As most of us are aware, the Greater Washington, D.C. area is known for having some of the worst traffic congestion in the country. Montgomery County, however, is taking action to change this pattern of traffic in the D.C. area. As we have discussed in many past posts, MoCo is bringing a Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) program to the county.
Councilmember Roger Berliner and Chair of the Montgomery County Planning Board Francoise Carrier reinforced the need for this BRT program in an article for the Washington Post back in December 2013.
To start off, they pointed out that building more roads in the county will not decrease our traffic. So this leaves only so many options for the county, those often labelled “transit-oriented” options. BRT is not a new program for the US and MoCo can certainly follow these successful examples. BRT is a great option “[b]ecause it is the least costly, most flexible and fastest solution to implement.” The county shifted their focus from a light-rail option contemplated under the Corridor Cities Transitway project to connect Montgomery County when it found that BRT was a more viable, easier, and faster solution to move people around the county. The county found that building a network of bus transit routes or corridors connecting areas of high traffic congestion and demand will be more successful in decreasing traffic.
The BRT relies on a dedicated bus lane, in order to make the bus rapid and reliable. MoCo plans to have 80 miles of dedicated bus lanes, which will be the “largest network of dedicated lanes anywhere in the country.” The main goal for the BRT program is to appeal to people who are drivers. MoCo is taking a person-centered or “person throughput” approach that many community planners and developers choose to use. This means that the plan is focused on how to move people, not how to move cars. Berliner and Carrier ask that residents give as much community input as they can because this project will bring many changes to communities and neighborhoods throughout the county that we hope will be positive for all residents.
To ease tensions and issues that may arise from change, the BRT system will come in phases. The hopes are to start in the most critical and crowded corridors: Route 355 (Rockville Pike) and Route 29 (Columbia Pike). Bringing a dedicated bus lane to Rockville Pike will help decrease traffic congestion and safety issues for our present and future residents of the White Flint district. The rapid transit system for allow for more county residents to frequent stores, restaurants, and services in the county without the use of a car, which we hope will bring economic and social growth to the county. For White Flint district specifically, we hope the rapid transit system will allow for all types of county residents to frequent our amenities and services, not just those with access to a car.
Therefore, to increase the county’s ability to be a powerful agent of change for transit-oriented development, Berliner and Carrier plea for residents to understand that the BRT system is “worth doing.” This article is a reminder of why BRT is so important for the D.C. area. Friends of White Flint is a strong supporter of the BRT program and we are looking forward to the implementation of the network.
Want to learn more about how it will affect White Flint? Come to our Annual Meeting on May 29th and hear from Communities for Transit’s David Hauck. His presentation lets you visualize exactly what we’re talking about!