Saturday, December 5, 2015

Get on the Bus!

It looks as though there is momentum among county leadership to improve bus service.  Great!  The question appears to be how those improvements will be implemented.  County council member Hans Riemer is advocating for expansion and improvement of existing service, specifically with regard to limited-stop, express bus routes.  Hey, that's exactly what I want!  According to Bethesda Beat, "Council member Hans Riemer suggested Thursday that those pilot projects could consist of limited-stop routes along the county’s existing bus lines with the goal of speeding up how long it takes a bus to get from one end of its route to the other.  `We could have a limited-stop system operating in 2016,' Riemer said."  He also added, "At least we could start getting momentum with getting riders going. This planning is building toward construction projects that we don’t know yet how we’re going to pay for.  I just feel like all these discussions about the perfect system get in the way of making progress."

BRT advocate and fellow county council member Mark Elrich is still dismissive of such incremental approaches.  "I probably couldn’t disagree more," Elrich said. "We have fundamental problems in this county. We have a level of development coming that our infrastructure can’t support and everybody knows it. Virginia is not sitting around twiddling its thumbs saying, ‘I think we’re going to do a pilot here and a pilot there."  Elrich also proposed taxing developers of properties surrounding BRT routes to pay for their development.

Look, I favor big-budget, coercive socialist planning as much as any loyal Montgomery County resident, but why don't we begin by improving the service that we do have and thus implicitly rewarding the long-suffering residents, many of them working class and immigrants, who have been patiently riding buses for years?  Incremental but sustainable improvements are likely to actually get implemented and will increase demand for public transit.  I would love to see lanes of traffic on New Hampshire Avenue or Columbia and Rockville Pikes dedicated to bus service, but the rationale for such conversion, which would face significant opposition, will be much stronger when these corridors have developed large and growing MetroExtra bus riderships.  In the absence of such established demand, Erlich's proposals will continue to appear to be a Great Leap Forward lacking practicality in terms of need, sustainability, and expense.  


  1. Ultimately, transit only reaches it full potential with fixed-guideway service. Also, even limited-stop operations entail additional resources and planning in a already challenging political & fiscal environment. Finally, the perspectives of Councilmembers Riemer & Elrich aren't mutually exclusive, as Councilmember Roger Berliner has observed. The key is to balance innovative thinking with the practical constraints facing any major reform: a.k.a understanding the context one has to work within.

  2. I don't think that the county really has the resources (or support) for either proposal. That stated, if people including the County Executive are going to state their support for extremely expensive plans that will probably not be built anytime soon then transit users such as myself can reasonably ask why much more financially modest but potentially more useful improvements can't be made in the meantime.