ROCKVILLE — For some, the Tuesday night hearing on whether the County Council will fund yet another study of the proposal for a Bus Rapid Transit system on U.S. Route 29 may have elicited a sense of déjà vu as once more, the same people testified on the same topics and made the same points as they did the last time, the time before that, and each of the other countless times County has dipped a toe into the BRT waters while never really getting wet.
Bus Rapid Transit systems – which can potentially provider shorter travel times than traditional buses by offering limited stops on busses that offer level boarding for passengers and travel at least partially in its own dedicated lane. So far, the County has proposed BRT lines on MD-355 and Veirs Mill Road in addition to the one on U.S. Route-29.
Tuesday night’s public hearing on whether to fund another study on proposed U.S. Route 29 bus rapid transit was only the most recent in a long series public hearings on the BRT for U.S. Route 29.
While the Council recently held a similar hearing, and had appropriated money for the project in this year’s budget, Tuesday night’s public hearing was prompted by a change in the original plan for the BRT on U.S. Route 29 in the East County, which originally called the bus to operate in both mixed traffic and in a dedicated lane on the shoulder. Now the Council wants to study a new proposal, suggested by Silver Spring resident Sean Emerson who said the County should reduce the size of the lanes on U.S. Route 29 in order to create a dedicated lane in the medium between New Hampshire Avenue and Sligo Creek Parkway.
And so, county residents once again found themselves rehashing old arguments about the proposed transit system, with some claiming it is the County’s ideal solution to traffic congestion in the East County and others deriding it as an overly expensive plan.
“What we should not do is to continue to take out the County’s credit card to pay for expensive transit solutions that are no backed by any supporting data,” said Silver Spring resident Kevin Harris, a member of the U.S. Route 29 BRT advisory committee. “What we have is an expensive, poorly planned, mish-mash of a bus on shoulder and a bus in mixed traffic. It is transportation planning that is dull as a butter knife.