Ike Legget will not Submit Transit Authority Legislation This Year

As reported by Bethesda Beat, Ike Leggett will not submit transit authority legislation this year. In a letter to the Transit Task Force, Ike Leggett wrote, “the public interest at the two recent hearings made it clear to me that there remains significant community concern about the proposal for a Montgomery County transit authority. Perhaps more importantly, County residents are unaware of the considerable benefits that a Bus Rapid Transit system (BRT) would bring to our County and its residents.”

Council members George Leventhal and Roger Berliner had also suggested Leggett hold off on the Transit Authority enabling legislation until the county’s Rapid Transit System (RTS) was closer to fruition.

“To briefly summarize, we cannot say whether a proposal similar to what the report has outlined can pass the County’s legislative Delegation, work its way through the full legislative process, withstand the scrutiny of the Governor, and then obtain the necessary support of a majority of the County Council to be implemented,”  a statement from District 16 Del. Marc Korman and District 15 Sen. Brian Feldman said

Our testimony to the Transit Task Force

Below you’ll find the testimony I’ll give tonight at the Transit Task Force Public Forum.  Tomorrow, look in our e-newsletter for a story about what happens at tonight’s public forum. (What? You don’t receive our weekly eblast?  Then sign up and stay up-to-date about everything in the White Flint area!)

My name is Amy Ginsburg, and I am the Executive Director of Friends of White Flint, a nonprofit organization with nearly 1,300 supporters, including residents, businesses, homeowners associations, and property owners.  Our only mission is to ensure the full implementation of the White Flint Sector Plan so that the promise of a walkable, transit-oriented, smart-growth community is achieved in the Pike District.

A Rapid Transit System is critical to creating an energetic, prosperous community in the Pike District. RTS is indispensable for improving the quality of life for a growing population and to attracting businesses and retailers to the Pike District. In fact, 7,400 residential units in both the White Flint 1 and White Flint 2 sectors are linked to developing an RTS along Route 355.

We need to provide Montgomery County with the ability to efficiently and quickly create the kind of walkable, transit-friendly community so important to our future. Just as bread needs a baker, RTS needs a Transit Authority which we believe is a strong option for managing this complex system.

Moving forward with RTS is vital for both the County and the White Flint area.  Many employees and residents, especially millennials, want to ditch their cars; RTS will enable many of them to do just that. Traffic doesn’t attract business to Montgomery County; transit options and walkable communities like the Pike District do.  Creating jobs is the key to enabling Montgomery County to remain competitive and sustainable in the future. RTS is key to attracting those businesses and creating those jobs. In fact, studies have shown that after factoring in the cost of RTS, the County will net $871 million in revenue over twenty-five years.

There are many thorny issues to work out, including funding, but I urge Montgomery County government to make rapid transit on Rockville Pike a top priority.  We believe that Bus Rapid Transit on Route 355 should be the first line.  A successful Rockville Pike line will demonstrate how RTS can have a positive impact in a highly visible manner.  Fortunately, the White Flint area has the density, commercial development, and support to be a successful pilot.  Such a pilot program on Route 355 will make it easy to see a Rapid Transit System creating a vibrant, thriving community.

From all of us at Friends of White Flint, thank you for your continued support of transit and the White Flint Sector Plan.

 

Recommendations of the Transit Task Force

Below you’ll find the Recommendations of the County Executive’s Transit Task Force Draft Report that was released yesterday.  You can read the full report here and learn more about the Transit Task Force here.  (You can testify at the September 30th  on the public forum on the Transit Task Force Draft Report by calling 240-777-7165.)

Bottom line, the 75-page report concludes that subject to a broad range of conditions and limitations that address labor, funding, and governance concerns,  the Task Force recommends the creation of a new transit authority empowered to develop and operate a Rapid Transit System. An RTS network will address critical transportation, economic, environmental and social needs in the County, and the faster we create a RTS, the better the County will be. The Task Force urges enabling legislation to be introduced in and adopted by the General Assembly.

More specifically, the Task Force recommends:

The enactment by the General Assembly of enabling legislation authorizing Montgomery County to establish a transit authority, subject to certain terms, provisions, conditions and limitations as listed below:

That the governing board of the transit authority consist of up to 7 members, appointed for staggered 4 year terms, with several suggested criteria for appointment.

That the County Council be authorized to establish special tax districts consisting either of the entire County or specifically defined areas within the County.

That the transit authority be authorized to impose special real property taxes within special tax districts, the revenues from which would be dedicated to the use of the transit authority for transit. The transit authority would impose such taxes and set tax rates annually, subject to the veto of the Council.  The maximum rate be set at 7¢ per $100 of assessed valuation.

That the transit authority be authorized to impose a new excise tax, taxing the privilege of leasing property defined as “commercial property” within the County. Revenues from such an excise tax would be dedicated to the use of the transit authority for transit functions assigned to it. The transit authority would impose such taxes and set tax rates annually, subject to the veto of the Council. The maximum rate be set at 30¢ per square foot of gross commercial space leased or being marketed for lease.

That all dedicated transit revenues be used only to fund transit authority activities.

That the transit authority be required to submit to the Council and Executive a multi-year capital improvement program, an annual capital budget and an annual operating budget, each of which shall be subject to the review and approval of the Council.

That the exercise by the transit authority of the power of eminent domain be subject to Council approval consistent with Title 12 of the Real Property Article of the State Code.

That the Council’s implementing legislation require the transit authority to submit to the Council annual independent financial audits and periodic management audits, to be published for public review, and adopt reasonable performance metrics for the transit corridors after they are operational.

That the Council subject the transit authority to County Ethics laws; to review of its personnel, functions and activities by the County’s Inspector General; to the County’s Open Government initiative, and to a requirement to develop and periodically report performance metrics.

That the transit authority be empowered to enter into interjurisdictional agreements to promote both inter-county and regional transit service, and authorized to enter into agreements with municipalities where appropriate.

That the County government consider whether it wishes to sponsor legislation for enactment by the General Assembly to authorize a one-half cent sales tax for Montgomery County, the principal and income of which to be used only to fund transit authority activities.

That all county employees who are or could be members of a collective bargaining unit under County law, including but not limited to Ride On and Department of General Services employees, will remain as County employees.

Transit Task Force Testimony

Transit Task Force Logo

In case you’re interested, I thought I’d share my recent testimony to the Transit Task Force.  (If you’re not interested, click back on Monday … and every weekday, actually … for another new post on a diverse range of topics relating to the White Flint/Pike District area.)

My name is Amy Ginsburg, and I am the Executive Director of Friends of White Flint, a nonprofit organization with nearly 1,300 supporters, including residents, businesses, homeowners associations, and property owners.  Our only mission is to ensure the full implementation of the White Flint Sector Plan so that the promise of a walkable, transit-oriented, smart-growth community is achieved in the Pike District.

A Rapid Transit System is critical to creating an energetic, prosperous community in the Pike District. RTS is indispensable for improving the quality of life for a growing population and to attracting businesses and retailers to the Pike District.

We need to provide Montgomery County with the ability to efficiently and quickly create the kind of walkable, transit-friendly community so important to our future sustainability. An Independent Transit Authority is certainly a strong option to permit us to design and build out the RTS along Route 355 as quickly as possible.

Moving forward with RTS for Route 355 is vital for the County.  Delays will be highly detrimental to the successful transformation of the Pike District.  I urge the Transit Task Force to make rapid transit on Rockville Pike a top priority. In fact, we believe that a Bus Rapid Transit system on Route 355 should be the first line of the RTS.  A successful Rockville Pike line will demonstrate how RTS can have a positive impact in the community in a highly visible manner.  Fortunately, the White Flint area has the density, businesses and support to be a successful pilot.  Such a pilot program on Route 355 will make it easy to see a Rapid Transit System creating a vibrant, thriving community in the White Flint area.

From all of us at Friends of White Flint, thank you for your continued support of the White Flint Sector Plan.

Transit Task Force Public Forum June 17

The Montgomery County Executive’s Transit Task Force will host a public forum on Wednesday, June 17 at 6 p.m. in the County Council’s Third Floor Hearing Room, 100 Maryland Ave., Rockville, so residents can express their views on subjects before the Transit Task Force.

“This public forum gives residents an opportunity to comment on the organizational and financial issues contained in the earlier legislative proposal,” said Mark Winston, chair of the Montgomery County Transit Task Force. “Input from the community will help guide our deliberations over the summer to improve the legislation to help enable the County to implement the approved rapid transit network expeditiously and at the best possible price.”

The Transit Task Force has been reconvened to review the prior legislation and recommend how best to organize and finance implementation of a high-performance bus rapid transit system. The objective of the Task Force is to complete a draft report and possibly propose state legislation by early September.  Such additional documents will be the subject of a public forum, tentatively scheduled for September 2015, where input will be received prior to submitting a final report

Residents wishing to speak at the forum must sign up prior to noon on June 17. No sign ups will be allowed during the forum. To register to speak, call 240-777-7165, Monday through Friday, between 8:30 a.m. and 4 p.m.  Anyone signing up must provide their name, address and contact information.

It is planned that 40 people will be able to present their views during the public forum. Speakers will have three minutes to make their comments and are encouraged to submit written remarks – which may include additional information and materials.  Those who are unable to testify can submit written comments to the “Contact Us” portion of the Task Force web page. The record will be kept open until July 1, 2015.

The Task Force has made background information available to the public, including those wishing to express their views during the public forum. Included are the following documents:

1.       The draft state legislation that was introduced.

2.       A summary of the draft legislation prepared by County Attorney Marc Hansen.

3.       “Transit Task Force Debt and Budget Issues,” provided to the Task Force by County Finance Director Joseph Beach.

4.       “Transit Task Force VHB Report,” addressing organizational and transfer of functions issues.

5.       Other materials also are available, such as the original Task Force report.

 

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A revised Independent Transit Authority?

BRT

County Executive Ike Leggett has revived the group that first laid out how a countywide bus rapid transit system might work to examine his controversial proposal for an Independent Transit Authority.

In a letter to Transit Task Force Chair Mark Winston, the County Executive wrote:

As you know, last December I proposed enactment by the General Assembly of legislation (MC-24-15) that would have enabled Montgomery County to establish a transit authority, and accomplish other purposes.  That proposal became controversial and, since it was obvious that it would not be enacted in the 2015 Session of the General Assembly, I asked that it be withdrawn.  However, while I have been open to other proposals that might be made that would allow the County to pursue its goal of having a comprehensive transit system at the earliest practicable time, I continue to believe that my proposal for a transit authority is the best approach.

I ask that the Task Force study the legislation that I proposed, develop procedures for soliciting community and commercial input to its deliberations, offer its comments, and provide advice and recommendations on how it may be improved.

Winston said the Task Force, composed of county government leaders, regional transportation officials, transit advocates, chamber officials and several community representatives, hopes to finalize its recommendations by Sept. 30.

The Task Force meets at 7 p.m. on Wednesday, May 6 at the Executive Office Building in Rockville, The meeting is open to the public.