Greater Greater Washington

Montgomery and DC officials start talking about working together on transit

DC is designing a streetcar that could end just shy of the Maryland line, while Montgomery County is planning Bus Rapid Transit lines that could dead-end at the border with the District. Can the two transportation departments work together? Officials from both jurisdictions met last week to see if they could build some cooperation.


Image from the DC Office of Planning's streetcar report.

Montgomery and DC leaders recognize that their residents don't consider political boundaries as they go about their daily lives, yet have so far been planning new transit lines in their own silos. New transit lines will be more successful if leaders ensure they serve the right destinations and have integrated schedules, payment, and pedestrian connections.

Will the streetcar go to Silver Spring?

DDOT planners have specified either Takoma or Silver Spring as possible endpoints for the Georgia Avenue streetcar. Jobs and housing density, not to mention the "vast majority of comments" that DDOT has received, point to Silver Spring as the best destination.

Montgomery planner Dave Anspacher said that the county's master plan includes dedicated lanes for transit on Georgia Avenue south of the Metro. But DDOT Associate Director Sam Zimbabwe noted that there would be many challenges. Montgomery County would probably not let DC construct the streetcar into Silver Spring on its own, so any connection would require very close coordination.

Will BRT connect to DC?

Several routes in Montgomery County's Bus Rapid Transit plan run up to the DC line, but there are no plans for what to do beyond that. Officials discussed how these lines could reach into the District to either get farther downtown or end at a suitable Metro station.

New Hampshire Avenue: The line for New Hamsphire Avenue could end at Fort Totten Metro, just like the current K6 and K9 WMATA buses that serve that corridor. Zimbabwe said that leaving New Hampshire out of MoveDC "may have been a gap," but also expressed skepticism about dedicated lanes within DC because New Hampshire narrows from six to four lanes at the DC line.


WMATA's K buses on New Hampshire Avenue currently cross into DC to serve Fort Totten Metro. Map from WMATA.

Wisconsin Avenue: Last fall, the Montgomery County Council approved a "dotted line" for the 355/Wisconsin Avenue BRT line to Friendship Heights (and beyond), pending collaboration with the District. The idea, said Anspacher, would be to bring BRT south towards Georgetown to serve the parts of Wisconsin without Red Line service.

Wisconsin Avenue is in fact a "high capacity transit corridor" in the moveDC plan, DDOT officials pointed out, so this connection is a distinct possibility, though potentially far off.


Proposed transit lanes in DC from the moveDC plan.

16th Street: The BRT master plan includes the short part of Colesville Road/16th Street to the DC line south of the Silver Spring Metro for dedicated transit lanes. Anspacher said the county would be willing to explore uses this space to help with DC and WMATA's efforts to improve the overcrowded S bus lines.

There's more work to be done

Arlington and Fairfax counties have worked together on the Columbia Pike streetcar. Arlington and Alexandria are collaborating on the Potomac Yards-Crystal City BRT project. And of course Montgomery and Prince George's have worked together on the Purple Line. These show that cooperation is possible.

At the same time, all of those examples sit entirely within one state, so it may take more work to create a Montgomery-DC transit service. WMATA could also help serve a convening role and has the authority to act as the regional transit planning authority.

Montgomery and DC officials agreed to meet again soon on specific projects, with 16th Street and Wisconsin Avenue as the top priorities. As Montgomery County's transportation committee chair Roger Berliner said, "Every day tens of thousands of commuters clog our roads to get to you, and then clog your roads. We have a mutual interest in solving that problem."

This meeting was a great start, but there will have to be many more at many different levels to truly build the best transit projects and the most effective integrated network for riders and the region.

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Kelly Blynn is the Coalition for Smarter Growth's Next Generation of Transit Campaign Manager and a member of the pedestrian advocacy organization All Walks DC. She is a former international campaigner at the climate change group 350.org and is now passionate about organizing locally with communities for sustainable and equitable transportation in the Washington region. 

Comments

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Shouldn't the MCWOG transportation directorate be responsible for ensuring that cross-jurisdictional coordination take place?

by observer on Jul 24, 2014 10:24 am • linkreport

A Silver Spring terminal for the Georgia Ave streetcar is the obvious choice. The only issue is how to accommodate it at the transit center and how it should to get there. In my opinion the best routing would be to run it up E-W Highway and have it terminate at Colesville.

It also makes perfect sense to run the BRT all the way to Georgetown, since after Tenleytown the Wisconsin Ave corridor (including Georgetown) has no transit service at all.

Hopefully the jurisdictions can work together to get these projects running. Idiotic moves, like the DC Council slashing streetcar funding, don't really help though.

by King Terrapin on Jul 24, 2014 10:26 am • linkreport

It also makes perfect sense to run the BRT all the way to Georgetown, since after Tenleytown the Wisconsin Ave corridor (including Georgetown) has no transit service at all.

Agree, but it's no quality transit service. The DC circulator and a few ordinary buses ply the streets and annoy me to no end when I have to go over that way.

by Richard on Jul 24, 2014 10:30 am • linkreport

Do DC and Arlington talk about the Columbia Pike streetcar?

by Jasper on Jul 24, 2014 10:47 am • linkreport

Maryland and the District have been working on a transportation facility - the Anacostia trail.

http://www.mdot.maryland.gov/News/Releases2014/2014April24_Construction_Starts_Anacostia_Riverwalk_Trail.html

by Randall M. on Jul 24, 2014 10:49 am • linkreport

@King Terrapin

It also makes perfect sense to run the BRT all the way to Georgetown, since after Tenleytown the Wisconsin Ave corridor (including Georgetown) has no transit service at all.

I don't think it's helpful to dismiss regular bus lines as being "no transit service at all," even if it is suboptimal/insufficient.

The 30s service (not to mention the Circulator in Georgetown) is a hell of a lot better than the transit service on Connecticut Avenue north of Van Ness.

by Dizzy on Jul 24, 2014 11:01 am • linkreport

IOC:NO2DC

I just realized, I am an Olympics Nimby! I hereby dub the brewing debate over hosting the games in DC as the "Nimby Olympics."

by The Truth™ on Jul 24, 2014 11:07 am • linkreport

Thanks for this important piece.

The low hanging fruit on the tree here is to just extend the existing WMATA bus services on both Connecticut and Wisconsin Avenues, both of which terminate at Western Avenue, and there is no reason to wait for BRT to do both of those things.

Since it sounds like the Purple line will likely open before any BRT does connecting those two corridors to the Purple Line should be done in advance and since there are existing routes on both corridors (and existing bus stops on both sides of the line though not served by the same routes) there is no reason to even wait for the purple line to improve the existing bus service with extensions.

Left off and probably deserving its own piece is a write up about coordinating bike lanes and facilities.

by TomQ on Jul 24, 2014 11:10 am • linkreport

One more argument for retrocession.

by jimble on Jul 24, 2014 11:18 am • linkreport

Rush hour and post-Metro hour buses going 16th street down Georgia, stop at Forest Glen, stop at Wheaton (A University/Veirs Mill/Georgia access area, with a large bus ridership)
That goes the way of a lot of commuters.
Silver Spring Metro is not the be-all.

Also, MD should spend a little focus replacing "Flag Pole" stops to shelters with bike racks and improving Metrobus and RideOn service in general.

by asffa on Jul 24, 2014 11:20 am • linkreport

What's the red line crossing to and terminating at the Virginia border at the 14th Street Bridge?

by Kevin E Beekman on Jul 24, 2014 11:54 am • linkreport

I think a bus or tram on NH Ave, say from Upshure & GA Ave all the way to Adelphi - i.e., a line that does NOT terminate at Ft Totten would serve a lot of people. The whole NE side in DC and MoCo are underserved and have bad connections if you need to get from near Upshure & NH to farther out on NH & the reverse.

by Tina on Jul 24, 2014 12:38 pm • linkreport

@jimble: Given the Maryland SHA's attitude toward transit (http://greatergreaterwashington.org/post/23590/maryland-sha-needslessly-draws-community-ire-with-poor-georgia-avenue-bus-rapid-transit-options/), retrocession makes less sense in this context than annexing Montgomery County to the District.

by alurin on Jul 24, 2014 12:50 pm • linkreport

Whats with these lines just ending miles from some metrorail stations or DC/Maryland borders why not just extend them there.

For example ending a line at Minnesota Ave, Skyland, Southern Ave & Wheeler Road and Benning Road; theses lines could be extended to Deanwood, Naylor Rd, Southern Avenue, Capitol Heights to better connect with bus services

by kk on Jul 24, 2014 1:07 pm • linkreport

alurin If MontCo could keep their schools, that might work. Montgomery County has forgotten how to prioritize wisely and how to budget, especially including public buildings, transit, and roads.

by asffa on Jul 24, 2014 1:13 pm • linkreport

@ Dizzy

I see your point. Guess I should have stated "rapid-transit service."

@ jimble

Same thought crossed my mind. Maryland and DC have really strong political, cultural, and (of course) transportation ties. I feel that retrocession is inevitable within the next few decades, especially as DC is looking less and less like a liability and more like an asset for MD. Wonder what stances Bowser and Brown have on the issue...

by King Terrapin on Jul 24, 2014 1:37 pm • linkreport

Please p l e a s e PLEASE! make the WMATA buses on Wisconsin Ave come up into Bethesda!

Yes, I'm whining!

by Capt. Hilts on Jul 24, 2014 6:45 pm • linkreport

and yet Berliner opposes building more roads in Gaithersburg

by asffa on Jul 25, 2014 5:59 am • linkreport

I think it would make more sense to run the street car to Wayne and Georgia, thus serving as a local stop and go route. And the Transit Center and the Purple Line stop at the new library would be close by.
As I've stated before, running a Georgia Avenue BRT line from Wheaton to Silver Spring alongside the Red Line makes no sense.

What's probably even more important is that Howard County and Montgomery County cooperate on a BRT route for 29 and that apparently is starting to happen. Unless you take some measure of Howard County drivers off 29, BRT would be useless.

by Woody Brosnan on Jul 25, 2014 7:48 am • linkreport

TomQ & Capt. hilts -- when Jim Hamre did a presentation at an ACT meeting last year? one of the attendees made the same point, more about Wisconsin Ave., and not so much about Connecticut Ave. and not with TomQ's great point about the Purple Line, that the 30s line should at least be extended to Bethesda.

Obviously, CT Ave. has deficient service in the upper reaches. e.g., http://urbanplacesandspaces.blogspot.com/2013/03/tactical-thinking-about-dc-bus_6.html

Ironically, the routes are impacted by legacy issues, that the transit service in Maryland was a different subsidiary of Capital Transit, so the respective services weren't through but stopped/started at borders.

But yes, you're both right that this would be an easy change now, and could make a difference, just as the special Rte. 1 bus service in PG County could be extended into DC as a form of bus rapider transit too.

These are cross-border connections that would make transit service a lot more useful.

2. wrt Woody Brosnan's point, I think the MoCo task force thought about that issue all along, because much of the traffic originates in HoCo. I had a conversation with someone at that task force about that specific issue a few years ago.

by Richard Layman on Jul 25, 2014 1:07 pm • linkreport

Woody Brosnan - all very good points.

by asffa on Jul 25, 2014 3:53 pm • linkreport

Good recap. Once again those most in need along NH Ave get short shrift. All the focus and resources are always on Silver Spring and Bethesda and no resources to those further east. Shame...they need it much more than Chevy Chase, Bethesda and Georgetown. A lot of people along NH actually ride the bus and don't have Metro(or a car)as an option. But I guess since they aren't from from Ward 3 and Bethesda like the Councilmembers, they'll remain forgotten.

by mrt on Jul 25, 2014 4:29 pm • linkreport

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