BRT on Route 355 — Alternative Routes and Stops

You’ve been hearing about Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) for years and wonder when the heck it will happen. No worries: the folks at MCDOT have been busy working on this large project.  Below you’ll see some select boards from their recent Route 355 open house that contain lots of information on alternative routes, headways, and stations. You can see all the boards by clicking here.  Friends of White Flint will also host a special presentation on Route 355 BRT in May or June.

As you can see, there are numerous stops suggested for the White Flint area: Hubbard Drive, White Flint metro, Security Lane, and Grosvenor metro.

There are three possible routes for the Route 355 BRT corridor, Alternative A, B, and C. Basically the differences center on where the bus drives: in mixed traffic, in one or two BRT-only lanes in the median, or in BRT lanes along the curb.

 

 

The proposed headways in the White Flint area are buses are 7.5 minute north of Security Lane and 15 minutes south of Security Lane during peak service.

New Rockville Pike Plan Approved

The City of Rockville just unanimously passed (after years and years of discussion) a new plan for Rockville Pike. Friends of White Flint testified against their original proposal to widen Route 355 to 252′.

You can read the full plan here but below is some text from their executive summary.

The core recommendation of this plan is to redesign and reconstruct Rockville Pike as a multi-way boulevard.  Features of the primary roadway are listed below:

• Approximately 52 feet of right-of-way width for a two–directional Bus Rapid Transit (BRT)2 line in the center of the Pike with medians on either side for BRT stations and automobile left turn lanes, which widens the overall curbto-curb crossing distance of the primary roadway by about 36 feet.

• Medians provide refuge for pedestrians crossing the Pike. The 52 feet could be used as a wide median or for additional automobile lanes if the BRT line is not built, or until it is built.

• Three automobile travel lanes in each direction.

• The outer curb lane is wider (12 feet) than the other two (11-foot) lanes to accommodate local buses.

• Local buses travel in the central roadway (per Montgomery County’s Department of Transportation preference, but consideration may be given to providing the local service in the access roads).

• This infrastructure can all be built within the existing 120-foot State right-of-way.

Bethesda Beat wrote an excellent piece on this plan. They noted that he plan “allows exceptions for property owners opposed to a controversial access road concept and doesn’t include specific building height limits included in earlier versions of the plan.” These exceptions to the access road concept are for Champion Projects that would be located along the south section of the pike, contain at least five contiguous acres, provide more than the required minimum 15 percent of public space and also meet other conditions.

 

We’re not fans of Rockville’s plan to widen Route 355 to 252 feet

As promised, here are the Friends of White Flint’s thoughts on the City of Rockville’s plan to widen Route 355 north of the city border to 252 feet wide. Essentially, the City of Rockville wants to transform a two-mile section of Route 355 into a 252-foot wide boulevard, with 12 car lanes, sidewalks, on-street parking, BRT, and multiple bikeways. (Read about their plan here.)

As you know, the Pike District/White Flint area is transforming into a walkable, transit-friendly, live-work-play community. As you also know, boundaries are artificial, and to residents, shoppers, and office workers, there is no boundary between the area of Route 355 in the Pike District and the portion that falls under City of Rockville jurisdiction. They view it as one continuous community.

Everyone who has an interest in creating a vibrant community that fosters growth and livability must act in concert. We must work together to ensure that the Pike becomes a road that unites the east and west sides of Route 355 and unites the areas north and south of Montrose Road.

None of us wants the Pike to become a vast plain of asphalt that separates rather than connects. The City’s proposal to widen Route 355 to 252 feet is dramatically different than the plan for Route 355 south of Montrose Road where it will be 181 feet wide. A traffic and safety problem of that magnitude will greatly diminish the communities and businesses north of Montrose as well as those in the Pike District.

“We want walkable streets and easy access to transit” is the cry heard from businesses and residents. Widening Route 355 to 252 feet will dramatically impede not only the appearance of walkability but also the actual ability to walk across and along Rockville Pike. It is logical to assume that if there is sufficient room to include broad sidewalks, bike paths, bus rapid transit lanes, and car lanes on a 181-foot-wide Route 355 as it passes through the Pike District, there is sufficient room for all of those essential components north of Montrose Road.

The Friends of White Flint very much hopes that the City of Rockville will choose walkability, consistency, and stability and not widen Route 355 to 252 feet. 

Reimaagine Twinbrook is not affiliated with Friends, but we believe it’s worth sharing with you their campaign to stop the madness of widening Rockville Pike to 252 feet. Through Reimagine Twinbrook, you can:

Send a Letter to the Mayor and City Council:  http://reimaginetwinbrook. com/support/

Sign their new petition: http://tinyurl.com/ Reject252RockvillePike

Rockville Pike’s Neighborhood Plan from the City of Rockville

Yeah, the City of Rockville is north of the White Flint area, but we’re joined in spirit and by Route 355 which is why I want to share the City’s recently-released plan for Route 355.  Here are some highlights (since I assume most of you don’t have time to read the 140 page report.) Essentially, the City of Rockville wants to transform a two-mile section of Route 355 into a 252-foot wide boulevard, with 12 car lanes, BRT, and bikeways.

This post contains only facts and figures; Friends of White Flint’s opinion will come later. To that end, what do you think of this plan? Please add your comments to this post.

Regional projections indicate that there will be approximately 11,460 residents and 13,000 jobs in the Plan Area by 2040, compared to about 3,500 residents and 9,000 jobs in 2014.

The Plan Area contains approximately 382 acres, on both sides of and including a 1.98-mile portion of Rockville Pike. It is bounded on the north by Richard Montgomery Drive and on the south by the City’s corporate limits, near Bou Avenue. Boundaries on the western side include Wootton Parkway, the Woodmont Country Club and East Jefferson Street. The eastern boundary is the Metrorail right-of-way.

The Rockville’s Pike public process led to the identification of a set of corridor planning principles that have guided the formulation of this plan. They are:1) Livable, desirable environment enhanced by thoughtful urban design, 2) multimodal transportation, and 3) economic vitality.

Principal land use policies of this plan include the following: 1. Seek to ensure a comfortable and functional relationship between public infrastructure and the private built environment, 2. Require buildings to be adjacent to sidewalks, 3. Regulate building height by location, 4. Create smaller blocks, 5. Provide wide and pleasant sidewalks, 6. Enhance the pedestrian environment overall and especially at strategic intersections and on strategic streets, 7. Ensure a mix of uses, 8. Ensure adequacy of public facilities 9. Encourage enduring, human-scale architecture that has visual interest, 10. Provide parks, 11. Require the creation of public use space through redevelopment, 12. Promote development which, at a minimum, does not degrade existing environmental conditions, and 13. Strategically locate and right-size parking.

RockvillePikePlan3

The key purpose of the main lanes of the proposed multi-way boulevard is to carry faster-moving and non-local auto traffic, as well as local buses. Features of the primary roadway are listed below:

Approximately 52 feet of right-of-way width for a two–directional Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) line in the center of the Pike with medians on either side for BRT stations and automobile left turn lanes, which widens the overall curbto-curb crossing distance of the primary roadway by about 36 feet. Medians provide refuge for pedestrians crossing the Pike. The 52 feet could be used as a wide median or for additional automobile lanes if the BRT line is not built, or until it is built.

Three automobile travel lanes in each direction.

The outer curb lane is wider (12 feet) than the other two (11-foot) lanes to accommodate local buses.

Local buses travel in the central roadway (per Montgomery County’s Department of Transportation preference, but consideration may be given to providing the local service in the access roads).

This infrastructure can all be built within the existing 120-foot State right-of-way.

The principal transportation policies are as follows: 1. Re-design and reconstruct Rockville Pike as a multi-way boulevard, 2. Expand the street network, 3. Adhere to the City’s Complete Streets Policy, 4. Optimize access to and use of public transit.

pike 1

The key transportation element in the South Pike, on the east side, is extending Chapman Avenue north to one block beyond Congressional Lane and creating a grid connecting Rockville Pike and Chapman Avenue.

A north-south street is recommended west of the Pike, between the existing Jefferson Street and the Pike, which would continue through the Middle Pike to Edmonston Drive. Other streets would add connections between the east and west sides of the Pike and create smaller blocks. Congressional Lane is shown connecting Rockville Pike and Chapman Avenue extended, and a new street is proposed between Congressional Lane and Halpine Road.

The most important transportation element for the Middle Pike is the extension of East Jefferson Street from where it currently ends, just north of Congressional Lane, northward to Wootton Parkway.

There are no recommendations for added street grid on the east side of the Middle Pike because of the narrowness of this portion of the Plan Area.

The primary street addition in the North Pike is a two-lane extension of Fleet Street to connect Wootton Parkway and Mt. Vernon Place.

The plan also recommends limiting new residential buildings to seven floors and new commercial or office buildings to 10 floors, a far cry from the 300-foot maximum building heights allowed by the county’s 2010 White Flint Sector Plan, which applies to a section of Rockville Pike just south of the city border.

Bethesda Beat wrote a great piece on this plan which you can read here.

 

 

See, people will ride Bus Rapid Transit

Route 355

If Friends of White Flint had a nickel for every time we’ve heard “People will never ride Bus Rapid Transit,” we’d never have to fundraise again. But fortunately for the White Flint area, the facts contradict this belief.

In Alexandria, ridership of their Metroway Bus Rapid Transit is consistently 15 to 20 percent higher than projections for initial ridership, even with the recent cold weather.

According to a U.S. Department of Transportation reportBRT systems are extremely effective in increasing transit ridership levels. In Las Vegas, the MAX system is responsible for at least a 35 to 40% increase in ridership along its corridor of operation.  The Boston based MBTA  route experienced a whopping 66% increase in ridership by switching their limited routes to BRT lines.  In Los Angeles, 32 % of their Rapid Transit System trips came directly from new transit travel, indicating that their services attract a large number of “choice” riders.

All this means there is no reason to think that a Rapid Transit System along Route 355 wouldn’t be equally successful in the Pike District.

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Unfortunate news

Yes, we’re sad to report there are white flakes and cold rain drifting down from grey skies on the first day of spring, but we’re even sadder to report that on Monday night the Rockville Mayor and Council voted 3-2 in favor of widening Rockville Pike to 252 feet.  They took this action even though there was very strong opposition by the community. We join many others who are disappointed in this outcome because it contradicts the vision in the White Flint Sector Plan for a pedestrian friendly and walkable community. Not to mention we are not looking forward to what will no doubt become a renown traffic back-up on the Pike around Montrose Road as all those lanes merge and fade away as Route 355 reaches the Pike District.  If you want to read all the details, click here.

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Board Member Howard Feldman was ready for his close-up

It’s Monday, it’s grey, and I had to wear my winter coat … in mid-March! … when I walked my dog this morning, so I’m a bit out of sorts. That means today’s blog post is short, sweet, and even entertaining. Watch Friends of White Flint board member Howard Feldman speak about the City of Rockville proposal to widen Route 355 on WJLA-TV last Thursday evening. Watch here.

Friends of White Flint’s Testimony on the Proposed Widening of Route 355

Last night, Friends of White Flint testified before the City of Rockville Mayor and Council about their proposal to widen Route 355 to 252 feet. We oppose this widening for many reasons, but primarily because it will create what will no doubt become a legendary bottleneck at Montrose Road and it discourages smart growth, green space and walkability.

You can read our testimony below.  (If you’d like to share your own thoughts about this with the City of Rockville, they are accepting comments through Friday, March 13 by clicking here.)

TESTIMONY TO THE CITY OF ROCKVILLE ON THE PLAN TO WIDEN ROUTE 355

Mayor and Councilmembers, my name is Amy Ginsburg, and I represent Friends of White Flint, a nonprofit organization with 1,100 supporters whose mission is to ensure that the promise of the White Flint Sector Plan is fulfilled.

As you know, the Pike District/White Flint area is transforming into a walkable, transit-friendly, live-work-play community. As you also know, boundaries are artificial, and to residents, shoppers, and office workers, there is no boundary between the area of Route 355 in the Pike District and the portion that falls under City of Rockville jurisdiction. They view it as one continuous community. Everyone who has an interest in creating a vibrant community that fosters growth and livability must act in concert. We must work together to ensure that the Pike becomes a road that unites the east and west sides of Route 355 and unites the areas north and south of Montrose Road. None of us wants the Pike to become a vast plain of asphalt that separates rather than connects.

The City’s proposal to widen Route 355 to 252 feet is dramatically different than the plan for Route 355 south of Montrose Road where it will be 181 feet wide. The bottleneck that will be created as people walk, drive, and bike south from downtown Rockville to the Pike District will be one that will quickly assume legendary stature as lanes shift and disappear. A traffic and safety problem of that magnitude will greatly diminish our community.

“We want walkable streets and easy access to transit” is the cry heard from businesses and residents. Widening Route 355 to 252 feet will dramatically impede not only the appearance of walkability but also the actual ability to walk across and along Rockville Pike. If there is sufficient room to include broad sidewalks, bike paths, bus rapid transit lanes, and car lanes on a 181- foot-wide Route 355 as it passes through the Pike District, there should be sufficient room for all of those essential components north of Montrose Road.

The Friends of White Flint very much hopes that the City of Rockville will choose walkability, consistency, and stability and not widen Route 355 to 252 feet. Thank you very much for your time

 

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The CAC meets for the first time

This past Saturday, more than 160 CAC members were part of the first Rapid Transit System Corridor Advisory Committee meetings in a special kick-off event in downtown Rockville. This joint meeting oriented CAC members to the upcoming process and provided general information on bus rapid transit. County Executive Ike Leggett welcomed everyone to the future of transit in Montgomery County, saying “The beneficiaries of what we are doing will be people long, long down the line, children and grandchildren, for years to come.”

Friends of White Flint is well-represented among the forty members of  the MD 355 South CAC. The committee, made up of residents, business owners and other civic leaders, will meet quarterly with transportation staff to talk through concerns about bus-only lanes, station designs, traffic mitigation and other details.  The next meeting is in April.

Bethesda Now reported that Councilmember Marc Elrich told the audience, “There’s no place for additional roads. We’re not going to be widening [Route] 355. It’s absolutely critical that we solve this problem, or we go nowhere.”

 

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