Graphic of Bus Rapid Transit system

Planning Board Approves Rapid Transit System

The Montgomery County Planning Board Unanimously approved a master plan for the Montgomery Rapid Transit System on July 11. Transit advocates hailed the Planning Board’s decision, noting that with Montgomery projected to add more than 200,000 people in the coming decades, it is critical to invest in new transit infrastructure now.

“This plan is one of the most extensive and progressive transportation plans of any suburban community in our region, and is in keeping with Montgomery County’s record of innovation in land use transportation and housing policy,” said Stewart Schwartz, Executive Director of the Coalition for Smarter Growth.

“Rapid Transit represents Montgomery’s best, most affordable option for providing needed traffic relief to residents,” Schwartz said. “The old model of building ever more and wider roads for cars has not worked; we have to figure out how to move more people, more sustainably, with the infrastructure we have and Rapid Transit will do that.”

The plan lays the groundwork for a high quality transit network, based on successful bus rapid transit systems around the country, which would connect the County’s key economic and commercial centers, many of which are not currently served by Metro. The service would operate like Metrorail on county roadways, including features like dedicated lanes, comfortable stations, off-board fare payment, and frequent, speedier service to provide commuters relief from some of the longest commute times in the nation.

After reviewing hundreds of public comments, the Board spent many hours making edits and additions to this long range plan. One key change was the inclusion of a “performance standard” that would help ensure the County commits to a high level of transit service.

Kelly Blynn, Montgomery County Transit Organizer for the Coalition for Smarter Growth, highlighted that piece, noting that it was a break from the thinking of the past that often unfairly shortchanged transit.

“In order for this plan to be successful, we must be willing to place transit on equal footing with cars, and dedicate car lanes to transit where it can move more people than individual vehicles can,” Blynn said.

However, Blynn expressed concern that other new language in the plan, pressed by the State Highway Administration, would place too high of a standard on moving cars through without considering a more proper standard of what approach would move the most people. “It’s something we will be monitoring,” said Blynn.
In addition, the Board increased the size of the network, adding a critical connection on the map to Clarksburg, a planned community in need of transit options. Upcounty activists cheered the move.

“The Upcounty is the fastest growing region of Montgomery County,” said Upcounty Citizens Advisory Board member Beth Daly. “The extension of Rapid Transit north on 355 is a step in the right direction to for Clarksburg residents, offering them an express transit option to get to Shady Grove Metro and work centers quickly.”

The Board will now send its recommendations, officially known as the Countywide Transit Corridors Functional Master Plan to the County Council, who will review the plan starting in September. The plan will most likely first be reviewed by the Transportation, Infrastructure, Energy and Environment Committee, and then move to the full Council.

Learn more at the Planning Board website.

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Sonya Burke

About Sonya Burke

Sonya Burke is the Multimedia Manager at Montgomery Community Media (MCM). You can email story ideas at sburke@mymcmedia.org or reach her on Twitter @SonyaNBurke.

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