On Monday, Montgomery County opened its first dedicated bus lanes at the Germantown Transit Center. County officials hope the new lanes will allow buses to move faster, alleviating traffic and attracting more riders.
County Executive Marc Elrich said adding the lanes will bring many benefits, from a cleaner environment to a boost in businesses moving to the county because workers will have more transportation options.
“If people can’t get to work in a reasonable amount of time with a minimum amount of delay, they’re not going to want to go to work,” Elrich said. “And if you can’t attract employees, you’re not going to attract the businesses that need those employees.”
Elrich said the county leaders chose the Germantown Transit Center because over 2,000 riders on eight separate bus lines go through that location every day.
The new bus lanes have been painted bright red and surround the transit station between Crystal Rock Drive, Century Blvd. and Aircraft Drive.
“The cars are moving. The buses are moving,” Elrich said at a press event Monday. “It’s speeding up transit, and that’s what we need to do if we’re going to get more people to use transit.”
The Montgomery County Department of Transportation began planning the dedicated bus lanes after receiving funding this summer. The county had a goal of getting the first lanes completed by the end of the year.
Michelle Whittaker, a long-time bus rider and county resident, says her family has one car, but it’s often used by her husband for his commute to work. She said the new dedicated lanes will give her more choices.
“Having access to additional routes that expand options and make sure I can get to work on time, will definitely help,” she said.
County Councilman Craig Rice said the new lanes will improve equity in the county and help close the racial wealth gap. He said 80% of bus passengers are people of color.
“We know who the people are that are riding our buses and how important it is that they get to their places on time,” Rice said. “Whether it’s picking up their children, whether it’s going to their second job – not their first one – or whether they’re trying to do some of the many things that many of us have the luxury of driving a car to do.”
Montgomery County joins other cities, such as Baltimore, Chicago and Washington, D.C., in creating dedicated bus lanes. County leaders say they plan to open a second set of lanes in Wheaton in the coming months.