion at Edson Lane along Woodglen Drive to Nicholson Lane.
The Bethesda Trolley Trail is a six-mile route meant to connect the Twinbrook Metro station in Rockville with downtown Bethesda through White Flint. The off-road portion of the Trail, which includes bridges over the Beltway and I-270, runs to just south of NIH at Battery Lane.
The development of North Bethesda Market has led to concerns from bikers who use the Trail on Woodglen. A Whole Foods supermarket, parking garage entrances and curbside parking can make navigating the area difficult.
The county’s Department of Transportation hopes shifting a shared-use sidewalk from the Whole Foods side of the street to the west side of the street will help things. The county is waiting for WSSC to finish a project in the area. Then, it will remove the existing five-foot concrete sidewalk on the west side of Woodglen and add an eight-food shared-use path in its place.
In a move Shepherd said could become more common in downtown Bethesda with the introduction of Capital Bikeshare, the county will apply new lane markings to the street called sharrows. The markings mean bikers can use the full lane, just like the driver of a car.
MCDOT will remove six curbside parking spots from the street to help widen the lane, which will make it possible for cars and bikes to travel the roadway side-by-side.
Shepherd said cyclists were concerned that a traditional bike lane to the outside of regular traffic could lead to collisions with car doors that fling open in street parking spaces. She also said its important to connect the Bethesda Trolley Trail to Wall Park, which is just to the northwest of Woodglen Drive.
Last week, Montgomery County announced a public meeting on June 24 in Bethesda for residents to review Capital Bikeshare locations. Today, the county has released a map of those proposed locations.
The county’s Department of Transportation is proposing 15 Bikeshare locations in Bethesda, Chevy Chase and Friendship Heights, with stops near the area’s three Metro stations, downtown office buildings and Woodmont Triangle and Bethesda Row — Bethesda’s two main commercial areas.
The map shows MCDOT also hopes to take advantage of the popularity of the Capital Crescent and Bethesda Trolley Trails. There’s a stop dedicated to the Capital Crescent Trail on River Road, what appears to be the most isolated of the proposed locations. MCDOT also wants to take advantage of apartment housing, with stops proposed along Battery Lane and at Chevy Chase Drive and Offut Lane.
The public meeting is set for 7 p.m. to 9 p.m. on June 24 at the Bethesda-Chevy Chase Regional Services Center (4805 Edgemoor Lane). MCDOT hopes to have the system open by September. There are no proposed locations yet for the Grosvenor-Strathmore Metro area, North Bethesda or White Flint.
The full list of stops follows:
- Wisconsin Avenue and South Drive (Medical Center Metro)
- Old Georgetown and Lincoln Drive (Suburban Hospital/NIH)
- Battery Lane and Trolley Trail (Battery Lane Park)
- Norfolk and Rugby Avenues (Woodmont Triangle)
- Cordell and Woodmont Avenues (Woodmont Triangle)
- Norfolk and Fairmont Avenues (Woodmont Triangle)
- Wisconsin Avenue and East-West Highway (Bethesda Metro)
- Montgomery Lane and East Lane (Bethesda Metro)
- Montgomery Avenue and Waverly Street
- Elm and 47th Streets (Elm Street Park)
- Bethesda Avenue and Arlington Road (Bethesda Row)
- Chevy Chase Drive and Offut Lane
- River Road and Capital Crescent Trail
- Willard Avenue and Friendship Boulevard
- Western Avenue and Wisconsin Circle (Friendship Heights Metro)
Montgomery County’s much-anticipated unveiling of Capital Bikeshare stations has been set for the very end of summer. Now county transportation officials want input on proposed locations.
The Montgomery County Department of Transportation will let residents and workers review proposed locations for the estimated 11 Bethesda stations. Many will likely end up near the Friendship Heights, Bethesda, Medical Center and Grosvenor-Strathmore Metro stations.
The meeting will take place from 7 p.m. to 9 p.m. on June 24 at the Bethesda-Chevy Chase Regional Services Center (4805 Edgemoor Lane). MCDOT will also hold meetings in Silver Spring on June 25 and in Rockville on June 26, both at 7 p.m.
The county finalized a contract with its Capital Bikeshare vendor, Portland, Ore.-based vendor Alta Bicycle Share, on April 24. Alta must provide the Bikeshare equipment within a little more than 100 days after signing the contract. MCDOT’s Sande Brecher said it will take four or five months from the date of signing the contract to have the equipment come in, finalize the station locations and put the bikes and equipment down.
Bikeshare users likely won’t be the only ones interested in the meeting. Many residents have expressed safety concerns, particularly with inexperienced riders using sidewalks along pedestrians.
Flickr photo by kaszeta
A Master Plan that would set up a Bus Rapid Transit system in Montgomery County is a few significant steps away from completion. The actual installation of the system will likely take a lot longer.
So we ask you: Would you use a Bus Rapid Transit system? What factors would lead you to use a Bus Rapid Transit system? Or do you plan to stick to a personal vehicle, Metro or existing bus services?
We’ve included a map of BRT stops along MD 355 as proposed in the Draft of the Countywide Transit Corridors Functional Master Plan. To view information on all 10 transitways, including one that would extend from the Grosvenor-Strathmore Metro station west to Montgomery Mall, view the plan.
The 14 proposed BRT stations on the South MD 355 corridor include MD 355 and Hubbard Drive (Montrose Crossing Shopping Center), the White Flint Metro station, MD 355 and Security Lane (White Flint Mall), the Grosvenor-Strathmore Metro station, MD 355 and Pooks Hill Road, MD 355 and Cedar Lane, the Medical Center Metro station, MD 355 and Cordell Avenue, the Bethesda Metro station, Bradley Boulevard and MD 355 and the Friendship Heights Metro station.
The $68 million, federally-funded MD 355 Multimodal Crossing Project is supposed to help Metro riders who now must cross busy Rockville Pike to get to the Medical Center gate on the east side of the road.
The county Department of Transportation will build the tunnel, with construction expected to start in 2014 and last two years. MCDOT held an informational meeting with contractors in April and released a formal Request for Expressions of Interest on May 29.
In February, Metro gave the go-ahead for a new entrance to the station. Four new escalators and two new elevators will provide access to the tunnel from the street level on the west side of Rockville Pike. The tunnel will be just beneath the street.
On the east side of the street, three high-speed elevators will connect the pedestrian tunnel to the station platform 120 feet below ground.
MCDOT officials will update residents on their progress and go over some of the things they have presented to the county’s Walter Reed BRAC Integration Committee. The meeting is set for 7:30 p.m. on June 18 at the Bethesda-Chevy Chase Regional Services Center (4805 Edgemoor Lane), immediately after a brief meeting of the Integration Committee.
Check out the project page for more information.
Image via Montgomery County Department of Transportation
O’Malley To Name New State Transportation Secretary Today — The Washington Post reports Gov. Martin O’Malley will fill the open spot with former Baltimore County executive James T. Smith Jr. (D). The job as head of the state’s Department of Transportation has been filled on an interim basis for almost a year and will be important as the state sees new gas tax revenue geared toward the Purple Line light rail. [Washington Post]
Synagogue, Church Come Together For Spring Musical — The Beth El Congregation and Bethesda United Methodist Church are putting together a joint production of “Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat.” Members of the two longtime Bethesda religious institutions will perform on Sunday at Beth El. [The Gazette]
County Reviews Parking Ticket Process After Erroneous Bethesda Ticket — A Bethesda man who claims he had a residential permit displayed on a tinted window in the back of his car was wrongly given a $50 ticket in March and then assessed a late fee of $25 in April. After a representative from Montgomery County’s outsourced ticket management company said he would have to pay the ticket, the chief of the county’s parking management division got involved, issued an apology and reviewed went wrong. [WTOP]
Sisters Raise $300 With Gluten-Free Bake Sale — Three Bethesda sisters raised almost $300 by selling strictly gluten-free cookies, an event that started as an alternative to Girl Scout cookie sales. Some of the money will go to the National Foundation For Celiac Awareness. Celiac disease occurs in people whose immune system reacts poorly to gluten. [Bethesda-Chevy Chase Patch]
Flickr photo by ehpien
County Councilmember Roger Berliner told a Citizens Advisory Board on Monday that he sees recent changes in Bethesda’s parking fee structure as a move toward the demand pricing that cities are using to reduce circling and double parking in busier areas.
The County Council approved the County Department of Transportation’s recommendation for the new parking fee structure in the FY14 operating budget. The new system will make on-street meter parking $2 an hour, parking lot spaces $1.25 an hour and parking garage spaces 80 cents an hour starting July 1.
Existing rates are $1.25 an hour for any parking space up to four hours and 80 cents an hour for any long-term parking in excess of four hours. Parking garage spaces have been found to be the least desireable, depending on the location and time of day, with empty spaces common in some Bethesda county garages (11 and 35 for instance).
On the other side of the coin, finding a spot in Garage 40 during happy hour on Cordell Avenue or in Garage 35 as residents in Battery Lane apartment buildings return from work can be more difficult. The Lot 31 closure has also put the squeeze on Garage 57, where the bulk of Bethesda Row shop, restaurant and movie-goers park.
“We are inching towards what is called demand pricing,” Berliner told the Western Montgomery Citizens Advisory Board, “higher pricing for parking that is most in demand. So what is most in demand is street parking next to our shops.”
In San Francisco, which many point to as a pioneer of demand pricing, meter pricing can range from between 25 cents an hour to a maximum of $6 an hour, all depending on the amount of cars parked in a particular stretch. The city uses sensors to gauge how many parking meters are being used and will raise the rates on busy streets to try to ensure at least one space is open.
The goal is to reduce circling and double parking that leads to traffic. Montgomery County’s goal is to get more drivers parking in its garages instead of its street-metered spaces.
The rational choice was obvious.
A group of Italian researchers gave participants in an experiment two scenarios: Take the metro for a fixed cost or take the car for an uncertain cost determined by construction delays, traffic congestion or weather. Take a bus, with costs determined by a different combination of chance and traffic congestion, or take the car with the same uncertain costs present in the metro scenario.
The researchers gave participants feedback on the actual travel times of both modes in each scenario. The more participants chose cars, the more congestion would be factored into the travel cost.
Still, they chose cars over metro and bus by a nearly 2-to-1 ratio, despite a clear demonstration that the average cost of a car trip would be almost 50 percent more.
The study, published earlier this year and highlighted by The Atlantic Cities, demonstrates a concept Montgomery County planners are grappling with as they contemplate a Bus Rapid Transit system that would take away a general traffic lane in each direction of Rockville Pike/MD 355 and dedicate lanes inside the Beltway exclusively to a bus transitway.
The study shows people prefer their cars and are inclined to stick with them even when given a mass transit option that is, in psychological terms, more rational.
“BRT does not have the data to support ridership. It turns out the forecasting model is simply that we think people will ride a fast bus,” said Bethesda resident Robert Dyer, who got a decent amount of media attention last week after his testimony deriding the BRT proposal at a Planning Board public hearing. “This is really junk science.”
Crucial details of the proposed 79-mile, 10-corridor Bus Rapid Transit network remain to be planned. As the Countywide Transit Corridors Functional Master Plan heads to the Planning Board for deliberation and a recommendation slated for June, critics question whether BRT will be convenient enough to entice drivers out of their vehicles.
It’s a hard sell to make.
“We have the worst congestion in the United States. To suggest now that we’re going to have people just flocking to Bus Rapid Transit and therefore you won’t have as many cars makes one wonder if they’re smoking something funny,” AAA Mid Atlantic spokesperson Lon Anderson said. “Because the history clearly demonstrates that yes, you may stop the rate of growth of vehicle miles traveled, but vehicle miles traveled will continue to grow as the population grows.”
As expected, a hearing on a proposed Bus Rapid Transit system that would dedicate lanes exclusively to buses drew a wide range of opinions from a wide range of Montgomery County residents on Thursday night.
Some argued for the system, an 80-mile network of 10 bus corridors designed by county planners, as a common sense approach to solving the area’s traffic issues. Others said taking away traffic lanes for cars makes no sense. Then, there were residents — including a group from the Chevy Chase West neighborhood along Wisconsin Avenue — who argued against the proposal on the basis it won’t work for their specific communities.
The Planning Board’s public hearing on the Countywide Transit Corridors Functional Master Plan went on for more than three hours and included testimony from developers, transit advocates, bicyclists, environmentalists and one Bethesda resident who claimed the idea of taking away lanes of regular traffic was not just “a war on cars, but also a war on working families.”
“I think an anti-car attitude is just counterproductive at this point,” said Robert Dyer, blog author and one-time County Council candidate. “When the product requires sabotage of the highway system to get ridership, it’s a bad product.”
Transit advocates made the case the Bus Rapid Transit system isn’t a choice against cars, but simply a choice.
“People will tell you this evening that there’s no room for transit. That’s false,” said blogger and activist Dan Reed. “People will continue to come here and that’s a good thing, but forcing them to bring their cars isn’t. This plan isn’t about taking away from drivers, but putting those who ride transit on equal footing with them.”
The debate is particularly heated in Bethesda and Chevy Chase, where lead planner Larry Cole says Rockville Pike/MD 355 would serve as the most popular BRT transitway, capable of supporting one bus-only lane each way along the median in some of the road’s most congested stretches.
Central Farm Markets Combining Markets This Weekend — Central Farm Markets will combine its White Flint and Bethesda farmers markets into Saturday’s Pike Central Market at Mid-Pike Plaza (11810 Rockville Pike). Bethesda Central Market will be closed on Sunday due to a Bethesda Elementary School PTA fundraiser. [Central Farm Market]
B-CC Jazz Band To Perform At Bethesda Blues and Jazz — The Bethesda-Chevy Chase High School Jazz Band will take the show around the block when it performs at the Bethesda Blues and Jazz Supper Club (7719 Wisconsin Ave.) at 7:30 p.m. on Thursday, May 23. Tickets are $10. [Bethesda Blues and Jazz]
Leggett In Annapolis As O’Malley Signs Transportation Bill — County Executive Isiah Leggett was in Annapolis on Thursday as Gov. Martin O’Malley (D) signed the recently passed transportation bill and gas tax increase that will send state revenue toward county transportation projects including the Purple Line light rail. O’Malley called Leggett “a consistently strong advocate,” for the measure. Leggett first proposed raising the state’s gas tax in 2006, at a time when he says the position was particularly unpopular. [Montgomery County]
Town Of Chevy Chase Looking For Help With New Website — The Town of Chevy Chase is redesigning its website and wants help finding photos that will make it more attractive, interactive and user friendly. The photos would go in a photo gallery featuring pictures of town events, landscapes architecture and other sites. Email digital photos to Eric Glidden at email@example.com or on a CD or flash drive to the Town Office.
Flickr photo by ehpien
Judge Denies County Request To Throw Out Police Union Lawsuit — The Fraternal Order of Police Lodge 35′s lawsuit against the county will continue after a judge refused to dismiss it in April. The police union says the county illegally used taxpayer money to campaign for Question B on last fall’s ballot, which upheld the county’s decision to revoke effects bargaining rights for police. [The Gazette]
MTA Looks To Cancel Lightly-Used Bus Route — The Maryland Transit Administration will host a series of three public meetings before getting rid of a Columbia-Bethesda commuter bus route they say not many people use. [MTA]
White Flint Developer To Present Development Plan — Developer Gables Residential will hold its required pre-submittal public meeting with residents and other stakeholders at 7:30 p.m. on May 21 at the Shriver Aquatic Center (5900 Executive Blvd.). Gables wants to redevelop the area of Old Georgetown Road and Executive Boulevard, just north of the Aquatic Center and site of a future county park. [Friends of White Flint]
Flickr photo by im_apatel
The letter, issued by the Action Committee for Transit, Washington Area Bicycle Association, and a group of parents seeking traffic changes around Bethesda Elementary School, lists 10 steps for improving unsafe walking conditions the group says costs Montgomery residents millions of dollars a year.
Those steps include expanding school zones, establishing a maximum speed limit of 20 miles per hour during school hours in school zones, doubling fines for speeding in school zones, giving pedestrians an exclusive window to cross and prohibiting right turns on red during school hours.
The group cited the Dec. 11 pedestrian incident on River Road and the Feb. 27 collision near Bethesda Elementary (in which a baby in a stroller was struck by a car but not injured) as two countywide examples of why the changes should be made.
The letter was sent to Montgomery County Department of Transportation Director Art Holmes.
Since the rash of reported pedestrian collisions in the first half of 2013, police have ratcheted up enforcement. Today, Montgomery County Police started a series of pedestrian enforcement “stings” that will continue throughout May. Between 11 a.m. and 3 p.m. today, plain clothes police in bright clothing will cross a busy intersection in Aspen Hill in marked crosswalks, issuing citations to drivers that do not yield.
The county today announced an online purchasing option for all monthly Parking Convenience Stickers, known as PCS permits, and AM/PM permits for parking in non-metered spaces from 5 p.m. to 9 a.m.
That means you won’t have to head to the Cheltenham Drive garage office for a new sticker each month.
The county will mail the permits out. You can still visit the Cheltenham parking office to get permits right away.
For more information on the county’s permit system, visit the county’s parking management website.
The official announcement from the county yesterday matches up with what DOT’s Sande Brecher told a citizens advisory board last month. Brecher said Portland, Ore.-based vendor Alta Bicycle Share must provide the Bikeshare equipment within a little more than 100 days after signing the contract.
Brecher said it will take four or five months to have the equipment come in, finalize the station locations and put the bikes and equipment down.
She predicted a best-case scenario opening for most downcounty Bikeshare stations by September 21, the official last day of summer.
Specific locations for the estimated 11 Bethesda stations remain undetermined, but will likely end up near the Friendship Heights, Bethesda, Medical Center and Grosvenor-Strathmore Metro stations.
“Bikesharing can be a cost-effective, healthy way to provide better transportation connections that reduce the need to drive for short trips, provide efficient links to transit and reduce traffic congestion. Since bikesharing is low-cost and available 24/7, it may be particularly helpful for low-income residents, many of whom hold multiple jobs and try to participate in job training programs,” County Executive Isiah Leggett said in the press release. “We expect the bikeshare program to significantly expand opportunities and improve the quality of life for all our residents.”
The Capital Bikeshare program in D.C., Arlington and Alexandria has been tremendously popular, recently surpassing 2 million rides. Montgomery County officials are hoping for much of the same, though some are concerned about safety.
Last year, Councilmember Nancy Floreen (D-At large) asked the State Highway Administration to consider bike lanes and bike markings in repaving and road improvement projects.
Older residents have expressed concern about the effects a new group of potentially inexperienced cyclists will have on pedestrian safety.
Flickr photo by James D. Schwartz