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Bus Rapid Transit Supporters Fire Back At AAA Mid-Atlantic

By Aaron Kraut

Friday - 10/11/2013, 1:45pm  ET

Afternoon rush hour on Rockville Pike near Walter Reed National Military Medical Center (file photo)A group of bus rapid transit supporters say AAA Mid-Atlantic’s opposition to bus-only lanes is rooted in a “fatally flawed,” traffic-solving approach of building more roads and more lanes.

Next Generation of Transit, a project of the Coalition for Smarter Growth, on Thursday issued a response to AAA Mid-Atlantic’s testimony from Monday.

The Coalition is lobbying for the Planning Board’s Countywide Transit Corridors Functional Master Plan, which establishes the framework for a 10-corridor, 81-mile bus rapid transit network in the county. The plan is now in front of the County Council’s Transportation Committee.

In May, AAA spokesperson Lon Anderson said proponents’ claims that drivers would flock to bus rapid transit, “makes one wonder if they’re smoking something funny.” AAA is against dedicated bus rapid transit lanes where it would mean the loss of a regular mixed traffic lane.

Next Generation of Transit said dedicated lanes will mean a better chance to solve traffic issues at a cheaper cost than building new lanes and roads. The group also said AAA Mid-Atlantic “misused and took out of context,” a report from an outside consultant that concluded Rockville Pike/Wisconsin Avenue was the only road in Montgomery that could support a gold standard bus rapid transit system:

AAA’s approach of continuing to solve our traffic problems by building ever more and wider roads is fatally flawed.  Solving our traffic challenges means focusing on moving people, not just cars, and that means using our existing infrastructure most efficiently.  By making it attractive to walk, bicycle, and take a high quality bus rapid transit service, we can provide more choices and make the transportation system work better for everyone – especially those who need to or choose to use a car.

Dedicating travel lanes to transit will provide a better chance for our road network to function more effectively – and will do so at far less cost to our communities than the other major option – increasing the size of our major arterial roads. Many jurisdictions that have dedicated roadspace to transit or bicyclists have seen no impact or even an improvement in traffic.  Even LA has dedicated lanes to buses this year on their congested Wilshire Boulevard, knowing that the only way forward is to focus on providing options to move people, not just cars.

The bus rapid transit proposal before the County Council right now is a great opportunity for Montgomery County to provide new transportation choices along major roads like Rockville Pike where new construction is bringing thousands of new residents. Experts like the Institute for Transportation and Development Policy (whose report AAA misused and took out of context) say that the 355 corridor, in addition to US29, Veirs Mill, and Georgia Avenue are all good candidates to start upgrades to transit service to achieve a BRT network.  Montgomery’s own planning department who conducted much more detailed modeling indicates a similar prioritization of corridors.

To solve our transportation challenges, we must look to the future, not an auto-oriented past.  That’s why a diverse coalition of over 36 business, civic, environmental, and social justice organizations have come together to call for a future that includes a robust bus rapid transit network for Montgomery County.

The Council’s Transportation Committee will hold a worksession on the proposed east county BRT corridors on Monday morning.