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Analysis of the Prospects for the Montgomery County Maryland Bus Rapid Transit Proposal The Coalition for Smarter Growth 2012,
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Coalition for Smarter Growth
Analysis of the Prospects for the Montgomery County Maryland Bus Rapid Transit Proposal
Primary Author: Alex Posorske
The Coalition for Smarter Growth wishes to thank everyone involved in the research and writing of this report for their generous time and contribution.
This report was made possible in part by a generous grant from the Rockefeller Foundation.
Coalition for Smarter Growth
DC • MD
Table of Contents
Key Issues Cost and Taxes Purple Line Science City and the Corridor Neighborhood Cities Transitway (CCT)
12 12 17 20 23 25
BRT Design in a Suburban Context
The Montgomery County Bus Rapid Transit (BRn proposal will soon become an active part of Montgomery County political life. The idea. first proposed by Councilmember Marc Eirich in 2007. who championed the proposal through hundreds of community meetings. has caught the attention of important political sectors. It is seen by many county leaders as a potential game changer and critical for the county's economic competitiveness. sustainable development, and management of traffic as the population continues to grow. Meanwhile. the proposal has not only sparked interest in Montgomery County. it has caught the collective eye of international BRT boosters. Despite international successes in places like Curitiba, Brazil and Bogota. Colombia. the United States has yet to fully embrace the concept of BRT. Could Montgomery County. with its mixture of traditional suburban land use patterns and pockets of downtown-like density develop a new model for transit for the changing suburbs of America?
These are the hopes of BRT supporters as the Montgomery County Transit Task Force. appointed to study the matter in 20 II. completes a year of extensive discussion and technical analysis and prepares its final report and recommendations to County Executive Ike Leggett (see Appendix A.1-A.7 for the draft proposed map and phasing of the system). But what are the odds for passageof this propos all Are the votes there for council approval? Do the financial resources and political will exist to fund the system? Can a traditionally suburban county find the consensus needed to build a true BRT system. one not compromised by long-standing engineering policies that favor the movement of cars? We believe that the answer is yes to each of these questions. but the road to get there will certainly not be easy. Drawing from over 30 interviews of civic. business. nonprofit and political leaders. including eight of the nine Montgomery County councilmembers. the experience of three U.S. BRT systems. observations of Task Force meetings. and our experience in Montgomery County. this report will consider these and other questions about the BRT proposal. It will analyze the politics of passage. identify the main potential stumbling blocks. and draw lessons from similar campaigns in other regions of the country. In order to gain that support, we believe that supporters of the BRT proposal must address the following issues: • Concerns that the BRT project will divert funds from the planned Purple line (a light rail line that would stretch from Bethesda in Montgomery County to New Carrollton George's County). • • • Concerns from neighborhood groups about increased development and added inconveniences to driving. Specific concerns about the connection between the BRT proposal. the Corridor Transitway. and "Science City." The need for communication and outreach along the key corridors to address potential concerns of small businesses. property owners. and neighborhood associations. and. most importantly. Cities in Prince
Concerns that the cost of a high quality, ground breaking BRT system is simply more than the county can afford.
BRT supporters in the county currently estimate that the final vote on any proposed system will be no earlier than the late spring or early summer of 2013 so supporters have at least a year to address those issues. In the end, Montgomery County, Maryland is to be commended for considering a systematic approach to transit investment and has committed significant resources already to the investigation of the form. scope, and financing of a comprehensive BRT network And with continued investment and focus over the next year, the county has a chance to turn vision into reality and create a truly world-class transit system and make its mark as a leader in the next generation of transit.
In this section the report will focus briefly on three Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) case studies - one in Eugene. Oregon and two in the San Francisco Bay Area - to discern any applicable lessons. These three efforts appear to be the most relevant domestic projects for the following three reasons: • All are in areas with somewhat similar politics and economies (like Montgomery County. the Bay Area and Eugene are less tied to manufacturing and older models of economic development and are based more in a "new" knowledge economy). • All are more suburban areas, similar to the density levels of Montgomery County (the East Bay example is denser but still in an area with a heritage of more spread out land use than some urban areas). • All are fairly recent efforts, so many of the issues they faced are more current politically and economically.
The biggest takeaways from all three case studies are the power that local business can have on the process and the need for well planned and executed outreach to businesses and others along the planned routes. This should not come as any particular surprise to anyone familiar with local government initiatives. but each case study certainly reinforces the importance of these two lessons for any BRT process in Montgomery County.
Case Study I: AC Transit East Bay Bus Rapid Transit Project
The AC Transit East Bay BRT project is a rapid transit bus line that will connect the California cities of Berkeley. Oakland. and San Leandro. The plan has been in the works for 12 years and. apart from the usual hiccups of an ambitious transit plan, has widespread community support along the routes and a dedicated funding source from the Alameda County Transit Authority (AC Transit). Construction is expected to start in 2014 and funding for the system appears to be secure. However. assuming the system opens on time. there will still be one major missing element - true BRT in Berkeley, the third and most prosperous town along the string of the originally proposed line. Berkeley - renowned nationwide as one of the most progressive jurisdictions nationwide - actually voted down the proposal when it came before the city council in 20 I O. Thus. when the system opens in 2016. the Berkeley portion of it will continue to function like the current traditional bus route does with no added convenience for transit riders. While Berkeley's failure to participate is not fatal to the system. it is certainly a disappointment in that it could have been a perfect example of how a BRT system can link up a single region (the East Bay) and be used by a large variety of socioeconomic groups. Without commercial and social hubs of the region. In Berkeley, a small number of business owners along the route demonstrated how much power small, vocal groups can have, especially in the absence of effective proactive outreach. These business owners 6 Berkeley, the system still has a very good chance of being successful and utilized by a number of different groups, but will leave out one of the key
were locally-based and tended to either specialize in specific merchandise without generous profit margins or an economy-of-scale; or they were street vendors along Telegraph Avenue. one of Berkeley's historically commercial boulevards. Thus they were very concerned about the effect of the BRT proposal on their main street - specifically because it proposed to relocate commercial loading zones they and their clientele used. They argued that their clientele was largely car-dependent. drawn from all over the Bay Area. The merchants felt that eliminating the convenience of commercial loading directly in front of their places of business might be the final straw that slashed their already slim profit margins and put them permanently in the red. So they mobilized against the proposal and over a hard fought year were able to ensure that Berkeley would not participate in the project and that the BRT line would end at the Oakland/Berkeley border. They packed meetings with their supporters and made sure that their presence was noticed. as can be seen below (see Appendix B for further details);
Specific information showing that a majority of patrons of the area did not actually drive to get to Telegraph Avenue did not affect the debate. since the merchants were mostly concerned about the few patrons who needed quick and easy car access (via commercial zones in front of their stores). In particular. the array of used book and record stores wanted people with loads of used books and records to be able to easily unload them directly out front. They argued that moving the commercial loading zones. as proposed by the BRT project could jeopardize their business. BRT lost in Berkeley by one vote. Organizers believe that this narrow margin made it clear that the staff proposal for the project was too ambitious. and may have been successful if toned down just a little bit. perhaps by eliminating the dedicated lanes in the portion of the corridor generating the most opposition (from the merchants). Instead. the whole city lost out. and BRT will have to be re-considered altogether at a much later date. perhaps under a new city council. 7
Case Study 2: Eugene. Oregon EmX BRT System
The EmX BRT system in Eugene and Springfield, Oregon is generally hailed as having many characteristics that could serve as a model for BRT in the United States. The first network of routes, connecting the downtowns of Eugene and Springfield as well as the University of Oregon, a regional medical center, and large local mall, have been a great success and have exceeded their 20-year ridership projections almost from the beginning, according to local transportation planners. However, despite that success, plans by the Lane Transit District (LTD) to open up another line that would connect the more suburban neighborhoods of west Eugene with the rest of the system have run into some determined opposition. As in the East Bay case, the primary source of opposition has come from businesses along the proposed route that are worried about the loss of parking and potential disruptions to their businesses in a traditionally very auto-dependent area. Those businesses have aggressively organized, forming a group called "Our Money, Our Transit," complete with a strong earned media strategy, robust website (www.ourmoneyourtransitcom - see Appendix C for a screen shot of their homepage as of March 2012) and social media presence, and the ability to hold protest events that make them at the very least appear in media reports as having a strong grassroots presence. They've also widely distributed signs along the stretch of highway in West Eugene that simply and effectively convey their position as you can see in the image to the left.
Meanwhile, this opposition has arisen despite that fact the most of the costs are being paid for by state and federal funds. Most of the capital costs for the Eugene BRT extension will be paid for by federal Small Starts money already earmarked in the federal budget and by state funds that will meet the federal requirement for a local match. The opponents in Oregon discount the federal/state funding, saying the system will ultimately cost taxpayers much more because of the higher operation costs of more frequent bus service. They throw out a number of other concerns, including a lack of transparency in the process, left turn access for businesses, and decreasing property values; basically the whole litany of anti-BRT arguments, plus some are in philosophical opposition to increased federal funding. Ultimately. they say that the scope of the project is simply too large and ambitious for the community.
The anti-BRT campaign appears to be taking its toll. A recent tracking poll on the issue by a respected Portland polling firm showed Eugene residents only favoring the project by 50-45 percent, a narrow number for a controversial project (though organizers note that opinion of other transportation projects in Eugene has often been closely divided as well). The poll also showed that a higher number of individuals are strongly against it, than those strongly in favor of it (33-27) (see Appendix 0 for further details). BRT extension supporters have started to mobilize. with their own website (www.yesemx.com) and a
presence at local business locations where pro-BRT paraphernalia can be picked up. However. the website appears to only be updated sporadically. and they don't seem to have a regular press presence or strategy. The pro-extension side is often represented by an LTD spokesperson, meaning the pro-BRT side is by nature going to be less aggressive than the anti-side's spokesperson, who will not held back by any sense of bureaucratic caution. When speaking with LTD staff, they feel that they have made two key mistakes thus far during process. First, they didn't come to the community with at least a handful of options - instead it was BRT in a dedicated lane or no-build. After facing strong initial resistance to the dedicated lane concept, the transit district retreated to a "Business Access and Transit" (BAT) concept. The buses would run in mixed traffic for certain segments where their modeling showed this compromise would have a marginal effect on performance. However. the transit district proposed this compromise as a defensive mechanism it's possible that giving the community more input in the early stages, would have gained them grassroots supporters and allowed them to propose a system concept from a posltlon of strength and collaboration. Second. they feel they could have spent more time reaching out to residents in nearby townhomes and apartments. These likely regular users of the expanded BRT system could have added their voices into a mix that has been dominated by transit professionals on one side and business owners and neighborhood opponents on the other.
Case Study 3.
In the south San Francisco Bay Area, the Santa Clara County (Silicon Valley) rapid transit agency known as the Valley Transportation volume transit corridors. Authority (VTA) is focused on building three BRT lines along busy. highFinancing for the plan was passed in 2000 with a countywide proposition,
The first line (in red on the map below). stretching east from downtown SanJose is scheduled to open in 2014; the second (in orange). stretching along the busy commercial thoroughfare El Camino Real from downtown SanJose to Palo Alto is scheduled to open in 2016; and the final leg (in blue), running from downtown SanJose to De Anza College in Cupertino. is scheduled to open in 2018.
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on the first line will start in late 2012. Transit organizers who have worked on the project
say that it is somewhat disappointing from a transit and complete streets perspective. Only two of the line's seven miles are planned as dedicated BRT lanes, and even where dedicated lanes are planned, the local transportation agency (VTA) is widening the street in order to maintain the same number of auto lanes, leading to degradation in some regards to the pedestrian environment. The most significant lesson, though. may derive from the concerns raised over the ultimate shape and form of the 17 mile long EI Camino leg of the system. Following a historic route dating back to the time of the Spanish colonization, EI Camino Real in Santa Clara County is similar today in many ways to Montgomery County's commercial strip development corridors. VTA has plans to put two dedicated bus lanes in at least half of the miles of the EI Camino leg due in part to federal funding requirements - turning a six-lane suburban road into four lanes in those specific spots. The plan is ambitious and could give the state highway a significant makeover, but it has run into opposition from some of the municipalities along the route. The city of Mountain View has cast two informal votes during special council study sessions to express its opposition to the project as planned (see news article in Appendix E). Other city councils along the route have also expressed skepticism, primarily about losing two lanes from a major thoroughfare. but also over concerns over left turn removal and the overall utility of the system. The concentrated opposition from municipalities may cause delays in the project or a BRT route that has been drastically reduced in scope of ambition when the project plan is finalized later this year. While there are some definite differences between the South Bay and Montgomery County efforts finances are not an issue at all in Santa Clara County thanks to a 2000 sales tax initiative that's funding the projects, and there are not the same hodgepodge of local municipalities to worry about in
Montgomery - many of the concerns that may lead to a scaled back BRT in the South Bay are not unique. Transit advocates in the Bay Area identified two main problems. First. they said that the plan for the EI Camino route called for bus-only lanes through several cities. but left out the wealthier community of Palo Alto. While VT A said there were financial and technical reasons for that decision. transit advocates said the agency was not especially effective in publicizing those explanations. leaving the impression of politics at work. Bay Area transit advocate think that a better approach would be to propose a variety of alignment options, including bus-only lanes in Palo Alto in order to create a sense of regional equity. Secondly. transit advocates said that VT A has thus far taken an approach in dealing with the public that made the BRT plan seem like a fait accompli. In particular, they believe VTA could improve its public participation techniques and create a more bottom-up planning process. In addition, advocates said VT A had very few one-on-one meetings with important local elected officials and other relevant individuals prior to public meetings such as the Mountain View Council sessions. That has disappointed some people in local government and in the community and resulted in misconceptions about the project and a failure to address specific questions and build consensus. Overall. advocates say the agency needs to take a more careful and inclusive approach in BRT planning moving forward.
Cost and Taxes
Background Of all the issues facing the Montgomery County Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) proposal. the most critical one is the unanswered question of how the system will be paid for. The BRT proposal is being considered during a very challenging time for government finances in general. The national situation goes without saying. and the BRT Task Force has noted that federal funding should be considered a long shot at this point. But the county and state face equally challenging fiscal environments. At the state level, Maryland officials say transportation funds for long-standing priority projects are drying up. The Governor is attempting to win some form of new revenue option from the General Assembly (see Appendix F for background). He has worked on options including applying a six percent state sales tax to fuel purchases (heretofore exempted from the sales tax). with the proceeds going toward transportation projects. Even as state officials are making dire projections about their ability to projects without this new gas tax. it is unclear at this point whether a fund large scale transportation
transportation funding bill will pass. The Governor's newest option is a statewide general sales tax increase from six percent to seven percent with the additional revenue being directed to transportation. The legislative session is scheduled to end April 9. and it looks like any bill for new funding may have to be raised during a special session later in the year. Montgomery County. while certainly faring better than some municipalities in the downtown. has not completely escaped the recent problems many localities have faced either. Recent budgets have seen cutbacks in a county long known for robust government spending (including a $25 million cutback to the county's prized school system in the fiscal 2012 budget). The rhetoric was particularly heated in the spring of 20 I I when the county pushed through budget legislation that forced county employees to pay more for their own pension and healthcare benefits. In that fight, public employee unions staked out and picketed the home of then-Council President Valerie Ervin. Into this environment, the addition of a billion dollar BRT system proposal. even one seen by many as key to the competiveness of the county. prompts concerns about costs and financing.
Financing Plan After careful deliberation throughout the winter. in March 2012 the Transit Task Force came out with a set of financing options. While this helped give structure to the proposal. it also brought forth a whole new set of concerns - as always happens when plans become more concrete. First a quick primer on the financing options:
There are nine separate scenarios for funding both capital costs and operating expenses Each scenario revolves around a combination of local property tax increases and state funding (though some scenarios assume no state funding) and a combination of nine-year and 20-year time horizons for final completion of the system. The property tax increases are a combination of the following options: o A property tax on commercial property within a ~i2 mile radius of proposed BRT lines. o o A property tax on both commercial and residential property within a
'11 mile radius of
proposed BRT lines. A property tax increase on both commercial and residential property within a preexisting special tax district for transit that encompasses 90 percent of the county (which has the added advantage of being exempt from the county's charter limit on property tax increases under which property tax revenue cannot exceed the previous year's take plus inflation and the value of any new construction).
A property tax increase on commercial property within the same preexisting special tax district listed above.
Each scenario calls for only small increases in property tax over the next five years. with none starting before the 2014 fiscal year and none of the significant rate increases starting until 2022.
Any proposal that called for a different rate for commercial and residential property in a specific area would first have to be approved by the Maryland General Assembly. Current law does not permit such distinctions. and BRT supporters are unsure if this would pass the General Assembly. However, the county has previously been able to use another option, drawing the lines for a special district to only take in commercial property, as they did for the White Flint plan. While the Task Force does not take a position on which of the special district combinations would be the preferred, it is clear there would be a number of pitfalls with each option of financing including the following:
I. Businesses and commercial interests within the Yl mile zone could mobilize against the tax: Some politicians would say that developers and commercial interests have it good in Montgomery
County. While taxes and fees might be high. they have access to some of the most highly-educated and wealthy clientele in the entire country, drawn to the county by its high reputation for quality of life and good schools. In neighboring Fairfax County, Virginia, which many consider to be Montgomery's closest rival in the region, special taxes have been levied to pay for the new Metro line currently being constructed to Tysons Corner and Dulles Airport. Some Montgomery developers think that a tax on commercial interests within a
Yl mile radius of the
BRT lines would be fine. But others say they have serious qualms with any proposal that would rely too heavily on commercial development. Some property owners along the proposed Corridor Transitway (CCT) route have indicated they would have trouble supporting any proposal that put too much of a property tax burden on commercial property owners. Another real estate figure, extremely knowledgeable about the D.C. market in general, doubts whether the county's BRT lines (or BRT in general) would be able to create the kind of value capture needed to justify putting the bulk of the burden on commercial property.
2. County voters could mobilize against a residential property tax hike: While property taxes
rates are actually slightly lower than some surrounding jurisdictions (the $0.959 per $100 assessed rate is actually lower than Fairfax's rate of $1.07 per $100 as well as the rate of other jurisdictions). as you can see below, there is precedent for such a mobilization within the county. Real Tax Rate Montgomery 0.959 0.85 1.07 0.978 1.285 0.96 1.014 0.936 0.91 * higher in incorporated municipalities Notes *county's base rate, higher in incorporated municipalities
Fairfax Arlington Loudoun Prince George's Howard Frederick Anne Arundel
In 1990, in response to rising concerns about property taxes, Montgomery County voters passed a charter amendment which stated that the county could not collect any more in property tax revenue than the previous year's revenue total plus inflation and the assessed value of any new construction in the jurisdiction. The amendment created just one exception, allowing the vote of at least 7 of the 9 council members to temporarily overturn the law in a particular year. In 2007 the Council. fretting about budget shortfalls, secured the necessary seven votes to raise the property tax rate beyond the charter limit. This angered a segment of Montgomery property owners and, in 2008, local anti-tax activist Robin Ficker succeeded in placing an initiative on the local ballot raising the number of votes needed to temporarily overturn the charter limit to nine (or unanimous consent). The initiative passed with a healthy majority. Ficker had attempted a number of initiatives before without success, but he clearly struck a nerve with the electorate in 2008. BRT organizers are aware of this problem and, assuming they move forward with any of the above financing schemes. would be looking to propose a tax rate that appears fair and acceptable, rather than propose a rate which would lead to widespread rejection. The exact rate to meet that goal is unclear, but at least one individual involved in the BRT proposal estimates that a $0.10 raise on residential property tax rates would be untenable, while a $0.03 to $0.04 raise could potentially be acceptable. Currently only one of the scenarios calls for up to a $0.10 raise in property tax - for residential properties within a Yl mile of the BRT lines. That particular scenario is considered unlikely by most on the Task Force. Task Force members say they included the scenario to show what would happen if all of the tax burden were put on residential and commercial property within a Yl mile of the BRT lines.
3. The State of Maryland might not provide funding: A number of problems that could crop up
with state funding, starting with the biggest and most obvious: the state says they don't have the money.
The Task Force is prepared for that possibility. Of the nine funding scenarios the Task Force is drafting, four don't involve any state funding at all. However, the proposed property tax increases on residential and commercial property will be much more likely to be in an acceptable range if state funding can be secured. So, state funding will likely be a county priority to ensure public support and success for the BRT proposal. BRT organizers believe there are two possible routes for state funding. The first is to ask the state to pick up portions of the yearly debt retirements on the municipal bonds. The county's argument would be that the state would be investing in a prized and value-adding piece of infrastructure in a much more affordable manner than their traditional funding mechanisms. Instead of a lump sum cost, they could make smaller payments spread across a number of years. In addition, the county would note that the 30-year bonds it plans to offer will have lower annual payments than the 15year transportation bonds to which the state is currently limited by statute. The state's representatives on the Task Force have not commented publicly on this proposal except to note that it is not the usual way the state does such business. . The second involves the CCT (for more background on the CCT, please see the "Science City" section). The CCT is a long-standing (and somewhat controversial) county transit project in the northern end of the county that has been included in the proposed first phase of the BRT system. Since it has been on the county's priority list of projects to the state. the Task Force sees the potential for state funding for that portion of the BRT plan. Specifically.Task Force members note that the county has applied for the federal New Starts program to construct the CCT. A standard feature of New Starts is that the federal government covers 50 percent of the cost of the project, with the state and locality expected to pick up the other 50 percent. In order to submit the application in the first place. the state had to agree to provide some funding. Thus. reasons the Task Force, the state has already agreed to pay for a significant share of the project already - whether federal funding is forthcoming or not. Obviously. if the New Starts application is approved by the federal government then the funding calculus is changed significantly.It is unclear at this point what the prognosis is for New Starts. and the state has two other applications pending - the Purple Line and Baltimore Red Line. The Task Force is proceeding under the assumption that federal funding will not be forthcoming. Another possibility raised by proponents of the CCT. based on a study funded by CCT adjacent property owners, is that the CCT could be built for significantly lower costs than are currently estimated. The costs might be lower enough that the project might be eligible for the federal Small Starts program and increase the likelihood of federal funding. though the study's recommendations could lower the effectiveness of the BRT system. according to some (Appendix I). State transportation representatives on the Task Force have been fairly tight-lipped on the subject of state funding (as non-elected officials. it ultimately is not their caU)except to note that the only officially committed state money to the CCT is for engineering studies through 2014. After repeated phone calls and in-person requests, they finally said they preferred not to comment for this report.
Ultimately, state funding will depend first on resolution of the current statewide transportation funding challenges. But even the proposed gas tax or sales tax increases will not be enough to meet the large state wish lists. The state has been clear that their top priorities are the Purple line and Baltimore's Red line, ahead of the CCT and ahead of the larger BRT proposal, which Montgomery County hasn't yet listed as an official county priority. 4. The difficulty of explaining property tax funding mechanisms: The financing scenarios also bring in a more general complication for BRT proponents - the difficultyof communicating about property tax raises and who they're going to affect in the county. Montgomery County's property tax structure is very complicated. Individual town property taxes are assessed on town residents on top of the county's, and numerous special districts that have slightly different rates from other areas of the county (the $0.956 per $100 assessed value listed above is a summary number of the base rate and some of those special districts). A Baltimore Sun piece that sought to layout the property tax rate for each county in Maryland specifically noted that it would have to explain the Montgomery County rate in a separate article. So. the property tax proposal is going to be very hard to explain not only to average residents but to reporters who are covering the issue, especially if it involves special geographic districts that charge commercial property at a different rate or only include commercial property. Confusion or inaccurate simplification of the different rates and who they affect, would be not beneficial to the BRT proposal. BRT organizers must be prepared with very complete and clear talking points and must be able to easily explain the selected financing mechanism, and demonstrate its fairness and the net economic benefit. Otherwise the chance for misunderstanding. resentment. and rejection is high.
The county mY,stfind the happy medium between business and residential ratepayers for sharing the cost of the new system. Organizers like Council member Marc Eirich and Task Force Chairman Mark Winston have spent significant time building a broad coalition of business. residents. and activists. If any one side feels they are bearing too much of the burden the coalition could start to unravel. For a project that could cost as much as $1.6 billion, failure to maintain that coalition could be fatal. Officials must make the case to the taxpayers. Montgomery County taxpayers would be willing to pay higher rates - if they consider the project worth the investment. All of the balancing in the world to find acceptable tax rates and shared responsibility won't matter if county taxpayers don't think the project is worth it. Meanwhile. state funding is the wildcard and impossible for the county to predict right now. The county is making a strong effort to secure the funding. but at this time, it appears unlikely that any new source of funding will be approved by the General Assembly. The availabilityof state funding for the BRT system would reduce the degree to which the county would have to raise its local property tax rates.
The Purple Line is a proposed light rail lane that would run from the Bethesda Metro Station on WMATA's Red Line to the New Carrollton Metro Station on WMATA's Orange Line in Prince George's County, Maryland. After two decades of study and debate, the state of Maryland committed $100 million for preliminary engineering in 2008 and the entire concept was approved by both the Montgomery and Prince George's county councils in 2009. The federal government earmarked money for preliminary engineering for the proposal in late 2009 and formally approved the route in 20 I I. The line is seen by area transit and smart growth activists as a top priority. Transit. smart growth,
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and business advocates have been campaigning for it for years but created an intense campaign in 2008 and 2009 to organize community members behind the passageof local legislation supporting the project. There is concern in the activist community that the Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) proposal could potentially displace the Purple Line in the county's funding priorities. This issue is of critical importance to two undecided council members - George Leventhal and Hans Riemer. Both expressed varying degress of skepticism about the BRT proposal during our interviews and both highlighted their concerns about Purple Line funding as a key contributing factor to that skepticism. Both are from the end of the county that would benefit from the Purple Line, and they see it as one of the most important projects for the county overall. In addition, Riemer served at one point as President of the Action Committee for Transit (ACT), one of the key advocacy groups pushing for the Purple Line. Directly addressing Leventhal and Riemer's concerns may be an important part of securing a working majority on the council for the proposal. In addition, ensuring that the commitment to the Purple Line is retained is likely necessary to ensure that eastern county residents and stakeholders (for whom the
Purple line offers real economic benefit) don't see the BRT plan as something that will only be used for the betterment of the western half of the county. One might think that with all the progress made on the Purple Line that there shouldn't be an issue with its completion; that it's a done deal. However. there are two outstanding issues that make the Purple line still tentative in the minds of its supporters and make any talk of other major transit projects in the county potentially worrisome to them. The first is that, as highlighted in the previous section. the funding climate for large transit projects is simply not very good right now. The federal government has not directly committed any money to the actual construction of the line, although a New Starts application is pending. Meanwhile. as noted above, the state government is facing issues of its own for transportation funding. While the state has said that the Purple line and Baltimore Red line are their top two funding priorities. many observers now believe that the Baltimore Red line is in front of the Purple line in terms of transit priorities for the state. With a funding climate like this. Purple Line supporters worry that any sign that the Purple Line is not the top priority of the county could jeopardize the chances of securing federal and state funding for Purple Line construction (see Appendix G). Meanwhile. although a majority of Montgomery County residents support the Purple Line. there remains a small but extremely vocal and well-organized opposition to the project. Friends of the Capital Crescent Trail. a group centered in the exclusive inner-ring suburb Chevy Chase. is opposed to the Purple line because it will run along the right-of-way of the Capital Crescent Trail. a local walking and biking thoroughfare (itself built on the right-of-way of some old railroad tracks, which, under the federal "rails to trails" law, are required to be specifically retained for rail use) and change a park-like setting. which some local residents have become very attached to. Among the opponents are also neighbors adjoining the trail and the powerful Chevy Chase Country Club. which is bisected by the depressed right-of-way. The opponents are extremely savvy at public relations and have enough connections to county. state, and federal power-players that they can continue to make their viewpoint heard by those who matter. They had pushed for a BRT alternative along nearby roads. an alternative which the study's experts rejected as not meeting the purpose and need of the project. The push for a BRT system may be seen by Purple line opponents as another chance to derail the proposed Light Rail Transit line. To this dogged opposition and the uncertain funding situation. must be added the interests of stakeholders in the upper 1-270corridor who see this upcounty area as the real future of the county and who would like to see the Corridor Cities Transitway (CCT) be the county's top priority. Thus. to suddenly throw an expensive BRT project into the mix. with the CCT in Phase I. can seem like a real threat to funding the Purple line in the view of its supporters - hence the concerns of Leventhal and Riemer. The Task Force is increasingly aware of this issue and has inserted language into its draft report that stresses the Task Force members' support of the Purple Line and pledges that BRT system planners will do everything possible to make the system complementary to the Purple Line. One member of the main pro-Purple line advocacy group is also currently serving as a member of the Transit Task Force. Meanwhile. the state and county could hear back from the federal government about the New Starts
application as early as mid-20 12, which. if the news is good, would do a lot to ease the fears of Purple Une supporters. Nevertheless. even with a more affirmative sign from the feds, the funding climate will still be challenging. and BRT organizers would be advised to pay special attention to the Purple Line or risk real opposition from key community activists and council members.
Science City and the Corridor Cities Transitway (CCT)
While the issue of Science City is not expected to be a critical one in the course of a Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) campaign. it is central enough to the interests of some members of the assembled BRT coalition and enough of a negative to some neighborhood activists, environmentalists, and smart growth advocates that it bears understanding and evaluation. Science City, the Corridor (CCT) , and the BRT system are interconnected: • The CCT is a long discussed transit corridor between the Shady Grove Metro station (the Cities Transitway
terminus of the Metro Red Line in western Montgomery County) and the rapidly growing exurban community of Clarksburg. The CCT has been on the county's master plans for years, but its proposed route has been adjusted a number of times based upon development proposals. Various transit modes have been considered including light rail, commuter bus. and BRT. but county and state officials recently selected BRT as their preferred mode. The system has been proposed to meet various needs, such as a longer-distance commuter connection for up-county commuters connecting into the Metro system. a means to avoid and even mitigate 1-270 traffic. and local service. The CCT concept has moved along steadily but got a shot in the arm with the adoption in 20 I 0 of the Science City Master Plan (technically named the Great Seneca Science Corridor • Master Plan. and formerly the West Gaithersburg Master Pian). Science City is a large planned biotech research center to be combined with mixed-use residential and office development that the county hopes can be a new economic engine. It includes Johns Hopkins University's landholdings. existing biotech sites. a University of Maryland outpost, and a regional hospital. County leaders envision their own "Research Triangle." linking Science City with the National Institute of Health (NIH) campus north of Bethesda and another planned campus near the Food and Drug Administration's Oak in the eastern part of the county. The SCience City Controversy With Science City. many of the county's elected officials and business leaders saw a chance to boost economic growth and put the county on the map as the Silicon Valley of biotech. by encouraging a major life sciences business cluster given the powerful presence of NIH in Bethesda. Johns Hopkins, a powerful force in Maryland politics, saw the same promise. added prestige, and a chance to capitalize on its land holdings in the area. Conversely. local civic activists saw a potential nightmare of new traffic and were concerned about the conversion of what had been proposed as a more bucolic campus into a more urban form. Environmentalists and smart growth advocates saw the proposal as out-of-scale for the location. worsening the jobs/housing imbalance with the eastern part of the county. and adding to sprawl pressures even farther out beyond the new center. Meanwhile. the family that had originally deeded the land to Johns Hopkins for smaller scale educational purposes sued the university, saying that the university had gone far beyond what had originally been discussed (their lawsuit is still pending. but most observers do not expect it to succeed). (FDA) new headquarters at White
After heated public debate. the council ultimately voted unanimously to approve the plan (see Appendix H). A limited scaling down of the development and the inclusion of phasing triggers tied to the funding and construction of the CCT. were key amendments for winning over the two d1ssenting councilmembers. Marc Eirich and Phil Andrews. The county also rerouted the proposed CCT in order to take in the newly planned campus. Before the first phase of Johns Hopkins development can begin. funds must be fully available for the leg of the CCT from the Shady Grove Metro station to the Washington Grove MARC station (approximately five miles north of Shady Grove and past the main Science City campus), and that same segment of the CCT would have to be completed before the second phase could begin (see map below).
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Assessment At this point Science City itself appears to be a mostly settled issue within the county. Even original skeptics on the council see it as a priority. or at least say so publicly. Much of the county leadership talks up the idea as one that will ensure the economic competitiveness of the county for decades to come. The activists who opposed the project still cling to some hope that the lawsuit against Johns Hopkins might go their way. but by and large appear resigned to the fact that the project will happen. Because of this consensus. it is unlikely that the Science City issue would derail or cause serious harm to the BRT proposal. Nevertheless. any lingering concerns of civic and environmental activists about the BRT-CCT-Science City connection. could make it harder to get those groups to enthusiastically support the BRT proposal (see Appendix I for an example). Ifthe proposal experiences any serious setbacks during the campaign for approval. it could hurt if some of those groups decide not to speak out in favor of the program. Since the CCT section of the BRT proposal will benefit some development interests. opponents of the proposal may use it as a talking point. On this theme. one representative of CCT landowners indicated that the group as a whole might fight against paying additional property taxes to support the system since they already anticipate giving up sizable chunks of land for CCT right-of-way and station construction. If this were to be the case. civic opponents of Science City could consider this additional reason to oppose the BRT proposal. Others have argued that the CCT. based on its circuitous route. proposals for large roads in the area, urban design for the development, and even potential recent proposals to delete some of the areas of dedicated lane service (Appendix I). has a number of practical weaknesses. In addition, some have said the market for dedicated lane transit may not be strong enough in this part of the county. So someone who wants to argue that the system is not practical and that there isn't a market for it could use the CCT's presence in Phase I of the project as an example. These concerns will need to be addressed. Furthermore. if the CCT is included in Phase I of the system. it will be important to make the case for the overall net benefits to the system and to ensure that other corridors, especially in the eastern part of the county. are included in Phase I and get equal attention in the promotion of the system. Currently. Phase I accomplishes this well, with a balanced geographic distribution of proposed routes.
Neighborhood Civic Associations
Neighborhood civic associations traditionally hold a lot of power in Montgomery County. Besides labor, there are very few organized groups that can generate scores of speakers to testify on a particular issue on short notice - civic associations can. There are over 1,300 registered civic associations in the county, most of them representing specific subdivisions or areas, with a handful of county-wide organizations. The membership of these organizations has tended to skew toward the older, more established, and conservative (at least on local growth issues) homeowners in the county. The civic associations tend to be well-organized, not shy about speaking out, and very skeptical about development in the county. A more traditional environmental ethic focused on preservation, but not the environmental benefits of transit-oriented smart growth, holds sway with many, but not all. Public involvement is always important and these active residents often raise important questions and make helpful recommendations to improve projects, but sometimes also oppose, delay, and undermine important, sustainable, and well-planned transit-oriented projects. Neighborhood groups have played a central role in county politics in the last decade, with some giving them partial credit for helping to elect current County Executive Ike Leggett in 2006. This is seen by many as a response to the election four years earlier when County Executive Doug Duncan's prodevelopment council slate "End Gridlock" beat back a slow growth slate recruited by Duncan's major opponent on the council at the time, Blair Ewing. Neighborhood groups have won a number of battles against smart growth projects on the local level in recent years. including stopping. at least temporarily. a mixed-used townhouse project near the Silver Spring Metro station and delaying for several years the implementation of the last phase of the Bethesda Row development in downtown Bethesda. They also, arguably, managed to lower the scale of the Science City development, though not shut it down. And civic associations and their allies in neighborhoods became the most dogged opponents of the Purple line, raising objections in the Chevy Chase area over the impact on homes, the potential loss of a popular walking and biking trail, and, in the Silver Spring area. the issue of on-street routing through some established neighborhoods. At the same time, neighborhood groups in the White Flint Metro area became strong and active proponents of the White Flint Master Plan, a major urban redevelopment of a larger section of the Rockville Pike commercial corridor (though other civic associations were openly skeptical).
In jurisdictions that have put forth similar BRT proposals, issues of concern to neighborhood groups have included reduced left turns, potential conversion of car lanes to dedicated bus lanes, loss of medians, and taking of right-of-way. Since the authors of this report don't have the detailed design issues for particular routes and their potential impacts, it has been hard to gauge the level of concern in Montgomery County about these issues. However, the first presentation that the Task Force gave to members of the Montgomery County Civic Federation (the oldest and most influential of the umbrella civic association groups) led to some hostile questions, including worries about transparency, a lack of input from other citizens. and concerns about the overall usefulness of the system.
This does not mean that the Civic Federation or most neighborhood associations will ultimately oppose the project. To the contrary. there appears to be a base of support and a couple of key factors: First. the County Executive included civic association representation in the Task Force. Dan Wilhelm. a board member of the Civic Federation and its transportation expert. has been an active participant and is supportive of the proposal. Second. the guiding force of the proposal is Council member Marc Eirich. Eirich has been a long-time ally of civic associations (he ran on Blair Ewing's slate in 2002) and is well-regarded and trusted within the ranks of the most dogged opponents of growth in Montgomery County. His leadership on the BRT proposal helps to earn the support of neighborhood activists. Of course not every member of the Civic Federation or individual neighborhood associations will be on board. BRT organizers should ensure that the civic associations are kept well informed with a robust series of briefings and meetings. and can have meaningful input to the design of the individual routes. Otherwise. local concerns and opposition could pop up in certain corridors. which could jeopardize those particular routes. or. in tandem with other focal points of opposition like cost. property taxes. or the Purple Line. create a "Death by a Thousand Cuts" scenario.
BRT Design in a Suburban
Context - Corridors, Politics and Performance
"The devil is in the details." Once again, the old adage is true. Getting the design and operational details right will be critical to the success of the Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) system. Yet, some of the biggest political fights and risks may come from the critical design decisions that will have to be made and the physical circumstances along each segment of the routes. The Task Force has faced a series of issues that can be grouped together around the inherent struggle between trying to build a system that is effective and attracts a significant number of choice riders, and maintaining auto levels of service demanded by suburban residents. These issues will continue to arise during the course of any BRT campaign and must continue to be closely monitored. Providing very efficient, effective BRT service is deemed by many experts to require dedicated lanes to avoid travel in mixed traffic and other key service enhancements, like traffic signal preemption. Perhaps the biggest issue where median space is not available is the need to either take additional right-of-way or convert an existing travel lane. The older parts of the county, particularly inside and near the Beltway, typically have narrower rights-of-way, with nearby businesses and residences. The Planning Board will begin discussing right-of-way and other issues at a handful of public hearings, tentatively scheduled to start in September, and is expected to make its recommendation to the county council in December. The Planning Board could also potentially weigh in on a number of other issues besides right-of-way, including the feasibility of each phase, whether they need more or fewer routes, and the width of the BRT lanes. These fall meetings are important and should be closely watched to understand any concerns about the project and to gauge the depth of those concerns. BRT proponents should work closely with the Planning Board and staff to find the most effective ways to address right-of-way and other design issues. Key issues to watch for during both the Planning Board meetings and in general include:
Reserving right-of-way: Under the current proposal, 27 miles of the system would run in
mixed traffic, with portions of nearly every other route being affected in some way. Some BRT advocates question what this would do to the effectiveness of the network believe that right-ofway must be reserved in as many places as possible to address this issue. In order to reserve the right-of-way (and in order to officially make the BRT plan part of the county's priorities) the Montgomery County Planning Board must draft and ratify a revision to the county's Master Plan of Highways, which then has to be passed by the county council. Planning for and preserving this right-of-way could prove to be a challenging issue for the Planning Board and BRT supporters. Along routes like the CCT, which already has reserved right-of-way, and in areas with much less development or more spread-out suburban-style development, there may not be much of a problem. But routes in older areas of the county, particularly inside and near the Beltway, could face major problems. For example. one of the major traffic tie ups in eastern Montgomery County is at the Four Corners intersection where U.S. 29 and University Boulevard intersect just before U.S. 29 crosses the Beltway on its way into downtown Silver Spring. To avoid getting caught in that traffic a BRT vehicle would ideally need a dedicated lane to make it through the intersection. But adding two dedicated lanes, 2S
where there is little to no additional right-of-way on the sides of the intersection could be problematic as you can see below in this picture looking south on U.S. 29 toward the intersection with University Boulevard:
Taking Lanes: In those sections of BRT routes that are similar to the Four Comers example and have seemingly limited right-of-way potential. another option is the repurposing of lanes for either dedicated BRT lanes or Business Access and Transit (BAT) lanes that will be primarily used by buses. The Task Force was split between those who think there should be language indicating that designers should consider taking a lane when it looks like it will help the overall flow of traffic and those who think that the language should indicate that the taking of lanes should be avoided wherever possible. That dedicated bus lanes have the potential to carry more people per lane at peak hour. and reduce the number of cars using a corridor. is both true in most cases and difficult to sell. Proponents will need to make this case effectively and explain where and why a taking is recommended and correct the record in cases where it is unlikely.
Montgomery County DOT: Montgomery County Department of Transportation (MCDOT) staff have been active participants in the Task Force but some observers are concerned that philosophical and technical differences will arise between BRT supporters and MCDOT staff. in part given what some see as a historical auto-centric bias of the staff. MCDOT may raise concerns about removing left turns. signal priority for buses. lane widths. and other 26
implementation details. The Task Force is calling for car lane widths smaller thanMCDOT prefers, in order to fit the BRT lanes. In the case of current and ongoing regional planning for bus priority corridors. which predates the Task Force. some transit advocates believe that MCDOT has not been as proactive and helpful as they could be. That they have been slow to support and implement signal preemption, queue jumps. and other service enhancements for existing bus service. MCDOT's expertise and helpful participation is important. but the county should be sure to borrow from successful examples from other regions to address MCDOT concerns and implement the design changes essential for an effective BRT system.
Suburban Character of County: Finally.to a number of people. Montgomery County may
be just too suburban to need a system like the BRT supporters are proposing. While BRT supporters see a rapidly changing and urbanizing county that needs to hitch its future to a transit-oriented model or be buried under the traffic that an additional 100,000 to 200.000 residents will bring. others see a more traditional suburban county that should continue to focus on single family homes and expanded road capacity to address traffic issues. Using this general theory. there are a number of potential arguments that BRT detractors might make. Individually.the arguments might not hold up. but if combined and unanswered. they could create a strong narrative against the BRT proposal. Potential arguments include the following: • • • People are too tied to their cars and will never ride the system. White collar workers (choice riders). especially, will never ride the system. Certain assumptions that some BRT proponents talk about (like workers riding the system between corners of the Montgomery "Science Triangle" (NIH. White Oak, Science City» will never happen. The BRT proposal means that cars will get second class treatment in the county in the future.
In summary, based on extensive review of the political environment and the Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) proposal. the authors of this report believe that the BRT proposal has a good opportunity garnering a majority of public support. The county has a heritage of active government and big projects. It appears to have the wealth and tax capacity. The organizers of the BRT plan have done a thorough job at assembling the kind of coalition that should be able to win approval of this significant initiative. Most importantly. there is a real need for transit solutions. tied to transit-oriented development. to handle population growth. improve accessibility to jobs. and offer an alternative to driving and even worse traffic. The alternative - massive road expansion - would be far too damaging in terms of cost and community and environmental impact. while not providing more than temporary relief. However. no one should be under any illusions that the BRT proposal is a sure thing. Primary factors that could fuel concerns sufficient to jeopardize the proposal include the price tag of the full system amid a challenging fiscal environment. a potential backlash against tax increases. and worries about the proposal competing against the Purple Line for scarce transit dollars. Other second tier factors include specific design concerns regarding lane and median conversions and right-of-way takings. and even specific development projects tied to the BRT. The combination of a number of separate concerns could unify enough disparate forces against the project to halt it. Furthermore. even if the proposal can overcome all of those potential concerns. it may be that design to be approved by the Montgomery County Council and advanced in the near term through Phase I, while
compromises could render the project less groundbreaking and much less of a true BRT system than local organizers are planning and national observers are hoping for.
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New: Berkeley Residents
By Riya Bhattacharjee
Strongly Oppose BRT at Council Hearing
Wednesday April 21, 2010 - 12:11:00 PM
Even as the Oakland City Council evening, Berkeley residents rallied Berkeley Mayor Tom Bates to say ofBRT to address the community's
voted to supp0l1 AC Transit's Bus Rapid Transit plan Tuesday vociferously against it at their council meeting, prompting around 10:30 p.m. he would try to glue together the best parts concerns.
The City Council is expected to meet at 7 p.m., Thursday, April 29, at Longfellow Middle School to vote on the possibility of forwarding a Build option to AC Transit for environmental review. The San Leandro City Council has postponed its decision to May 19. The 8 p.m. time specific April 21 meeting to present and discuss the Build option saw an overwhelming number of people opposing a two-way Telegraph and dedicated bus lanes in downtown Berkeley-proposals they said would drive customers away from businesses and harm street vendors. Berkeley has been discussing some version of bus rapid transit for almost 20 years. Part of a larger project that will link San Leandro, Oakland and Berkeley, the current BRT proposal promises to make transit faster and more reliable for its patrons than it has been on the busiest bus corridor in the East Bay. Bonny Nelson from Nelson/Nygaard, the transportation consultants hired by AC Transit to study the Build alternative, said that BRT seeks to increase ridership by increasing efficiency with busonly lanes, pre-paid tickets and boarding islands. BRT would replace the current Rapid Bus service. Average BRT stops would be three to four bus stops apart. More than 100 existing parking spots are estimated to be lost in at least one segment of the proposed BRT. Although the Berkeley Planning Commission recommended that the City Council study the Bus Rapid Transit Full Build option, along with another alternative called Rapid Bus Plus--which would not have dedicated lanes or involve extensive restructuring-along with a "No Build" 36
Appendix B (cont.)
option, Planning Department staff proposed their own set of recommendations which they feel will mitigate some of the concerns for Telegraph and downtown. City staff is suggesting that both sets of recommendations be forwarded to AC Transit. Just as in the past, and over the course of countless Planning Commission meetings, the most vocal opposition came from the street vendors on Telegraph, the tiny but venerable arts and craft community who sell everything from ballerinas from Russia to necklaces from Madagascar, who claim that two-way traffic would lead to more gridlock, eventually forcing them to move away. "Parking fee increases and loss of parking have already led to businesses closing," said Astor Silverstein, a Telegraph vendor. "[fBRT is implemented, many more businesses will be forced to close. Even without BRT parking is already affected. Tourists and shoppers don't come to look at BRT-why would they come to a half-dead town and spend a fortune on parking when they can get free parking in a shopping mall?" Michael Katz, a member of the city's Rapid Bus Plus coalition, urged the council to work with him on the alternative plan. The Telegraph Business Improvement District and the Downtown Berkeley Association have opposed BRT. So have the Willard, LeConte and the Claremont-Elmwood neighborhood associations. A few people spoke in support ofBRT, arguing that it would lead to more reliable bus service and improvements for the disability community. At least five people supported the Build option in letters, along with TransForm, a transit advocacy group. A number of people said they were bewildered that the city was still considering the Build option despite the amount of opposition it has received till date.
"I hope this project is not directed by the flow of money," said Janet Klein, who has been a street
vendor on Telegraph for 30 year. "Where is the legitimacy to push this plan forward against the wishes of the community?" "This basically feels like an invasion," said Twig, another Telegraph regular. "You can't really mess with Telegraph. It's very sensitive. Most people come to Telegraph because of the way it is. They like all the craziness." Some called BRT a "subway on rubber wheels rather than steel wheels." Others were more harsh in their criticisms.
"How many mayors and millions of public tax dollars wasted by AC Transit on a senseless project, and paid consultants, and collusion between AC Transit and misguided city staff does it
Appendix B (cont.) take to screw in a BRT?" asked Berkeley resident Scott Tolmie. "Where's the humor? Sorry. There is none." Councilmember Kriss Worthington, whose district includes Telegraph Avenue, said he was frustrated that two decades of discussions around BRT had resulted in this, "BRT is a great idea if we provided free transit for the employers of every business on the corridor," he said. "If it connects to Amtrack or the ferry. After all these meetings, where is the corridor connection?" Worthington called BRT something that looks good on paper but not in reality. "Why would I study cutting off five of my fingers?" he said. "And these fingers are the street vendors, the businesses, the residents, the disabled people and the frail and the elderly." After listening to more than two hours of commentary Mayor Tom Bates said that that although a lot of people want to stop BRT "I don't know if it makes sense." Other councilmembers expressed some reservations about the plan. "I'll be thinking about how I'd like to see things go," Bates said."We should not be afraid to look at alternatives."
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Survey shows city split over EmX bus line
LTD's general manager says the results won't change plans to move forward on the west Eugene extension
By Greg Bolt The Register-Guard Published: (Friday, Mar 23,2012 05:01AM) Midnight. March 23 A survey performed for the Lane Transit District shows Eugene residents mostly split about the controversial plan to extend the EmX bus line to west Eugene. The survey showed 50 percent of people in favor of the $95 million project and 45 percent opposed. LTD officials said the results suggest they need to do more to inform people about the benefits of the project but said it doesn't change their plans to move ahead. LTD General Manager Ron Kilcoyne said the results weren't unexpected. "At this point, it doesn't specifically change anything," he said ofthe survey results. "We sensed that the community was split. That was really no surprise." But opponents of the project said the results prove what they've said all along, that the project doesn't have enough support and should be canceled. "LTD just spent $30,000 to find out half of the entire community doesn't want this project built," said Bob Macherione, who owns a business along the route and is part of the opposition group Our Money Our Transit. "It's pretty apparent they have huge opposition throughout the community." The survey was conducted by DHM Research, a prominent polling firm in Portland. It is based on a statistically valid sample of 400 people, who were polled in early February. People were contacted by regular land line phone and cell phone. It has a margin of error of 4.9 percent. Pleased with support
Appendix 0 (cont.)
The transit district has faced determined opposition to its plan to extend the bus rapid transit system into west Eugene by creating dedicated bus lanes along West Sixth, Seventh and 11th avenues. Critics have argued that the construction and reserved lanes would hurt businesses on the route and increase congestion in the remaining lanes and that the expansion isn't needed. But Kilcoyne said given the number of anti-ErnX signs in front of homes and businesses along the proposed route and elsewhere, he is pleased that the project still has somewhat more supporters than detractors. And of those who oppose the project, he said many seem to base their opinion on a misperception of the project or misinformation about it. For example, he said many opponents based their opinion on a belief that the extension isn't needed and would do too much harm to businesses on the route. Also, more than half of those who opposed the project said it is too expensive and would increase congestion, and that construction would cause people to avoid the area, hurting businesses. Kilcoyne countered by saying that nearly all of the construction costs will come from federal and state money, not LTD's payroll tax- and fare-supported budget. Officials said studies also have shown that the new route will decrease congestion and that access to businesses will be a high priority during construction. "We can demonstrate pretty clearly that if we build the line, traffic congestion will not increase and will be reduced" along the route, said LTD board president Mike Eyster. Getting the word out Eyster pointed out that after building the first two phases of the EmX system, the district has learned how to avoid business access problems. He said options being considered for the west Eugene phase include shifting to night work in particular areas and improved signage to let motorists know businesses are open. "Disruption to businesses is a misperception," Eyster said. to the
Kilcoyne said one thing the survey shows is that LTD needs to do more to get information public. "We do need to do a better job of conveying the benefits of the project," he said.
But Macherione said LTD's studies are "pure speculation" and said the district has no proof the project will provide any benefits or won't cost much more than the district estimates. With the resources at its disposal, the district should have been able to create more support, he said. "lfwe had the same opportunities percent," Macherione said. to put out information that LTD does, they wouldn't make 35
Appendix D (cont.) The survey showed that public transit has strong support in Eugene regardless of people's feelings about EmX. Even though 45 percent were against the west Eugene extension, more than 80 percent said the city should have a robust public transportation system and 70 percent agreed that the extension would create a frequent, direct and fast connection between west Eugene and downtown, the University of Oregon and Springfield. Job creation The top reason for supporting the extension was the 1,200 direct and indirect jobs its construction would produce, followed by the extension's ability to connect 52,000 residents with 64,000 jobs in the area. LTD currently is waiting for a decision on its environmental analysis of the project. Officials expect that will result in what's known as a finding of no significant impact, and the project will proceed to a 45-day public comment period. The district will do a series of open houses during the comment period, some of which may be held inside EmX buses along the proposed route. A favorable ruling on the environmental report also will allow the district to begin detailed design work. But both the LTD board and Eugene City Council will have to give final approval before construction can begin. If they do, service on the route is expected to begin in 2017. emx survey Eugene residents split on route extension to west Eugene Strongly support: 27 percent Somewhat support: 23 percent Somewhat oppose: 12 percent Strongly oppose: 33 percent Source: DHM Research, Portland
Find this article at: http://mv-voice.comlnews/show_story.php?story_id=4424 by Daniel DeBolt Mountain View Voice Staff June 24, 2011
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Councillukewann to major bus upgrade on EI Camino Real
City Council members were hesitant to embrace a VTA proposal Tuesday that would bring dedicated bus lanes to EI Camino Real for a system similar to light rail. The Valley Transportation Authority is set to build a bus rapid transit line that would extend from Palo Alto to San Jose along EI Camino Real. In Mountain View, VTA proposes two socalled BRT lanes down the middle of EI Camino Real, with two bus stations located on the median, one at Castro Street and one at San Antonio shopping center. BRT buses would run every 10 minutes, 18 hours a day. The buses would beat car traffic through the use of sensors that give buses priority at traffic lights. To make boarding times quick, tickets would be bought at stations, and at the same flat bus fare, now $2. VTA is set to purchase new diesel hybrid buses for the project, which include tables inside and WiFi Internet service. VTA officials said Tuesday that having a dedicated lane for the buses in each direction would nearly double daily ridership on the line by 2035 from 12,085 to 22,717, and decrease travel times. But in Mountain View, that would mean reducing EI Camino Real's six lanes to four lanes, and council members didn't welcome that idea at the Tuesday, June 21, meeting. "We don't have the space on El Camino Real that Santa Clara does," said Laura Macias, one of the council's bigger critics of the idea, noting Santa Clara's support for dedicated lanes. "We have to do what fits for us." Five audience members spoke in support of the dedicated lanes, while one person opposed them because car drivers would resent the exclusive use of two lanes on EI Camino Real for buses that travel only every once 10 minutes. Downtown resident Aaron Grossman said he used BRT in Ecuador, where he was surprised how quickly people got on and off, and said it was faster than a taxi. Resident Jarret Mullin said the system would increase property values along the corridor. The reduction to four lanes could mean calmer traffic on EI Camino Real and a more walkable environment along the lines ofthe Grand Boulevard initiative most council members say they support. But concerns about impacts on traffic appeared to trump those benefits in the minds of most council members.
Appendix E (cont.)
"I'm a huge fan ofBRT, to fit your area." it's good, I've used it in other cities," said Mayor Jac Siegel. "But it's got
It appeared that council members Ronit Bryant and Margaret Abe-Koga may be the idea's only potential supporters, but even Bryant noted that traffic could increase on the downtown street she lives on. A map of streets near El Camino Real showed red to indicate increased traffic, including on Central Expressway, Middlefield Road and Church Street, among others. "One of those red lines is the street I live on," said Bryant. Macias wanted to make it clear to VT A officials that she heard opposition from five of seven council members.
111 want to encourage you to stay open minded," VTA planning manager Chris Connolly told the council.
The VT A is expected to return with more data on traffic impacts for another go at persuading the council. VT A senior planner Steve Fisher assured the council that the VTA would not build the dedicated lanes in Mountain View without the council's consent. Caltrans owns the El Camino Real right of way, and "we have to approach Caltrans with a consensus decision," Fisher said. "If there is conflict, they do nothing. 11 Connolly said councils in Sunnyvale, Los Altos and Palo Alto had "mixed opinions" about the BRT lanes. Without dedicated lanes, BRT buses would use regular traffic lanes, VTA staff said, but BRT stations would require special "bulb outs" on the side of the street at Castro Street and San Antonio shopping center. More room could be made for BRT by removing the 16-foot median on El Camino real, but, as Connolly noted to the council, "your staff really likes that median." Mountain View also has the opportunity to have VT A pay for bike lanes, which are lacking on EI Camino Real, if the BRT lanes are built. On-street parking could also be removed. East of Ortega Avenue, 5.5 percent ofEl Camino Real is used for parking. West of Ortega, the number is over 50 percent. VTA staff said a trip from Palo Alto to HP Pavilion on the line would take BRT 52 minutes, while it could take 60 minutes by car and 67 minutes by the current express bus line 522, which would be replaced by BRT. BRT is also slated for Alum Rock Avenue and Stevens Creek Boulevard. The project will cost between $200 million and $250 million, mostly in Measure A funds.
O'Malley proposes 6% sales tax on gas
By Aaron C. Davis, Published: January 30, 2012
Maryland Gov. Mat1in 0' Malley said Monday that he would ask lawmakers to approve an unprecedented tax increase on gasoline, applying for the first time Maryland's 6 percent sales tax to every gallon of gas to raise billions of dollars for road and transit projects. The sales tax would be phased in annually in increments of2 percent at the wholesale level, meaning that a gallon of gas that now costs $3.48 at the pump would increase 6 cents. If the price of gas rises or falls, the sales tax amount would also. Combined, the three-year increase per gallon could total 18 cents or more, making Maryland's combined levy on gasoline more than 41 cents a galion and among the highest in the country. O'Malley (D) made the announcement during his monthly appearance on WTOP's "Ask the Governor" and declined to comment further later in the day at his only scheduled public event in Annapolis. During the radio program, O'Malley said his full proposal would be sent to the legislature within days and acknowledged it would not be popular. But he urged lawmakers to consider whether it was "a good way to go." Marylanders have to decide, O'Malley said, if"what all of us are paying right now in terms of idling in traffic congestion, time away from family, time away from work, that all of that is more expensive in the longer term than making this investment in transportation." A new Washington Post poll, however, indicates O'Malley's proposal could be his most unpopular effort of the year and draw opposition from a broad swath of voters and lawmakers. O'Malley has proposed an array of other tax and fee increases, including on six-figure earners and homeowners, to close the state's budget shortfall and to increase spending on environmental projects. Voters are split on those initiatives, but raising the price of gasoline was a non-starter for most. Fewer than half surveyed last week by The Washington Post supported even a 5 cent increase in the state's 23.5-cent-per-gallon nat tax. When asked how they felt about an increase of 10 cents per gallon or more to fund additional road and transit work, opposition swelled above 70 percent and across a range of income levels. "The governor is walking into the biggest nightmare of working-class families," said Senate Republican leader E.J. Pipkin (Queen Anne's). "With this new gas tax, the citizens of Maryland
Appendix F (cont.) will be paying premium and getting regular .... Add that to his other proposed tax increases, and I don't see how Maryland is attractive to businesses - the governor's stated goal." Several Democrats in the General Assembly said they wanted to wait and see O'Malley's proposal before taking a position. House Speaker Michael E. Busch (D-Anne Arundel) said any discussion of raising the gas tax would have to come after the legislature agrees on a plan to close the state's roughly $1 billion shortfall. The governor's spending plan includes other controversial measures, including shifting a share of teacher pension costs to counties, which counties say they can't afford. The governor's proposal to add sales tax to gasoline would raise even more from fuel than a recommended 15 cent gas-tax increase proposed over the summer by a commission that O'Malley and the legislature established. The commission, however, did not contemplate how the state would pay for many big-ticket projects, including a proposed light-rail line connecting Montgomery and Prince George's counties. The commission and other proponents of increased transportation spending have for years said Maryland faces an unfunded backlog of many billions of dollars in proj ects. Those estimates come from lists counties submit annually to the state seeking funding. According to the state's transportation department, just the No. I projects for each of Maryland's 23 counties and Baltimore total up to more than $12 billion - or more than the state plans to spend on transportation over the next six years combined. In their entirety, the letters suggest Maryland transportation officials' wish lists total more than $40 billion. The state collects $738 million annually from its gas tax. O'Malley's proposal would raise almost an additional $600 million annually. The sales tax would be applied to gasoline, diesel and special fuels, such as ethanol, methanol and propane. Jet fuel would be exempt. The state would collect the tax from gasoline wholesalers, but Maryland Comptroller Peter Franchot (D) warned that a sales tax would probably add costs for gas retailers, too. Seven other states, including Virginia, collect sales tax on gasoline, however, Virginia'S total gas tax is just over 20 cents per gallon, or less than half of what Maryland's would be after the increase. Speaking with WTOP host Mark Segraves, O'Malley attempted to frame his proposal as "repealing" an exemption that kept the sales tax from being applied to gas, and he said his legislation would include a way to limit the sales tax from rising too much if gas prices spike. Asked by Segraves, O'Malley said he also would be open to a "lock box" measure to prevent the state from dipping into transportation funds, as it has in the past, to cover other spending.
Maryland's Purple Line lags behind Baltimore rail project in federal review
By Katherine Shaver, Published: October 13,2011
The Obama administration's announcement this week that a Baltimore light-rail project will get an expedited environmental review does not atTectthe timeline for a Purple Line transit link planned for the Washington suburbs, a top Maryland transit official said Thursday. The Maryland Transit Administration still plans to seek federal and state construction money for a Baltimore Red Line, a proposed east-west light-rail project, and a Purple Line simultaneously, said Henry Kay, who oversees transit projects for the state. Streamlining the federal environmental review and permit process could cut two years off Red Line planning. "The environmental review isjust one part of what we need to do," Kay said. "I don't think by extension you can say a Purple Line will open two years later than a Red Line." The Red Line's good news has caused a stir on both sides of the Purple Line debate, with supporters seeking assurances from state officials that the project isn't falling behind and opponents saying it signals potential pitfalls in the plan, which envisions a 16-mile light-rail line between Bethesda and New Carrollton. Many Washington area officials are eyeing a Red Line as the Purple Line's biggest immediate rival for scarce money. While saying publicly that Maryland needs both projects, many say privately that it will be difficult to persuade the Federal Transit Administration to approve - and just as hard to persuade Congress to fund - construction of two major Maryland transit projects simultaneously. Federal transit money is already highly competitive nationwide, and congressional leaders might cut it in the next long-term transportation bill. Maryland's transportation budgets have also been slashed. A potential Purple Line won significant federal endorsement last week, when the FTA approved it to advance to the stage of preliminary engineering - permission that the Red Line received in June. With both light-rail lines at least a decade from opening, Kay said, both schedules could vary widely depending on any problems that arise during design, land acquisition and construction.
Appendix G (cont.) For example, Kay said, a 14-mile Red Line, estimated to cost $2.2 billion, would be more challenging to design and build because it includes four miles of tunnels and five underground stations. A Purple Line, estimated at $1.93 billion, would be primarily aboveground. Both face community opposition along their densely populated routes. The White House's decision to fast-track a Red Line "doesn't imply some kind of choice or preference on our part or on the part of the feds," Kay said. It was FTA officials, not state transit planners, who submitted the Red Line to the White House for special consideration, Kay said. He said FTA officials called the MTA on Sept. 26 seeking more Red Line data, including how many jobs it would create. An FTA spokesman speaking on the condition of anonymity said he couldn't predict the timing of either project because of the many factors determining the speed at which proposals move through the federal funding process, which can take more than a decade. The Red Line was one of 14 infrastmcture projects across the country that the White House named Monday that would receive expedited environmental review to create jobs quickly. Other projects included a mixed-use development in the District's Shaw neighborhood. A Purple Line is designed to improve east-west transit and spur reinvestment in older inner suburbs. The line would connect Maryland's two ends of Metrorail's Red Line with the Green and Orange lines, as well as Amtrak and MARC stations. Ben Ross, a longtime Purple Line activist, said a Purple Line might be lagging a bit behind a Red Line because state and federal officials foresee potential legal opposition from the Town of Chevy Chase and some supporters of a popular wooded bike and jogging trail between Bethesda and Silver Spring. "Given the amount of money the opposition has," Ross said, "they've got to take the time to make the paperwork bulletproof." Ajay Bhatt, president of the nonprofit group Friends of the Capital Crescent Trail, said the state should stop spending tens of millions on Purple Line studies. "If the state is already in the hole in its transportation fund, and the feds have fast-tracked a Red Line, how can the state even still talk about a Purple Line?" Bhatt said.
Montgomery County greenlights 'Science City'
Washington Business Journal by Vandana Sinha Date: Tuesday, May 4,2010, 11:25am EDT The Montgomery County Council unanimously approved on Tuesday a scaled-down master plan for its next "Science City" in an attempt to make its life sciences sector a stronger player in the national arena, while appeasing nearby residents worried that the development would stain their quality of life. Coinciding with the industry'S highest-profile event, the Biotechnology Industry Organization annual conference this week in Chicago, the County Council opted in a final vote to trim the original Gaithersburg West master plan - now dubbed the Great Seneca Science Corridorfrom 20 million to 17.5 million square feet of allowed total development. The area is now approved for 13 million square feet of development. The council also opted for an approach that tackles the new development in multiple stages, each dependent on the previous stage being implemented appropriately. The project would start with 11.1 million total allowed square feet of commercial development, before easing up to 13.4 million allowed square feet, then Upto 15.7 million in the third stage until it reached the maximum 17.5 million allowed square footage in the fourth and final stage. The newly approved master plan, anchored by a Johns Hopkins University research campus on the former Belward Farm, also calls for a maximum of 9,000 residential units and 52,500 new jobs. It requires neighborhood involvement in the county's regular monitoring of transportation issues, funding for the Corridor Cities Transitway system from Shady Grove Metro to Clarksburg and several open spaces, including those that would compose Upto 46 percent of Johns Hopkins' Belward section. Council members OK'ed the master plan last month in their first preliminary vote, the first indication that the previously divided body would be able to back a project that had earned criticism from next-door communities as well as Rockville and Gaithersburg leaders for its size.
Appendix H (cont.) Supporters said the scope needed to reflect the county's vision for a burgeoning life sciences sector. "To do something significant, we've really got to up the ante," said Montgomery Councilman Mike Knapp, D-District 2, in support of the bill Tuesday. "We have done yeoman's work to really put ourselves heads and shoulders above everyone else." But narrowing that scope helped bring former opponents such as Councilman Phil Andrews, DDistrict 3, on board. Andrews voted in favor of the project Tuesday after adding an amendment during discussion that widened the open-space buffer at the comer of Darnestown and Muddy Branch roads - a change that JHU officials said they could accommodate. "We support the county in its belief that this master plan demonstrates the best in smart growth planning," the university said in a statement after the Tuesday vote. "We are encouraged that the vision for a world-class science center is preserved and that the community's concerns are being addressed.
Though, Councilman Marc Eirich, D-At large, who said he switched his prior dissenting vote in support of the final proposal Tuesday because of its density reductions and preference given to life sciences jobs, still questioned how the county would secure the funding to turn its vision into reality. "Neither us nor the state has a plan nor a clue for how to fund the planned infrastructure," he said. "Without the infrastructure, none of the benefits touted for this plan will come to fruition."
Greater Greater Washington
The Washington, DC area is great. But it could be greater.
Hopkins lobbies for a slower, cheaper transitway
by Ben Ross • March 6,2012 12:38 pm The Corridor Cities Transitway once promised a rapid transit ride north of Shady Grove, but Johns Hopkins University and other Montgomery County developers want to delete the "rapid." That's because development in the area is tied to the transitway. The cheaper the transitway can get, the sooner their plans can move forward.
Photo by expressOOO Flickr. on Six weeks ago, following intense lobbying by real estate interests, the Montgomery County Council voted to build the Corridor Cities Transitway, a proposed transit line extending north of Shady Grove as "bus rapid transit" rather than light rail. The decision rested on an analysis that assumed that a BRT line, like light rail, "would operate entirely on exclusive guideway; two curbed travel lanes separated from general purpose traffic, pedestrians and bicycles.
But the developers were already preparing to renege on this promise. Even before the vote, they had hired transportation consultants to study how to build the transitway on the cheap. Within days of the council vote, the developers pulled the plan out of their back pockets and began lobbying county and state officials for it. The public has not been allowed to see the developers' plan. But reports are that it would delete overpasses from the transitway. Buses would get their own lanes only where the price is low. At intersections-the places where congestion is worst-the "rapid" buses would have to travel in regular traffic lanes.
Appendix I (cont.) Why would anyone want to spend tens of millions of dollars to build bus lanes where they won't do much good? The reason is that sprawl development in "Science City," on the west side of Gaithersburg, can't move forward until the CCT, or at least some version of the CCT, gets built. Johns Hopkins is the biggest landowner in the area. Under a Master Plan approved in 2010, there can be no more development in Science City until certain requirements are fulfilled. The key hurdle is a requirement to "fully fund construction of the CCT from the Shady Grove Metro station to Metropolitan Grove within the first six years of the county's CIP or the state CIP." A transitway with overpasses left out wouldn't seem to be "fully funded," but Hopkins and its allies may have enough political pull to convince the county that it is. Sometime in the future, after the dumbed-down transitway is built, the missing bridges could show up. But there's little chance of that happening if Hopkins can get a go-ahead for its real estate schemes. The developers are the main force pushing this transitway forward, and they are sure to lose interest once they have their approvals. Meanwhile, the county Bus Rapid Transit task force has found itself in a pickle. Unless it abandons its commitment to "gold standard" BRT, it has discovered, it must choose between taking lanes away from cars and road widenings that would involve wholesale demolition of homes and churches. If Hopkins gets away with its bait-and-switch on the Corridor Cities Transitway, we can expect bus projects to suffer the same fate in the rest of the county.
Ross is Vice-President of the Action COlmnittee for Transit and chair of the Transit First! coalition. He is the author of The Pollllters: The Making or allr Chemically Altered Environment and is writing a book about the politics of sprawl.
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