Traffic lanes could be dedicated to buses in Montgomery -- Gazette.Net


Traffic lanes on busy Montgomery County roads — such as Md. 355 or U.S. 29 — could become dedicated to bus rapid transit under a plan being drafted by the county’s planning department.

Montgomery County planners suggest converting the lanes from automobiles to buses as the quickest most cost-effective way to achieve high-quality transit. In an update of the county’s highways planning guide, the planners are incorporating a 150-mile, 16-corridor bus rapid transit, or BRT, network.

Bus rapid transit or BRT would mimic the features of light rail — such as off-board fare collection and real-time passenger information — but operate on the county’s existing infrastructure.

Planners justified switching a lane from cars to BRT using four standards, but primarily calculating “person throughput,” or how many people could move through the area in the lane.

If more people could be moved on transit than in vehicles, based on forecasted ridership in the year 2040, it justified taking the lane.

At a Planning Board meeting Thursday, board Chairwoman Francoise Carrier said the test was an easy one for transit to win. She questioned why at least part of the justification was not a standard of taking the lane when it would not have too much impact on traffic.

Commissioner Casey Anderson said it noted that the county was no longer going to be in business of trying to accommodate the demand for single-occupancy vehicles, and that transit was preferred.

If more vehicle lanes were needed, that should be considered separately.

In their report, planners said some corridors would require adding exclusive bus lanes to medians.

Montgomery County’s Transit Task Force recommended in May a 160-mile network of 23 BRT corridors be built in the next nine to 20 years. The recommendation called for building the system in three phases, starting in the highest economic development priority areas, and estimates the capital cost of the total system to be $1.8 billion with an average annual operating cost of $1.1 million per mile.

Planning board and public input will be considered before a draft plan is submitted.

Three public meetings are scheduled for next week on the recommendations.