Transit Task Force Recommendations
The Montgomery County Transit Task Force on May 22 presented its recommendations to Montgomery County Executive Isiah Leggett for establishing a 160-mile, innovative, “best-in-class” rapid transit system that creates a comprehensive transit network. The Task Force is recommending that the system be built in three phases over the next nine to 20 years to mitigate both construction and affordability issues. Leggett created the Transit Task Force in February 2011.
“Thanks to the tremendous work of the Transit Task Force, we now have a practical roadmap that will guide us to fully implementing the transit we both want and need to keep our county economically competitive in the 21st century,” said Leggett. “Our region is consistently at the top of a very undesirable list – among the worst in the nation for traffic congestion – and we cannot afford to fall even further behind. I will be seriously considering how to make the Task Force recommendations a reality in the coming weeks.”
The Task Force is a public/private partnership with 15 members appointed by the County Executive and chaired by Mark Winston, a lawyer in private practice with the firm of Glazer Winston Honigman Ellick, PLLC. During his professional career Winston has been a member of the Maryland State Transportation Commission and State Roads Commission.
“If adopted, the recommendations of the Task Force will be a game changer for the county, state and region,” said Winston. “It could be the biggest public works project for the County in a generation, and will benefit air quality, help to create live-work communities, increase people-moving capacity and reduce congestion, and enable us to achieve balanced smart economic growth now and into the future.”
The Task Force is comprised of civic leaders, transit advocates, environmental advocates, representatives of local chambers of commerce, business executives, real estate developers, transportation professionals, and representatives of federal, state, county, and municipal governmental agencies. The Transit Task Force includes Montgomery County Council President Roger Berliner and Council member Marc Elrich.
“The Rapid Transit proposal being advanced today represents the refinement of my original proposal to construct a 120 mile Rapid Transit system, that I first advanced four years ago,” said Elrich. “I continue to believe that it is the most practical, efficient and cost effective way to develop a world class transit system to deal with the challenges of mounting congestion and declining mobility.”
The proposed rapid transit system uses vehicles that will operate like “light rail on rubber tires” and is more typically referred to as bus rapid transit. To the maximum extent possible, the network would have separate, dedicated rapid transit vehicle (RTV) lanes, with an emphasis on creating a network with both north-south and east-west connections.
The report states that an RTV network is essential if the county wants to achieve its smart growth vision and successfully compete for its fair share of the projected job growth in the region.
Below are highlights of the Task Force recommendations:
• Montgomery County should develop and operate a comprehensive RTV network and a revised Ride-On system that serves as a “feeder” network to the RTV. The RTV should be integrated with other transportation modes, including local circulator buses, Metrobus and Metrorail, bicycle routes and pedestrian ways. RTV routes should be laid out to link with major roads of neighboring jurisdictions to allow for the possible development of a regional transit system.
• The RTV System should be planned, designed, and constructed as a unified and complete system, making the necessary modifications to functional plans and the County’s Master Plan of Highways and Transitways. The construction and financing should be completed in three phases, with the goal for policy-makers to complete all enabling actions to begin implementation of the system within a year.
• The county should consider establishing a single, quasi-independent authority that will be responsible for all transit-related functions and the planning, design, financing, construction, operation and maintenance of the RTV System as a whole.
• The funding and financing plan should rely on full interim funding from state and county sources, adding federal contributions, if any, in the future. The county’s portion should be primarily funded by debt supported by ad valorem real property tax revenues realized through a tax imposed by one or more special taxing districts. A change in state law would be required to use this source of funds to operate the system. The plan assumes some state funding since the RTV system will greatly improve capacity on State highways and includes the Corridor Cities Transitway, and integration to the Purple Line, both State projects.
• A design-build method of procurement, implementation and construction of the RTV system should be used.
Although still a rough estimate, the Task Force estimated capital costs for the RTV system to be $1.83 billion in current year dollars. Annual operating costs for the system are estimated to be $1.1 million per mile.
The Transit Task Force Members are: Marilyn Balcombe, CCT Coalition and Gaithersburg-Germantown Chamber of Commerce; Roger Berliner, president, Montgomery County Council; Marc Elrich, Montgomery County Council; Jonathan Genn, Percontee, Inc.; David Hauck, Sierra Club; Arthur Holmes, director, Montgomery County Department of Transportation; David McDonough, Johns Hopkins University; Richard Parsons, Parsons & Associates; Wayne Phyllaier, Purple Line Now; Jonathan Sachs, Montgomery County Chamber of Commerce; Craig Simoneau, City of Rockville; Tina Slater, Action Committee for Transit; Francine Waters, Lerner Companies; Daniel Wilhelm, Montgomery County Civic Federation; L. Mark Winston, Glazer Winston Honigman Ellick, PLLC and chair of the Task Force. Ex-Officio Members are: Casey Anderson, Montgomery County Planning Board; Nat Bottigheimer, Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority; Montgomery County Planning Board Chair Francoise Carrier; Brian Feldman, Maryland House of Delegates; Robert Garagiola, Maryland State Senate; Joan Kleinman, Office of United States Representative Christopher Van Hollen; Darrell Mobley, Maryland Department of Transportation; Kenneth Reichard, Office of United States Senator Benjamin Cardin; Steve Silverman, director, Montgomery County Department of Economic Development; Thomas Street, Office of the County Executive, Montgomery County.
The full report is available online at: http://www.montgomerycountymd.gov/Apps/cex/transit/reportfinal.asp