Greater Greater Washington

Transit


Montgomery BRT supporters unveil coalition at hearing

Last night, a coalition of 32 civic, business, activist, and environmental organizations announced their support for Montgomery County's proposed Bus Rapid Transit network at the first of two public hearings on the issue at the County Council in Rockville.


Transit supporters wave signs at last night's hearing. Photo by betterDCregion on Flickr.

After 5 years of study, this fall the Council will consider a plan to build an 82-mile rapid transit network on several major roads, including Rockville Pike, Georgia Avenue, Veirs Mill Road, and Columbia Pike. Planners say that BRT will allow us to move more people on existing roads as the county grows from 1 million residents today to 1.2 million in 2040.

David Moon of advocacy group Communities for Transit and the Coalition for Smarter Growth unveiled their list of "strange bedfellows" who support the plan, ranging from the Sierra Club to ULI Washington and CASA de Maryland. Before the hearing, they held a press conference to call for a BRT network that has dedicated lanes, frequent and reliable service, bike and pedestrian improvements along transit corridors, and "Metro-like features," which include widely spaced stops, stations with safe, comfortable waiting areas, and fare collection at the station.


BRT supporters gather before the hearing. Photo by betterDCregion on Flickr.

The Montgomery County Young Democrats have also lent their support. "We hosted a forum this summer about what young people need in order to settle down in Montgomery County," said Katie Mullen, a Young Dems member who lives in Burtonsville. "Of the almost 100 people in attendance, the #1 priority wasn't more night life, affordable housing, or new industry. The #1 priority was to greatly expand public transit across the county, in particular a comprehensive Bus Rapid Transit network with dedicated lanes."

Opponents of the BRT plan who spoke at the meeting came primarily from two neighborhoods: Chevy Chase West, which is adjacent to a proposed route along Wisconsin Avenue, and the Four Corners area of Silver Spring, near proposed routes along Route 29 and University Boulevard. They cited concerns about the cost of building BRT, the inconvenience to drivers if the county repurposes existing lanes for buses, and claimed that the public hadn't gotten enough opportunities to give feedback.

Councilmember Marc Elrich, who first proposed a BRT network, contested claims that the county was preparing to condemn 3,000 properties for a system that hasn't been fully designed, or that it was a "sellout" to real estate developers.

"I'm probably the last person on earth, or at least in this room, that would do something on behalf of developers," he said. "It happens that [development] serves the rest of county residents in the ability to grow our tax base and deal with county traffic. There is no way to not see the development that is coming in the plans."

I live-tweeted the hearing along with Kelly Blynn from the Coalition for Smarter Growth and Ted Van Houten from the Action Committee for Transit. Here's a Storify of the night's highlights:


A planner and architect by training, Dan Reed also writes his own blog, Just Up the Pike, and serves as the Land Use Chair for the Action Committee for Transit. He lives in downtown Silver Spring. 

Comments

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I am shocked (SHOCKED!) to hear that Chevy Chase residents are against these transit improvements.

And I have heard these arguments from neighbors, too. Some people are convinced that taking any lanes from cars will be devastating. They don't seem too concerned about the current quality of transit or the fact that there isn't really another way out of this traffic.

by Gray on Sep 25, 2013 10:59 am • linkreport

"I'm probably the last person on earth, or at least in this room, that would do something on behalf of developers,"

"It happens that [development] serves the rest of county residents in the ability to grow our tax base and deal with county traffic. There is no way to not see the development that is coming in the plans."

If development serves the rest of the county residents, why wouldn't Mr. Elrich do something on behalf of developers? This knee jerk anti-development additude from many of our well intentioned representatives is strange. Certainly curtail them when they propose to harm our communities, but endourage them when they do right. Who does he think developed the communities we call home in the first place?

by Thayer-D on Sep 25, 2013 11:01 am • linkreport

Because "developers" are a public process bogey man to represent everything wrong with developers. Ignore the fact that the vast majority of people in MoCo (including the NIMBYs) live in places built by developers.

by drumz on Sep 25, 2013 11:05 am • linkreport

Yes!! Victory to the Coalition!

by renegade09 on Sep 25, 2013 12:22 pm • linkreport

Thayer-D and drumz:

It's the same way out in PWC as well. I bet if you took a poll of the people who scream the loudest against "development", you'd probably find the majority of them have been residents for less than 10 years. Who do they think built their exurban McMansions that they blog from complaining about developers "creating" more traffic?

Certainly there needs to be oversight and ensuring the right decisions are made, but for some reason these people seem to not realize that when they were moving into the neighborhood 5 or 10 years ago there were people already there complaining about THEM. What makes matters worse is when these people misguidedly fight against commercial development or transit because it will attract "those people". It drips of elitism and doesn't help in solving the major issue of residential vs commercial tax burden which exists in nearly every bedroom community.

by Joe on Sep 25, 2013 12:31 pm • linkreport

The "developers as boogeyman" meme plays well to people who were in their 20's and 30's in the 1970's and '80s. The people who still use that meme never really got that the world has changed and that we now need more of the right kind of development (the kind that's in walkable urban places proximate to transit).

Part of why that meme became conventional wisdom back then was because most development was paving over greenfield to put up car-dependent sprawl. As Leinberger notes in his book, "Option of Urbanism," more development erodes the quality of life in of car-dependent places while it enhances the quality of life in walkable urban places.

by Cavan on Sep 25, 2013 5:42 pm • linkreport

Cavan+1

Also, becasue by and large, what they tore down in cities was so much better than what they replaced it with. This is the importance of design and reforming archtiecture schools to look at people oriented design rather than object oriented design.

I can't day I blame people for this negative view, just look at how much we've crapped up our environment (Geography of Nowhere). It's going to take a long time for the development community to regain the public's trust, and that means everybody from engineers, to architects, to developers and politicians. On think smart growthers could do is not be defensive about wanting development though. This would at least provide the opportunity to talk about how things could improve rather than seem to be holding a dark secret.

by Thayer-D on Sep 26, 2013 7:29 am • linkreport

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