Friday, May 24, 2013


With no facts or hard data to support the need or justification for a Montgomery County Bus Rapid Transit system, it's no surprise that developer-backed proponents have to resort to fantastical predictions and deceptive tactics, if they hope to ram this "billions and billions" BRT boondoggle through.

On Wednesday, I was interviewed by WUSA9 reporter Debra Alfarone for her follow-up story on BRT. When I arrived, Stewart Schwartz of the Coalition for Smarter Growth - a prominent advocate of BRT - had just finished his interview. He then told her that opponents had made a false claim regarding the $10 billion cost of the original BRT proposal. Schwartz stated that no one had ever given that figure.

Having written extensively about the BRT proposal, I interjected that Schwartz's claim was incorrect. In fact, it was Montgomery County Master Planner Larry Cole himself who made that *official* $10 billion projection in early 2013.

Furthermore, it was Cole's projection that led the county to reduce the size of the system by 50%, the smaller proposal now on the table, I pointed out.

Schwartz responded that he himself had never heard that figure.

Is that believable?

The Stewart Schwartz, guru of transit, "smart" growth, and BRT didn't review the basic documents the county itself released on the BRT system he is the expert on?

Stewart Schwartz, the development-friendly spokesperson quoted as an authority by local media almost daily, didn't know the budget projection given by an official government office?

OK, let's say he somehow missed all that.  Did he also miss the many articles that cited Cole's $10 billion projection?

The $10 billion BRT cost was not only in a banner headline on my blog, but in the bigtime corporate media, as well.

Like this Washington Examiner article. And on NBC Washington's website. And on Silver Spring Patch.

"Nobody ever said $10 billion."

You be the judge.

But you can discern the pattern of deceptive tactics here. Once again, we're hearing BRT proponents claim that 200,000 new residents are coming to Montgomery County.

And, as always, that is complete bunk.  200,000 people can only come here if the Planning Board and County Council approve 200,000 new housing units. One would assume they would ensure our incomplete highway system was finished before allowing an influx of that size.  85% of these newcomers will drive, and our roads are already over capacity.

So, for Schwartz's claim that a $10 billion price tag was never cited for Montgomery County BRT, I have to award "4 Pinnochios" or the "Pants on Fire" rating found on those fact checking websites. Verify it yourself.

Just the facts, Ma'am.


Anonymous said...

It's sort of asinine how hung up you seem on a Master Plan estimate that doesn't even apply anymore, since planners cut the project in half. So now it's estimated at $5 billion, but even that number will change (probably up). They are at the very broad, beginning stage of creating a large transit system.

Hopefully its effectiveness won't be sabotaged by opponents like you who cherry pick and grandstand about out-of-date figures and facts.

Anonymous said...

I never understood how we can spend $10 billion on a new bus system when we've been cutting RideOn service the past few years and never built the CCT to help move our people in northern MoCo.

Thankfully Robert and hopefully others will continue to fact check local government.

Robert Dyer said...

If the figure doesn't matter, why was Schwartz attempting to mislead a reporter about it?
You are at least being rational and honest by citing the $5 billion figure for the current proposal.
The only sabotage is the attempt by BRT advocates to further cripple our already-inadequate highway system by taking lanes for BRT. Let's hope we can stop this, before taxpayers in Silver Spring and Bethesda end up paying $800-1000 a year in additional taxes for a bus system no one rides.

Robert Dyer said...

The switch from light rail to BRT for the CCT was a mistake. On BRT, the Clarksburg to Shady Grove trip will be 50 minutes, which will severely curtail ridership. A Red Line extension to Germantown would make more financial sense than BRT.

Anonymous said...

Some kind of Metro extension makes sense.
The Silver Line goes all the way to Dulles, but we can't seem to get any rail projects off the ground in MoCo.

Robert Dyer said...

Yes, an extended Red Line could serve Old Town Gaithersburg, Montgomery Village, Germantown and Clarksburg (via Milestone area), and provide faster trips and higher ridership than BRT. But we have to build the M-83 Highway in the Upcounty first.

Anonymous said...

"Let's hope we can stop this, before taxpayers in Silver Spring and Bethesda end up paying $800-1000 a year in additional taxes for a bus system no one rides."

Wait, I thought you were against using misleading facts and figures? Where in the world did you come up with this number?

"The switch from light rail to BRT for the CCT was a mistake. On BRT, the Clarksburg to Shady Grove trip will be 50 minutes, which will severely curtail ridership. A Red Line extension to Germantown would make more financial sense than BRT."

The entire reason for BRT over light rail/metro extension is cost. You do realize light rail or a metro extension would cost significantly more? Yet you deride BRT on the basis that it will cost too much to taxpayers. Interesting logic.

Anonymous said...

Does BRT terminate at the DC line (i.e. Friendship Heights)?

Riding the metro in the AM, the vast majority of people coming down the Red Line are going into DC like Metro Center and not getting off at Friendship.

Robert Dyer said...

I got the number from the county's own report! It estimated a BRT tax would cost a homeowner about $300 a year for a $300,000 home. So an $800,000 home would get an $800 BRT tax by those calculations. They said it, not me!

The argument for rail over bus is a compelling one. Operational costs for BRT are actually far higher than for rail over time. BRT supporters emphasize the initial start-up savings, but BRT will cost more than rail long-term. Ridership for rail is far higher than for BRT. Rail has been successful in areas more analogous to MoCo than Eugene or Cleveland, oft cited as our model for BRT.

Our biggest bang for the buck would be to build the long-delayed new Potomac River crossing, Rockville Freeway and M-83 Midcounty Highway Extended.

Robert Dyer said...

Yes, the buses just dead-end at the county line. So why would anyone use the BRT if they have to make an additional transfer, outside in the bad weather, when they can go all the way, faster, on Metro?

Anonymous said...

The Coalition for Smarter Growth is really just a developer advocacy group by another name. Their main cause is they don't want an outer beltway so they fight to put the development everywhere else. None of them live in Montgomery, but you will see them testifying at our hearings and at the State asking for our money to pay for projects that they don't live here to pay for.

I think the media is finally catching on to the charade.

Robert Dyer said...

Yes, the urban and infill developers are in competition with the exurban homebuilders. The former need traffic jams to justify "smart" growth, and hence, do not want our long-delayed highway system to be completed. The Outer Beltway will bring jobs to Montgomery County, and we can't let outsiders determine our destiny.

Anonymous said...

Anonymous - what's "asinine" is pushing BRT on Veirs Mill, Randolph, and Georgia Avenues. They're too heavily used and too narrow already to "repurpose" without doing major harm to safety, businesses, and ease of transportation within the community.
Everybody on the Council who were for BRT couldn't meet my eyes when I said the plan was ridiculous, because they knew I was correct.
thank you for speaking up, telling truth to power, Robert Dyer