Friday, June 01, 2012


The week had been going so well for the less than 20 supporters of the Montgomery County BRT Rapid Transit Vehicle (RTV) plan.

Just this Wednesday, a Gazette column ostensibly dedicated to the frustrations of driving in Montgomery County, Bumper to Bumper, was dedicated to BRT supporters' noble quest for "an alternative."

While revealing how ponderous mass transit can be, and not identifying the specific routes he took - so readers could double check if he really took the fastest bus and subway routes - the author ultimately did not explain how BRT would help him.  No planned route would travel directly from Takoma Park to Germantown.  And it's no wonder he could not provide specific time savings.  As I proved here on this blog, BRT can be as slow or slower than current bus or car options.  Would you pay $1000+ a year in new taxes for that?

How refreshing, then, to discover the first remotely objective mainstream media report on BRT, in today's Washington Examiner.

Rachel Baye's article quotes Montgomery County Master Planner Larry Cole as saying the population density is insufficient to support BRT, and won't be dense enough for at least another 30 years.

As I have been pleading with county residents to understand on this blog for months, Cole says the proposed system and financing is such that "the public bears all of that cost."

And that $2 billion question I've been asking:  "Where is the evidence we'll have the ridership?"

Cole's remarks support my skeptical position:  "You don't want to build something no one is going to use," Cole warned.

Wow.  Does that sound optimistic to you?

Scrambling to defend the pet project of less than 20 county officials, most unelected by the public, Councilmember Marc Elrich only further weakened their straw-grasping case.

Elrich referred to commutes from Glenmont to the west of the county as a major problem.  "This is about moving the people from where they live to where they work."

Unfortunately, only a small minority of commuters are heading to Rockville or Gaithersburg during rush hour.

And even for those commuters, better and cheaper options than BRT exist.  They include current automobile and bus routes, in some cases, and the ICC.

The unbuilt Rockville Freeway would be the best option for Glenmont residents.  For well under $1 billion in construction cost, the Rockville Freeway would carry Glenmont drivers and bus riders at 55 MPH from the Georgia Avenue interchange to Veirs Mill Road and 355.  At a fraction of the cost, the Rockville Freeway would move more commuters per day than the entire BRT system!

Elrich's second example was Connecticut Avenue between East-West Highway and the Beltway.  First of all, any Connecticut Avenue driver can tell you the backups go way further north than that.

But here's the real reason we have backups there:  Unbuilt highways.

The Rockville Freeway, Northwest Freeway, North Central Freeway and Northern Parkway were all planned decades ago to prevent just the gridlock we now have along the 355 and 189 corridors.

Not to mention that county planners warned politicians during the 70s that the Rockville Freeway and a widened Metropolitan Avenue connection to the North Central Freeway were required to support just the growth they were then approving in the Kensington area.

What we need is not a BRT boondoggle, but to build our master plan highways.

Now let's find out if Cole is forced to "walk back" his absolutely devastating, honest and frank comments on Montgomery County BRT.  Very inconvenient truth, at a critical time.

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