2013 | News

AAA Mid-Atlantic Against Taking Lanes For Bus Rapid Transit

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AAA 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