Larry Cole, the lead planner on Montgomery County’s Bus Rapid Transit proposal, will come to Chevy Chase next week to discuss the system with some of its most vocal critics.
Residents of the Chevy Chase West neighborhood and nearby communities along Wisconsin Avenue’s “Green Mile” argue a dedicated lane going each way for the bus system would endanger kids walking to school and make it harder for them to get into and out of their neighborhoods.
At the Planning Board’s public hearing last week on its Countywide Transit Corridors Functional Master Plan, five residents of Chevy Chase or Somerset said the buses, which some referred to as “high speed,” shouldn’t go south of the Bethesda Metro station. The South MD 355 Transitway is planned to connect the Rockville Pike/Wisconsin Avenue corridor with the Friendship Heights Metro station.
“High speed transit buses result in deaths and expensive legal claims,” said Chevy Chase West resident Marie Park. Park said the system would also increase pedestrian accidents caused by regular vehicles.
“I’m not saying that all buses are bad, but this plan is bad because you’ve totally disregarded the concentration of schools on Wisconsin Avenue,” Park said.
She mentioned Bethesda-Chevy Chase High School, Somerset Elementary School and private schools such as the Concord Hill School, an early-education school for kids age 3 through third grade at 6050 Wisconsin Ave. The meeting with Cole will be held there at 7 p.m. on Tuesday, May 28.
Residents said they also want more crosswalks and regular bus service before any BRT system is built.
“Any MD 355 BRT first phase should go only to the Bethesda Metro stop as its southernmost point,” said Chevy Chase West resident Elaine Akst. “An extension should be dependent on an extension of WMATA bus lines between D.C. and Maryland.”
Cole chimed in at that point during the hearing, explaining that a curb lane dedicated to buses could actually make turning on to Wisconsin Avenue easier because drivers would be able to take advantage of large gaps in BRT bus traffic.
“Stop it at the Bethesda Metro,” Chevy Chase West resident Elizabeth Ewing testified later. “Don’t interfere with what is working very well between that Metro stop and Friendship Heights.”