- What are the anticipated benefits of the County’s 2020 implementation of BRT on US 29?
- Will the US 29 BRT extend into Howard County?
- What is the cost of implementing the US 29 BRT and what will the capital funding being requested pay for? How much County funding will be needed?
- Why doesn’t the County just fund MetroExtra service on US 29? Couldn’t that service be provided for less than $2 million per year?
- What public outreach has been done so far for the US 29 BRT project and what are the future outreach plans as the project moves forward?
- How is the County’s GetOnBoardBRT education and outreach campaign being funded? How much has been spent on this campaign?
- What is Transit Signal Priority (TSP)? Will the implementation of TSP require major construction?
What are the anticipated benefits of the County’s 2020 implementation of BRT on US 29?
The US 29 BRT project will provide many quantifiable benefits to one of the busiest transit corridors in the State, including:
- Attracting “choice” riders and providing better service for existing riders: US 29 BRT is projected to have 13,000 daily boardings in 2020 and 20,000 daily boardings in 2040. This number of daily boardings exceeds the ridership for most BRT lines in the United States.
- Improved transit reliability: Current on time performance for local corridor transit services averages 45-77%. US 29 BRT will improve reliability through use of dedicated Bus on Shoulder lanes, Transit Signal Priority (TSP), and more efficient operations (level multiple-door vehicle boarding, limited stops, off-board fare collection).
- Travel time savings: The more efficient operation of BRT on US 29 is expected to result in a 22-35% corridor travel time savings over current local bus service.
- Economic Benefits: Development of the White Oak Science Gateway will benefit substantially from the presence of high quality transit service such as the US 29 BRT. The US 29 BRT project is estimated to result in $269-520 million of net benefit and has a benefit:cost ratio of 4:1.
- Accessibility: US 29 BRT will increase regional connections and access to a fast-growing jobs corridor, and will improve transit access and provide upward mobility to transit-dependent populations along the corridor.
- Efficiency: An element of the US 29 BRT project will be to examine local service along and around the corridor for operational efficiency improvements, potentially increasing the level of transit service to surrounding communities.
Will the US 29 BRT extend into Howard County?
Both Montgomery and Howard Counties are committed to ultimately making the US 29 BRT a bi-county service, and county staff are working together on design and service elements so that our efforts remain coordinated.
What is the cost of implementing the US 29 BRT and what will the capital funding being requested pay for? How much County funding will be needed?
The implementation (capital) cost for the US 29 BRT project is estimated to be $31.5 million, $10 million of which will be paid by the Federal government as part of a Transportation Infrastructure Generating Economic Recovery (TIGER) grant. Although $31.5 million is a lot of money, the investment is modest when compared to the cost of other transportation investments like interchanges and highway widening. The elements of the project and their respective estimated costs are shown in the table below.
Why doesn’t the County just fund MetroExtra service on US 29? Couldn’t that service be provided for less than $2 million per year?
MetroExtra service is provided by the Metropolitan Washington Area Transit Authority (WMATA) on several corridors in the region, including on New Hampshire Avenue in Montgomery and Prince George’s Counties. While it has been a very successful service on New Hampshire Avenue that serves around 2,000 riders/day, the anticipated ridership of over 10,000 per day on US 29 warrants additional transit improvements beyond limited stop express service on this busy corridor.
It is important to note that the annual operating cost for MetroExtra service should not be compared to the estimated capital cost to upgrade transit infrastructure on the US 29 corridor. The costs shown above for Montgomery County’s capital investment on US 29 BRT are for infrastructure investments like stations, larger high-capacity vehicles, transit signal priority, and pedestrian/bike improvements including new bikeshare stations. None of those costs are included in WMATA’s operating cost estimates. Furthermore, the $10 million of Federal investment that the county is receiving for the US 29 BRT project is specifically to fund BRT infrastructure and cannot be utilized to fund MetroExtra service.
In addition, when comparing the estimated operating cost for MetroExtra service on US 29 to the cost of the County’s RideOn system operating the BRT, a fair comparison can only be done if the same frequency and span of service are considered. Many of the lower costs that have been quoted for the MetroExtra service are for less frequent and/or peak only service, so they are not comparable to the level of service that will be provided on the US 29 BRT. WMATA’s estimated annual operating cost for MetroExtra service operating the same frequency and hours as the US 29 BRT is $6.7 million/year, which is comparable or even a bit higher than the estimated cost for RideOn to operate the BRT.
As a final but important point, counties in Maryland (Montgomery and Prince George’s) do not fund Metro services directly. Funding of Metro operating costs are the responsibility of the Maryland Department of Transportation (MDOT), which is maximizing its contributions to Metro to support the agency as it faces major financial challenges while endeavoring to get their system “Back to Good”. MDOT provides over $300 million of operating funds to WMATA per year, and has recently agreed to an additional $40 million next year to fund WMATA’s operating budget shortfall. WMATA ultimately has the discretion for determining where the funds from the State of Maryland are utilized. Last year, the County asked MDOT to fund MetroExtra service on Veirs Mill Road, and was informed by MDOT that they do not have the financial capacity provide additional funds and that it is WMATA’s decision to provide the services they deem most beneficial with the funding that is provided by the State. Metro is also proposing cuts to valued and important bus services in Montgomery County as part of its FY18 budget. If additional State resources were provided to Metro, restoring the services proposed for cuts and elimination would be the first priority for those funds, well ahead of any service expansion.
What public outreach has been done so far for the US 29 BRT project and what are the future outreach plans as the project moves forward?
Montgomery County has been planning for the implementation of BRT for about 10 years, and the public has been invited to participate in various phases of the process. For example, meetings such as BRT Steering Committee meetings and Transit Task Force meetings have always been open to the public. In 2013, the County Council approved the Countywide Transit Corridors Functional Master Plan, and a public process was followed for that plan as is standard with county master plans.
Two Corridor Advisory Committees (CACs) consisting of civic association representatives, employers, and other interested groups along the US 29 corridor, were formed in 2015 and to date nineteen (19) meetings have been held with these CACs. CAC meetings are open to the public and all meeting materials and minutes, as well as video recordings, are available at http://montgomerycountymd.gov/brt/. The CACs will continue to meet as the project transitions into design with MCDOT as the lead.
In addition, in November 2016 MCDOT launched the GetOnBoardBRT education and outreach campaign in order to broaden our outreach efforts about the BRT projects in the community. Our outreach team attends events throughout the county, and also maintains an educational website and social media presence.
As part of the US 29 BRT project’s design phase, MCDOT is developing a comprehensive Public Involvement Plan (PIP) that will include outreach events, coordination with civic associations, focus groups, e-newsletters, and other strategies for soliciting public feedback. A draft of the PIP will be provided to the CAC members so they can provide input on additional strategies we may want to consider. Our goal is to reach out as broadly as possible to community members who may potentially utilize and benefit from the BRT, as well as those that could be more directly impacted along the corridor itself.
How is the County’s GetOnBoardBRT education and outreach campaign being funded? How much has been spent on this campaign?
MCDOT’s GetOnBoardBRT campaign is funded in the Rapid Transit System (RTS) Capital Improvement Program (CIP) budget (CIP #501318). County Council approved a total of $1.25 million over three years for BRT marketing, education, and outreach. Fiscal Year 2017 is the first year of the campaign, and the budget for this year is $250,000.
What is Transit Signal Priority (TSP)? Will the implementation of TSP require major construction?
Transit Signal Priority (TSP) is a technology that will allow BRT vehicles to communicate with the traffic signals along the BRT corridors. TSP can help BRT vehicles move more quickly through the corridor and increase transit reliability via two methods:
- EXTENDED GREEN: When a BRT vehicle is approaching a green signal that is about to turn yellow, the signal’s green phase may be extended by a few seconds to allow the vehicle to get through the intersection.
- EARLY GREEN: Likewise, a BRT approaching a red signal that is about to turn green may request that the signal turn green slightly early so that the vehicle can get through the intersection.
Implementation of TSP does not require major construction. The technology on the vehicles will be installed before they are put into service, and the technology at the roadway intersections is installed in existing traffic signal cabinets.