Rapid Transit System (RTS) Support
Advocates representing over 30 environmental groups, civic associations, businesses, and grassroots organizations alike gathered outside the Montgomery County Council building on the evening of Sept. 24 to announce their support for a proposed new high quality Rapid Transit System (RTS) based on successful bus rapid transit networks around the nation and across the globe.
Minutes before the County Council’s public hearings on RTS, the leaders of the new coalition called on Councilmembers to adopt a robust plan to ensure a convenient and high-quality experience for riders, noting that the system offers the best solution to the County’s traffic challenges. Advocates also touted the plan as an effective way to reduce local air pollution from car emissions and provide more affordable transit options and access to jobs for working families and young people.
“In the longer run, the ability of a successful transit network to support walkable neighborhoods, shorten trips, and reduce sprawl will have a huge effect in helping the environment, and will also save tax payers significant money, ” said David Hauck of the Montgomery County Sierra Club.
Katie Mullen, a member of the Montgomery County Young Democrats from Burtonsville, explained that her bus frequently gets stuck in traffic, extending her commute by 45 minutes or longer. “We hosted a forum this summer about what young people need in order to settle down in Montgomery County,” Mullen said. “Of the almost 100 people in attendance, the #1 priority wasn’t more night life, affordable housing, or new industry. The #1 priority was to greatly expand public transit across the county, in particular a comprehensive Bus Rapid Transit network with dedicated lanes.”
Dan Wilhelm, President of the Greater Colesville Civic Association and active member of the Montgomery County Civic Federation, spoke about how his civic group had long advocated for a solution to the County’s notoriously gridlocked roads. “Once implemented, the 10 proposed corridors will start to address road congestion. They will also start to address other problems, like pollution and global warming,” he said.
Montgomery County’s Rapid Transit System Development Manager Chuck Lattuca projects that by the year 2040, the new transit network will handle over 45 million trips and lead to a reduction in over 48 million vehicle miles traveled every year in Montgomery County. RTS would therefore result in over 7.5 million fewer hours spent annually in automobiles by county residents, visitors, and workers and 3.2 million fewer gallons of gas burned.
Rapid Transit Systems are becoming increasingly popular choices for communities facing traffic challenges, and a new report released by the Institute for Transportation & Development Policy (ITDP) documents how other communities who invested in RTS plans have very successfully attracted economic development to urban and suburban corridors alike. Notably, Arlington and Alexandria, Virginia have already begun construction on a new rapid transit line due to open next year.
Shortly after the announcement, residents and organizations filed into the County Council building for a public hearing about the proposed plan, officially entitled the Countywide Transit Corridors Functional Master Plan. Representatives from various civic and environmental organizations, as well as community residents, signed up to speak up in favor of a long term solution to traffic, carbon emissions, and road safety.
The County Council will host an additional public hearing on Thursday, September 26th at 7:30pm, before the Transportation and Environment Committee holds several work sessions in October on the proposed plan. The Rapid Transit Plan is then expected to proceed to the full Council for a vote.
Support for Montgomery Rapid Transit
1000 Friends of Maryland · Americans for Transit · CASA de Maryland · Chesapeake Climate Action Network · Chevy Chase Land Company · Citizens to Save South Valley Park and Whetstone Run · Clean Water Action · Coalition for Smarter Growth · Communities for Transit · Federal Realty Investment Trust · Friends of White Flint · Gables Residential · Georgetown Village Condominium HOA · Greater Bethesda Chamber of Commerce · Greater Capital Area Association of REALTORS® · Indian Springs Civic Association · JBG · Jews United for Justice · Lerner Enterprises · Maryland Public Interest Research Group · Montgomery College Sustainability Club (MC Green) · Montgomery Countryside Alliance · Montgomery County Young Democrats · Potomac Valley Environmental Group · Pyramid Atlantic · Randolph Civic Association · Saul Centers Inc · Sierra Club · TAME Coalition · Upcounty Action · ULI Washington · Washington Area Bicyclists Association (WABA) · White Flint Partnership
The undersigned groups, businesses, and individuals endorse a Rapid Transit System (RTS) for Montgomery County. We believe that ensuring a successful system requires prioritizing the following:
· Dedicated Transit Lanes: Build a high quality system, characterized by lanes dedicated to RTS use to the maximum extent possible.
· Frequent & Reliable Service: RTS vehicles should arrive with high frequency and reliability of service to ensure a real alternative to driving and higher quality off-peak availability than current bus service.
· Metro-like Features & Integration: The RTS network should be integrated with other County and regional transit assets to provide a seamless, high quality experience for riders. The system should employ time-saving features, such as limited stops, off-board fare collection, level boarding, improved stations with real-time arrival information, and quiet vehicles with modern features like shielded tires.
· Integrated Bike & Pedestrian Improvements: The RTS network should have safe and easy access to stations for pedestrians and bicyclists in order to increase their safety on busy county highways.
In the next 30 years, Montgomery County is projected to grow in population by more than 200,000 new residents. If we don’t find a way to move more people on our existing roadways, it is projected that traffic congestion will grow by 70%, making a difficult situation intolerable. Together with our existing Metro rail system, MARC commuter rail service, reconfigured Metro bus and RideOn services, and the coming light rail Purple Line, we believe the RTS is essential for creating a high quality rapid transit network to help our County face immediate and long range transportation challenges.
Creating an effective, high quality county wide transit network is critical to reducing air pollution, providing affordable transit options to working families, allowing us to realize potential balanced economic growth, and generally enhancing the quality of life for current and future generations in our community. We urge Montgomery County to take action now for a high quality transit future.
For the full text and current list of signers, visit www.nextgentransit.org/support