Tuesday, February 12, 2013


As if you needed any more evidence that The Emperor's New Bus, a.k.a. Montgomery County Bus Rapid Transit, would be a $10 billion boondoggle, a new study says it... would be a $10 billion boondoggle.

The Institute for Transportation and Development Policy, which was paid taxpayer money to do yet another study, concluded there is insufficient demand for BRT service in the county.

While that general conclusion is sound, and supported by solid arguments, there are other conclusions drawn in the study that are empirically incorrect.

For example, the study claims that BRT riders would save 10 minutes in commuting time. But that is inaccurate. The BRT system proposed requires 50 minutes to travel 15 miles, according to the MCDOT.  That would be nearly an hour from Clarksburg to the Shady Grove Metro station, for example.

Given that, even in the typical morning rush hour, you could drive from Clarksburg to Shady Grove in far less time than that, who in their right mind would use BRT?

The second flawed argument, and one that suspiciously supports one BRT faction's new plan, is that Route 355 is the one corridor where BRT could work.

When you apply the reality of 15 miles in 50 minutes (the county's own stat - not mine!), you not only realize the claim of 10-minute time savings is complete bunk, but that this would be a disaster on 355.  Remember, the latest 355 plan calls for a 33% reduction in automobile capacity in order to make room for BRT. And, the BRT "signal priority," which stops car traffic while giving BRT a green light, would make it impossible to synchronize signals during rush hour, causing even worse traffic jams.

Beyond that, as I've mentioned before, you would be duplicating Metro Red Line service. Since Metro and cars are both faster than BRT, who would be riding the BRT?

And, ultimately, where are you going on this BRT? Most commuters are heading into DC.  But, BRT would dead end in Bethesda. So, if you have to transfer to Metro at Bethesda anyway, why would you take a slow BRT and be out in the heat, cold, or bad weather? Any sensible person would just board Metro to begin with.

If it doesn't work, is nonsensically impractical, and duplicates an existing - and costly - service, why would politicians be heck-bent on 355 BRT?

Aside from the hubris of some, who want this "thing" to tout when they run for higher office, it's a not-so-surprising reason: developers.

You can't provide the highway capacity necessary for the growth planned at White Flint, without building the Rockville Freeway through White Flint.  But if you build out the necessary roads, congestion will ease, and developers will have lost one of their straw justifications for "smart growth:" traffic congestion.

By cooking the numbers and getting away from strict automobile volume counts, as the County Council is currently attempting to do, they will gain fake "capacity" with BRT.  This will allow the dense, concrete canyon they imagine as the future of 355 between White Flint and Clarksburg, while snarling traffic to a dead stop.  The result? Developers get to build. Traffic gets even worse. And then developers will get to build even more, saying only high-density "smart growth" can solve the congestion problem (that they are creating).

That is a bus, and a future, rapidly going nowhere.


Anonymous said...

Now we hear that the Phase I will be BRT on Old Gworgetown Rd. And NH. No public inout, no public notice. People in these communities have no idea this is happening.

Robert Dyer said...

Old Georgetown Road would be even crazier than 355 - there isn't anywhere close to the necessary demand or density there for BRT. Of course, the real reason would be so developers could redevelop the OGT corridor. What most people call single family homes and neighborhood shopping centers, they call "underutilized property."