Monday, November 9, 2015


Ike Leggett is reasonably not submitting legislation to create a Transit Authority to create a bus rapid transit system in Montgomery County at the present time.  Bus rapid transit would involve fairly extensive infrastructure investments including dedicated bus lanes, and the cost of just the first few segments on Rockville Pike, Columbia Pike, and Veirs Mill Road has been estimated to be $1.6 billion with operating costs exceeding $50 million per year.

As someone who relies exclusively on walking and buses to get around, I think that BRT is a bad idea for Montgomery County at the present time.  MetroExtra bus service, such as the J4 and K9 routes serving our area, offers all of its benefits of faster and reliable service with the additional advantages of much greater flexibility in service and much less need for expensive investment and extensive engineering.  Rather than continuing to study BRT, the county would be better served by revisiting some of its previous proposals, such as the extremely desirable C9 MetroExtra route that would run from Prince George's Plaza to Twinbrook Metro along the same route as the current C4 Metrobus.  As anyone who has ridden the C4 knows, that bus is packed along University Boulevard during the morning and evening rush, so much so that it's impossible to get a seat from the Crossroads area all the way until the bus nears Wheaton.

Of course, 90% to 95% of those riders are usually hard-working members of the working class, many of them Latino and increasingly African immigrants, who are traveling to jobs and jobs sites up and down University.  The other 5% are usually high school students, mostly African-American and Latino, going to Northwood and Blair.  And then there's me, the precariously middle class gringo who can't see well enough to safely operate a motor vehicle.  Bus rapid transit isn't going to make the vast majority of middle class Montgomery County residents any more likely to want to ride a bus than MetroExtra service has or will.  What's needed to increase bus ridership among this group is a change in attitude and habit toward public transit use, which can only be fostered by working to increase transit-oriented development.  When people live and work in areas served by fast, reliable, and fairly ubiquitous public transportation, then they come to assume that they can get where they need to go without using a car.  Unfortunately, we still have a long way to go to make this change happen.  

1 comment:

  1. Nice to see a blog focusing on the Takoma/Langley area, keep up the great work! Regarding this post, I understand your thoughts on BRT and concerns about the cost.

    A question I have: as someone who rides the C2/C4 often towards Wheaton from the Langley Park area, have you noticed any significant delays on University Blvd through the Beltway bridge work zone approaching Four Corners? I ask because I live right near there (on Williamsburg Drive) and I haven't noticed any serious delays since the narrowing in April 2014, despite the fact that the road has lost 2 travel lanes and a turn lane due to the construction.

    If University can function adequately now with 4 travel lanes on a stretch carrying 43,000 vehicles per day (SHA AADT Data), then it would be logical to convert the right lanes to bus lanes on most of the stretch between Wheaton and Langley Park. The area immediately surrounding the Four Corners intersection warrants more discussion, but I've given this idea much thought and I think it's do-able if a couple things happen first (mainly having to do with changes to the signal at Lexington & University, which is horribly timed right now due to both the odd configuration of that intersection, and the SHA's need for all-red periods/clearance time between phases).

    So basically, if we get the C9 in a couple years (fingers crossed), and convert the right lanes to bus lanes with some new markings, we pretty much get defacto BRT for minimal costs and no actual construction (except adding signage and some bus stop improvements). The SHA already owns a thermoplastic truck (type of vehicle that "paints" the road), so re-marking the road would have low costs and probably only take a couple weeks to do (since it could be an in-house operation, no need for the contract bidding process). There will also be some costs for increased law enforcement to ensure the lanes are respected, but this corridor could use some increased traffic enforcement anyway, considering some of the dangerous stuff I see drivers doing every day on University Blvd.

    Let me know what you think, thanks!