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Aug 3 12

Panel will Discuss Montgomery’s BRT Plans

by Matt Johnson
BRT in Los Angeles

BRT in Los Angeles. Image from LACMTA.

If you live or work in Montgomery County, you’ve probably heard about the ambitious plans to build Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) here. You can learn more about the proposal at a panel discussion in Silver Spring this Wednesday.

Bus Rapid Transit is a type of transit using buses, which can include many of the aspects normally associated with light rail. Attributes like reserved lanes, all-door boarding, traffic signal priority, and off-board fare collection speed up buses, and allow transit riders to get where they’re going faster.

The county has announced plans to build as much as 160 miles worth of BRT in Montgomery, to bring quick transit to as many residents as possible.

The Coalition for Smarter Growth is organizing the panel, and its Executive Director, Stewart Schwartz will be moderating. Panelists are members of the Transit Task Force, and will discuss where the lines will go, how it will work, and where the funding will come from.

If you’d like to learn more or be a part of the discussion, the free panel will be held at the Silver Spring Civic Building at 1 Veterans Place in Downtown Silver Spring. The panel, on Wednesday, August 8, will start at 7:00 p.m., and doors will open at 6:30.

If you plan to attend, please RSVP.

May 14 12

Connecting our “Life Sciences Triangle”

by joshua sloan

On a recent trip to Savannah, we not only had a wonderful time – we learned a few unexpected things. There’s more to the city than the beautiful downtown (with omnipresent SCAD buildings), there’s the economy built on an infrastructure that allows Savannah to be the fourth busiest port in the country (according to our boat tour guide) linked to an extensive heavy rail system. And evidence was obvious on the river – even from the window of the restaurant where we had lunch one day. Transit, however, is generally absent; the free Downtown Transportation (DOT) bus is fine, but it covers an area that’s easy enough to walk.

Freighter Heading up the Savannah River

MoCo’s economy seems more diverse than Savannah’s, but is becoming focused on the life sciences, especially in the fields of health and biotech research. Our own Life Sciences Triangle is beginning to take form – between Bethesda, the Great Seneca Science Corridor, and the White Oak Science Gateway. Two keys ensuring the success of this vision will be linking these areas together and ensuring that there is a robust, mixed use, 24/7 economy around these key nodes. Generally, the latter is a matter of zoning and these areas are developing (or have the potential to develop) with housing, retail service, and employment opportunities. The former, however, is more difficult. Luckily, the early stages of creating transit links are completed and schedules are moving forward.

In the recently published ULI report, Infrastructure 2012, Montgomery County’s Intercounty Connector (ICC) is highlighted as an example of link connecting parts of our suburbs. Unfortunately, the examples of transit systems implementing visions similar to our Life Sciences Triangle are New England’s Knowledge Corridor and North Carolina’s Research Triangle.

But there is hope. The general alignment for the Purple Line transit link between the Bethesda and New Carollton Metro stations has been set since 2009 and several planning studies are being done for areas around key nodes along the line: Takoma Langley Crossroads, Chevy Chase Lake, Long Branch, and Lyttonsville-Rosemary Hills. Another study is ongoing: the Countywide Transit Corridors Functional Master Plan, which will be followed up by a BRT – Land Use Plan. Of course, the Zoning Ordinance Rewrite is also ongoing and being coordinated so that we will have the zoning implementation tools necessary to help these new opportunities succeed.

BRT Proposed Network

And now, the Corridor Cities Transitway (CCT) locally preferred alternative was announced by the Governor’s office on May 11th (press release not online yet) and the schedule has been laid out to implement phase 1 – from Shady Grove Metro station to the Metropolitan Grove MARC station, with service to begin in 2020.

CCT Phase 1

Funding is, of course, a huge issue. But, as Infrastructure 2012 points out, that there are numerous options as budgets and federal funding become constricted, such as:

  • Fuel taxes
  • Vehicle taxes and fees
  • Sales and use taxes
  • Public/private partnerships
  • Tolls
  • Vehicle mileage fees; and
  • Tax Increment Financing/Special Assessment Districts

There also will remain some Transportation Infrastructure Finance & Innovation Act funds designed to leverage these more local alternatives, and a combination of various sources is likely.

Each of these funding sources have been used by various municipalities and the pros/cons and a few examples are laid out well in the report. It’s time to look carefully at the next steps to implement these links and build on the vision that is just beginning to take shape around our evolving, focused economy.

Jan 19 12

The BRT Experience

by claudia kousoulas

does this bus have empathy?

While the Planning Board, staff, and County are facing down the challenges of retro-fitting bus rapid transit into the suburbs, some transit planners are thinking about the soulfulness of mass transit.

Beyond the engineering and economic  calculations, the languge used to describe the service, its frequency and legibility, whether you can eat on a train car or check your email all contribute to how you feel about transit and whether you’re likely to use it.

I am not a frequent Metro user, but when I think about a local trip I consider it an alternative. I usually find it timely and convenient, but am always stymied by figuring the fare. Am I in the peak or peak of the peak? And when will I be coming back? And why do I have to do math while I’m standing there? Quick, how much is $3.65 and $2.85, what bills do I have in my wallet to pay, and is it any wonder I have fare cards tucked into books and coat pockets worth a nickel a piece?

I know, get a smartcard. But here’s where our funny thinking about transit kicks in. I’m willing to carry $25.00 on my EZPass for the rare occasions I travel north of Baltimore, but not on a smartcard for a transit system in my own backyard. Why?

That’s the kind of human factor explored in this article about transit and that’s something to remember about transportation planning. No matter how perfect the system, it’s still used by human beings.

Dec 14 11

If You Think There’s Too Much Traffic Now…

by claudia kousoulas

…imagine if hundreds of thousands of people didn’t take Metro everyday. That trip to Tyson’s Corner malls would be a Christmas time nightmare everyday.

A recent WMATA study modeled the region without transit to measure economic benefits–property values increased, jobs in a regional economy, freeway lanes and parking garages not built.

It’s clear that quality of life comes from a complex set public and private investments and variety in housing, transportation, recreation can feed that complexity.