App-based, on-demand buses among projects to receive regional transportation grants

Local projects in the works to support buses, bicyclists and pedestrians — and to help get cars off D.C.-area roads — were awarded grants Wednesday by the National Capitol Region Transportation Planning Board’s Transportation Land-Use Connections Program.

Grants totaling $680,000 will offer technical assistance to projects sprinkled throughout the region. All 13 are near high-capacity transit; 12 are in activity centers; and nine are in areas where low-income and/or minority residents live.

Virginia received $160,000 in technical assistance; Maryland got $260,000; regional funding totaled $260,000.

Grants are being awarded as far north as Frederick County, Maryland, where $80,000 will go toward helping design a path that will eventually connect the city of Frederick with C&O Canal National Park, which links to the National Capitol Trails Network.

The southernmost project is in Prince William County, Virginia, where $40,000 will support community planning around schools to make them friendly to students who would like to bike or walk to class.

“The more students that might be able to come that way, there might be fewer parents having to drive there, drop them off. [There’s] the congestion that that creates, and also the time that takes,” said Julia Koster, chair of the board’s Transportation Land-Use Connections Grants Panel, which chose the grant awardees.

In D.C., $60,000 will help fund a study of how people on foot and on bikes navigate the area around the intersection of New York and Florida avenues in Northwest. The spot known as Dave Thomas Circle is prone to traffic congestion and accidents. It soon will be redesigned by the District, with guidance from the study on how the space can best serve how people use it.

Another funded project will study and make recommendations to improve a “microtransit pilot program” that’s an app-based, on-demand bus service being launched in Montgomery County, Maryland, this summer. The service will be centered on Rockville, Glenmont and Wheaton and connect commuters with jobs, transit and commercial centers.

“The bus comes and picks you up — whether you’re at home or at work — and then connect you,” said Nicole McCall, manager of planning, research and assistance at the Transportation Planning Board at the Metropolitan Washington Council of Governments.

“They’re not going to be your typical bus you see in service. They’re going to be smaller to help network through the neighborhood and pick you up and get you where you want to be,” McCall said.

Consultants for the projects are expected to be selected by the end of the month, with projects beginning in October.

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