Residents Get Update on Md. 355 Bus Rapid Transit

Options for BRT were displayed in large graphics like this one. | Douglas Tallman

More than 50 people showed up at Montgomery College’s Germantown campus for an informational event on the latest proposals for a bus rapid transit system that will carry commuters up and down Md. 355.

“At this point, we’re trying to figure out what the alternatives are,” said Joana Conklin, rapid transit system development manager for the Montgomery County Department of Transportation.

With bus rapid transit, or BRT, the buses would be larger. One image on display at the event showed a large bus, articulated in the middle.

BRT would have dedicated stops similar to train stations. And the buses could have dedicated lanes so the buses could get to destinations faster, or they could be mixed in with the regular traffic.

The county currently has four options that would provide some kind of BRT service from Clarksburg through to Bethesda, as well as a no-build option and a final option that would manage the transportation flow with little or no new infrastructure.

One of the decisions to be made is whether the northern portion of the BRT would follow along Observation Drive or take Md. 355.

Observation Drive is about 2 miles longer than Rockville Pike, but the travel times would be about twice as long, according to material presented at the event. One advantage to following Observation Drive would be about 50 percent higher ridership.

A video preview said riders would not have to show payment once on the buses. Representatives at the presentation, however, said the methods of paying fares is still to be worked out.

What’s envisioned is something like a train with a conductor, or like Metro’s SmarTrip card. Like a train, a BRT bus would have several entry points, meaning passengers need less time to climb aboard or leave a bus.

The county currently envisions the 22-mile BRT route to leave Clarksburg and go to the Shady Grove Metro Station, then follow Md. 355 to Bethesda. The route parallels the Metro line. However, it sticks close to Md. 355.

“It’s right down the middle of the residential and retail district,” Conklin said. “It stops where people want to be.”

A second open house will be from 6:30 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. Wednesday at the Executive Office Building cafeteria, 101 Monroe St., Rockville.

The county has an online form so residents can provide their comments about the Md. 355 BRT. It is available at

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Douglas Tallman

About Douglas Tallman

Reporter with 35 years experience throughout Maryland. Reach me at or via Twitter at @MCM-Doug


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