SILVER SPRING — County transportation officials on Monday showed off preliminary designs for the planned Route 29 Bus Rapid Transit system at the last of three open houses to gauge public response to the plan, which is still in the preliminary stages.
“The thing about the primary design is that there is still time to make changes if there is something the public reacts to very strongly. If they really like something or if they really don’t like something, we’re still early enough in the design process that we can make tweaks to the design,” said Montgomery County Department of Transportation BRT Project Manager Joana Conklin, adding that most of the recommendations she received from residents were related to proposed station locations.
Bus rapid transit systems – which use separate dedicated lanes, limited stops and level boarding with pre-pay ticket stations in order to shorten commute times – are often proposed as less expensive alternatives to light rail systems. Such a system was once considered to replace the now-under-construction Purple Line by then-Governor Robert Ehrlich (R) but was reverted to light rail by his successor, Martin O’Malley (D).
As planned, the Route 29 system – which is projected to cost an estimated $31.5 million for both buses and station construction – will use shoulder lanes as dedicated bus lanes on the northern portion of the route, but will make use of normal traffic lanes when traveling south.
Current preliminary plans call for the system – which the County expects to begin operation in 2020 – to run along 11 stops from Burtonsville to the Silver Spring Transit Center.
Silver Spring resident Martin Posthumus told the Sentinel that he supports the County plan, but has some reservations about the current design because it doesn’t appear to be an improvement over normal express buses.
“It’s being branded as BRT, but it seems the improvements are rather limited beyond express bus service,” he said.
But the County – which plans to introduce BRT systems on the MD-355 corridor and along Veirs Mill Road – hopes the system will alleviate congestion along developing corridors, Conklin said.
“What we’re hoping is that we can help it from getting worse because with all the development that is happening in the County and the changes that are happening if we do nothing, you know, for transit improvements we’re just going to see the traffic get worse,” she said.