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Bus Rapid Transit Advocate Says System Has Broad Support

By Aaron Kraut

Wednesday - 10/16/2013, 3:25pm  ET

Chart via Communities for TransitA pro-bus rapid transit interest group says most in Montgomery County are in favor of the controversial plan, at least according to an analysis of testimony at a pair of public hearings last month.

The nonprofit Communities for Transit, a group lobbying for the 81-mile, 10-corridor BRT network proposed by the Planning Board, said 37 of 61 people who testified were “fully in support” of the system and another nine were supportive of the overall concept but had concerns about routes through specific neighborhoods.

The public hearings took place on Sept. 24 and Sept. 26.

The analysis says 15 people, less than a quarter of those who spoke, “fully opposed” bus rapid transit, or rapid transit system (RTS):

In a diverse county of nearly one million residents, it is noteworthy that most of the opposition to the RTS (10 of the 15 opponents) was concentrated in two neighborhoods: 1) the Woodmoor-Four Corners area of Route 29, and 2) the “Green Mile” area (aka the neighborhoods along Wisconsin Avenue between Bradley Blvd and Friendship Heights).  Outside of these two areas, the tally of critics from the rest of Montgomery County (5 of the 61 speakers) falls to less than 10% of the residents who testified about rapid transit.

“The numbers are clear: the overwhelming majority of residents, environmental leaders, and business representatives who testified at the Montgomery County transit hearings fully supported a rapid transit solution,” Communities for Transit’s Scott Williamson said in a release. “Conventional wisdom dictates that it is easier to mobilize opponents for public hearings than it is to bring out supporters. But when it comes to rapid transit, Montgomery County residents are making it clear that they embrace transit as a potential solution to growing traffic problems.”

The County Council’s Transportation Committee will continue worksessions on specific corridors and treatments on Friday.

In the first two worksessions, much of the discussion has been about what exactly the Countywide Transit Corridors Functional Master Plan allows for and doesn’t allow for. The County Department of Transportation would have to conduct its own traffic studies, planning and public approval process before implementing the system, but some of that work is already being budgeted for.

Paula Bienenfeld, a North Bethesda resident who testified against the plan, on Monday compared bus rapid transit to the famous “Marge vs. the Monorail” episode of “The Simpsons.”

During the Sept. 24 hearing, Bienenfeld got into an argument with Councilmember Marc Elrich, who said her claim that the system would mean the taking of 3,000 properties were false.