Letter to County Council Transportation & Environment Committee from ACT president Tina Slater, February 7, 2011
The Action Committee for Transit is pleased to offer comments on the county's transportation priorities letter.
It is essential for the county to reaffirm its strong commitment to the Purple Line. Because it will provide the missing fast connection between the two branches of the Red Line, the Purple Line is the key to the entire county's transportation future. Because of its central significance for our economic development strategy, as well as future land use, we feel that the Purple Line should be identified specifically as the highest transportation priority.
Another very important transit project is the MARC Growth and Investment Plan from 2007. This multi-year plan would provide all-day two-way train service on the MARC Line through Montgomery County from Union Station to Frederick, tripling ridership, and it would be a project of regional interest. We believe it is time that the MARC Growth and Investment Plan (more precisely, its Brunswick Line element) appear on the county's list of priorities.
No all-transit alternative for the I-270 corridor has ever been examined and this is something ACT has been calling for since 1997. To really be a position to prioritize among major upcounty projects, we suggest that the county ask the state to undertake this study. With $4 billion slated for various I-270 improvements, we need to compare what $4 billion would "buy" in an all-transit alternative. With gasoline prices on the rise, more people will be turning to transit and we need to be ready.
We are pleased to see the draft priorities letter looking to bus rapid transit as an element of our transportation future. We are concerned, however, that the county is requesting funding for large and expensive projects without first making the policy changes necessary for bus rapid transit to succeed. Other jurisdictions might ask why, in this time of tight budgets, Montgomery County should get money for expensive bus rapid transit projects when it does not implement some straightforward, low-cost bus rapid transit projects on existing highways. We suggest adding to the letter a firm pledge that the county will immediately undertake bus priority projects on its existing roads, including implementation of all changes in roadway operation and configuration requested by the WMATA priority corridors initiative.
We will not comment on the individual road projects listed in the letter. The important thing about them is that - as council staff notes - their aggregate cost far exceeds the money that will conceivably be available to build them. This should not cause us to simply throw up our hands; rather we need to change direction. We need a change in priorities to build the transit-based system of the future.