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Monday, May 21, 2012
CORRIDOR CITIES TRANSITWAY: THE EMPEROR'S NEW BUS
15 MILES IN 50 MINUTES
Another Robert Dyer @ Bethesda Row Exclusive!!!
Is it time for a new season of Last Comic Standing? The Montgomery County Government sent out a press release Friday - or was it a draft of a standup comedy routine?
Touting Governor Martin O'Malley's approval of Bus Rapid Transit as the preferred mode for the Corridor Cities Transitway, it also included the first public citing of the estimated speed of the new service.
And if they keep this up, they're going to put Jerry Seinfeld out of business.
Now remember, the CCT was supposed to be light rail. The County Council went on the record saying it had to be light rail.
And at a council debate in 2010, residents of Clarksburg warned the council that if the ride from Clarksburg to Shady Grove Metro on the CCT was too long, no one would waste time using it, and the whole project would be a waste of taxpayer money.
It turns out our elected officials have been dishonest on each of those points and promises.
Ladies and gentlemen, the travel time of the rapid bus CCT from Clarksburg to Shady Grove will be:
Much like the proposed countywide BRT system, this is a complete and utter boondoggle.
Unlike the local media, which trumpeted the underwhelming CCT announcement with no skepticism or critical analysis, I immediately did some simple research on Google Maps.
Once I could stop laughing, that is.
First, I asked Google Maps how long it would take me to drive from Clarksburg to Shady Grove Metro.
Answer: 23 minutes by car.
So, how would you make the trip? 23 minutes, or 49? Do you even have to think about it?
Wait, it gets even more hysterical!
What if you drove a few blocks south on 355 from Clarksburg, and conveniently parked your car at the Milestone Park and Ride lot, and took the Route 55 bus to Shady Grove?
33 minutes, says Google Maps.
So let's just consider this, folks:
Today, without spending a dime, there are driving options of 23 minutes, and transit options of 33 minutes.
Your county executive and council are proposing to spend $828 million (and you know that's going to increase as every other capital project does), for a bus that makes the same trip in... 49 minutes.
Am I making too much sense here, people?
Is that the poster stepchild of boondoggles and government waste or not?
What kind of spell is the local media under, that they accept this malarkey with no intellectual curiosity whatsoever?
The county also stated that a BRT trip from Metropolitan Grove to Shady Grove will take 33 minutes.
By car, it is 13 minutes!
This is downright crazy!
What's going on here?
The bottom line is that the council is putting its developer buddies ahead of fiscal responsibility, and the citizens of Montgomery County.
As you can tell from the numbers, the CCT will be anything but "rapid transit." It will provide no meaningful benefit to citizens, while drawing scarce transportation money away from critical projects like the Purple Line, Midcounty Highway Extended (M-83) and the Rockville Freeway.
The M-83 serves the same purpose as the CCT for upcounty residents, but for less cost and shorter travel time. Like the Rockville Freeway, the M-83 is far more likely to receive federal funding than the CCT; both highways would carry many times the number of commuters daily, a critical data point for winning federal funds.
We just heard Sunday about the increasingly bleak financing prospects of the Purple Line. Why, in that context, would we waste a billion dollars on the CCT?
Simple. Those developer buddies of the council I referred to earlier.
The sprawl of Science City cannot be fully built unless the CCT is built as well.
So you can understand why they would push forward with a BRT CCT, that any intelligent person with common sense can recognize is a complete disaster.
They just have to get it built, or the developers will cut off their campaign donations.
But if the developers want to build, they should pay for the CCT themselves.
This council is pushing a new model of financing, where the infrastructure burden switches from the profiteering developers, to you, the taxpayer.
They've rammed through 3 developer tax cuts just in this term of office. One alone switched $72 million in tax burden from developers to residents and business owners. Now they're working with the Planning Department, to reduce the amount developers have to spend to compensate for the traffic burden they add to county roads with each megaproject.
Beyond the financing issues, the BRT travel time proves why the CCT should have been a rail line. By comparison, the MTA light rail that runs alongside the Jones Falls Expressway, makes its rush hour, inbound trip from Hunt Valley to the center of Baltimore in only 33 minutes. That trip is 17 miles, 2 more miles than the CCT's route! The superiority of rail is obvious.
Rapid buses simply cannot provide the needed efficiency - to attract the needed ridership - to support the costly service.
But much like Metro in Tysons Corner, they're ramming it through anyway. Do they expect people to use Metro at Tysons? From the location of the stops, to the utter lack of commuter parking lots, the clear answer is, No!
The same Developer First logic is prevailing here. Get something built that we can call a CCT, so the developers can make money.
Isn't it time for the media, the business community and the citizens to stand up and say the Emperor has no clothes?