Montgomery County could earmark its first dollars for bus rapid transit as early as this year.
County Executive Isiah Leggett (D) has requested $1 million be added to the fiscal 2013 capital spending plan to fund studies that would allow design work on key corridors to begin as early as 2014.
A transit task force recommended in May the county build a 160-mile network of bus rapid transit, or BRT, along 20 corridors at an estimated cost of about $1.8 billion.
Montgomery County planners with the Maryland-National Capital Park and Planning Commission have suggested converting traffic 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 BRT network.
Leggett has not made a formal recommendation for BRT.
“I’m committed to it, the question I have always had is how big will it be, how long will it take to do it, what the cost would be and prioritization,” he said.
Leggett’s million-dollar request provides a year of analysis and planning for rapid transit, he said.
Specifically, his request would fund detailed studies related to the transit task force Phase 1 recommendation for the system, namely the 15-mile Corridor Cities Transitway planned to connect Shady Grove Metro Station to Clarksburg, the Md. 355 Transitway, and the U.S. 29 Transitway, including studies of:
ź Integration of Ride On, Metrobus and the new rapid transit routes.
ź Pedestrian and bicycle access to stations.
ź Transit Signal Priority.
ź Park and Ride to serve corridors and terminal stations.
ź Organizational structures to efficiently and effectively design, build, operate and maintain the system and to ensure sustainability and integration of the system with Ride On and Metrobus services.
ź Framework and policies associated with future right of way and operational agreements with the state.
Glenn Orlin, the County Council’s deputy staff director, said in an email that the money Leggett requested would come from Mass Transit Facilities Fund reserves and would not add to the county’s current capital debt.
The council is scheduled to hold a public hearing on the request when it returns from recess on Jan. 15.
As the council considers the request, Orlin said they would need to consider if anything Leggett has asked for is premature.