BRT Supporter: Repurposing Rockville Pike Lane Would Work

Potential look for a Bus Rapid Transit vehicle in Montgomery County, via County Planning DepartmentThe Rockville Pike Bus Rapid Transit debate continues before the Planning Board takes it up again on Thursday, this time with a noted transit advocate suggesting traffic flow would be much improved if just 15 percent of drivers switched from cars to BRT.

Tina Slater, president of Action Committee for Transit, said in a letter to Planning Board Chair Francoise Carrier that she and her colleagues were “uneasy” with the Board’s concerns about repurposing regular lanes of traffic exclusively for bus use.

In the Draft BRT Plan, Planning Staff recommends taking away one lane of regular northbound and soutbound Rockville Pike traffic from the Beltway to the D.C. line.

That has Planning Board members and some residents worried already gridlocked traffic will get worse. But transit advocates are arguing it’s just the move the county must make to get people out of their cars in order to improve traffic:

BRT is unlike our current bus system — buses today are mired down in the same traffic as cars. People who take the bus today do so for reasons that may be financial, environmental, or simply because they prefer using commute time to read, phone or text, rather than curse the traffic. By giving BRT a dedicated lane, the rapid and frequent service will give people an option they don’t have today.

Of course, every driver won’t move to BRT; probably not even 50% will. However, think of the “August effect” — the one time of year when you can get a seat on Metro, when you can drive downtown more quickly than usual. That’s because maybe 15% of the people are away on vacation. That really improves traffic flow. If only 15% of drivers switched to BRT, we’d see a big difference.

What other plan does the county have to move more people more quickly? We don’t have a good option for moving more cars. Instead of framing the situation as an inconvenience to drivers, frame it as a new option to move faster, arriver sooner, and get a chance to read/work/snooze while having someone drive you to your destination.

Read Slater’s full letter here. A second workession on the Draft BRT Plan is set for Thursday during the morning session of the Planning Board’s weekly meeting in Silver Spring.

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