1. What is Bus Rapid Transit?
  2. What is the difference between BRT and Ride On extRa or MetroExtra?
  3. What benefits will BRT provide?
  4. How will the off-board payment system be enforced?
  5. Didn’t the State (Maryland Department of Transportation/Maryland Transit Administration (MTA)/Maryland State Highway Administration (SHA)) just finish this study?
  6. What is happening with the project right now?
  7. Where will the MD 355 BRT go and what stations will it serve?
  8. During which hours of the day will the MD 355 BRT operate, and at what frequencies?
  9. When is the MD 355 BRT service expected to begin?
  10. How much will it cost to implement BRT on MD 355?
  11. Where will the funding come from?
  12. How can I get involved?
  13. Will the MD 355 BRT stations have parking?
  14. What features of BRT will the MD 355 BRT service have?
  15. What energy source will the Flash BRT buses use?
  16. What impact will this service have on current Metrobus and Ride On services on MD 355?
  17. Will this project make driving on MD 355 slower?
  18. How much will it cost to ride the MD 355 BRT?
  19. What impact will this have on the Purple Line?

 


 

What is Bus Rapid Transit?

Bus Rapid Transit (“BRT”) is a form of public transit that has been successfully implemented all over the world. It provides a faster, more reliable ride than standard bus services. While every BRT system is different, BRT generally has most of the following features, which helps it provide a service that is superior to local bus service:

  • Stations: Well-lit, with covered seating areas and real-time information screens, providing a more comfortable and predictable wait. BRT systems often feature raised platforms to allow for level boarding, which makes boarding faster and easier for riders with disabilities, bicycles, or strollers.
  • Off-Board Fare Payment: Riders can either validate (e.g. by tapping or swiping) their farecard at station kiosks or purchase a ticket for the ride (using cash or other payment options) before they board the bus. This eliminates the need to wait for other riders to pay their fare on the bus and allows for faster boarding, meaning the BRT spends less time waiting at stops.
  • All-Door Boarding: Because passengers don’t have to pay their fare on the bus, passengers can board the bus from any door, which also helps speed the boarding process.
  • Transit Signal Priority (TSP): This allows BRT buses and traffic lights to communicate with each other. In some cases, such as when a bus is running behind schedule, TSP can adjust signal timing to allow the traffic light to stay green for a few extra seconds, enabling the bus to get through the intersection and regain some lost time.
  • Unique Branding: BRT systems generally look and feel different from local buses, with a different vehicle design and color scheme. This lets riders easily tell the difference between the enhanced service and the local service.
  • Frequent, reliable service: The BRT service will be more frequent than the local bus service along the corridor, and will run on a “headway schedule,” which is based on the frequency of arrivals (e.g. a bus arriving every 10 minutes), rather than a timetable schedule. Headway schedules focus more heavily on the spacing between vehicles and less on the specific minute the bus should arrive, making service more reliable. Riders will not have to check bus schedules before going to the bus station, because they know they will never have to wait long for the BRT to arrive.
  • Dedicated lanes: BRT vehicles often run in dedicated lanes that are separated from general traffic. This reduces interaction between the BRT and other vehicles, allowing the BRT to travel more quickly and reliably along its route even when the other lanes are congested.

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What is the difference between BRT and Ride On extRa or MetroExtra?

Ride On extRa and MetroExtra, like BRT, stop less frequently than local buses and in some cases employ TSP, but they lack many of the other features that the BRT will provide to make trips quicker and more enjoyable, such as off-board fare collection, level boarding, upgraded stations, and additional amenities.
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What benefits will BRT provide?

BRT in Montgomery County, which will be known as the “Flash” bus system, will provide a faster, more reliable, more comfortable transit experience. The benefits of BRT can be summarized by the “3 R’s”:

  • Rapid: Features like limited stops, off-board fare collection, level-boarding through all doors, and dedicated BRT lanes (where feasible) make for a faster ride.
  • Reliable: You won’t wait long and you’ll see real-time travel information on message boards at the station so you know exactly when the next BRT arrives.
  • Relaxing: Avoid the stress associated with driving: use Wi-Fi on-board to be more productive, read a book, or simply use the time to rest.

Travel times for bus riders along the corridor will be shorter. MD 355 is one of the busiest and most congested transit corridors in the County and additional development and redevelopment is happening in many locations. BRT will support growth along MD 355 by enhancing the effective capacity of the roadway – in other words, enabling more people to travel up and down the corridor during any given time period.
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How will the off-board payment system be enforced?

There are a variety of methods transit agencies have at their disposal to provide fare enforcement. As the County’s first BRT (US 29) moves closer to opening, the specifics of how this occurs are being addressed. Generally, there will be random checks of fare payment on board BRT vehicles by fare inspectors. Those found to have not paid a fare will be in violation and will receive an appropriate citation.
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Didn’t the State (Maryland Department of Transportation/Maryland Transit Administration (MTA)/Maryland State Highway Administration (SHA)) just finish this study?

From 2015 to 2017, the Maryland Department of Transportation (MDOT) conducted a study (“Phase 1”) to identify options for the MD 355 BRT. Through that study, MDOT identified several options, called Conceptual Alternatives, for the BRT. MCDOT is now leading Phase 2 of the study, which involves further evaluation of the Conceptual Alternatives from Phase 1 to identify one Recommended Alternative for the BRT.
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What is happening with the project right now?

In Phase 2, the County is studying alternatives for the MD 355 BRT, which include different options for which route it should take, whether and where the BRT should run in a dedicated median or curb lane or in mixed traffic, and which station locations the BRT should serve. The study will evaluate the alternatives based on factors such as time savings, pedestrian and bicycle connections, environmental and property impacts, economic benefits and support for existing and planned development, and costs (as well as others). The results from the evaluation will inform identification, in late 2018, of a single Recommended Alternative that can be advanced toward phased design and implementation.
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Where will the MD 355 BRT go and what stations will it serve?

MD 355 BRT service will operate from the Bethesda Metrorail Station to Clarksburg. For most of the route, the service will operate on MD 355. There are currently three route alternatives being considered for service between Middlebrook Road and Stringtown Road. One is along MD 355 (Frederick Road), another is along Observation Drive, Ridge Road, and Snowden Farm Parkway, and a third is along Observation Drive (including segments that have not yet been built). MCDOT is still studying potential station locations based on a variety of factors (e.g. current and potential future ridership, pedestrian access, land uses surrounding the station, spacing between stations, and connections to local bus service) to determine which station locations to include in the Recommended Alternative.
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During which hours of the day will the MD 355 BRT operate, and at what frequencies?

The BRT’s operating hours, or “span of service”, have not yet been determined but will likely be similar to the Metrorail hours of operation. The frequency of service will depend upon the location along the corridor and whether it is served by multiple Flash BRT routes. The effective BRT frequency, which is frequency with which a BRT vehicle operating any of the corridor’s Flash BRT routes arrives at a station, will likely range from every 5 minutes to every 15 minutes depending on the specific location along the corridor.
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When is the MD 355 BRT service expected to begin?

The service start date will depend on the alternative that is identified in this phase of the project and will be subject to available funding. If funding is made available, the project will proceed after this phase into design and environmental review. Implementation will be phased, meaning that the BRT will be constructed in segments. Phasing decisions will be based on several factors, including demand for service at different locations along the corridor.
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How much will it cost to implement BRT on MD 355?

The cost of the project is highly dependent upon which alternative is selected. Although generally cheaper than light rail in terms of both construction and operating costs, the cost of BRT construction can range — from under $1 million per mile to $30 million or more per mile. In general, having dedicated lanes is more costly than having the BRT run in mixed traffic. The cost of land along the MD 355 corridor is relatively high, so if any property acquisitions are required, this will further increase the total project cost. Conceptual cost estimates will be completed as part of this project phase.
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Where will the funding come from?

MCDOT anticipates that funding for the project will come from a combination of federal, state, local, and/or private sources.
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How can I get involved?

There are many ways to get involved. You can:

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Will the MD 355 BRT stations have parking?

While the County does not anticipate large amounts of new parking at the majority of BRT stations along MD 355, the County is still studying where demand for parking will be highest and how best to accommodate that parking demand to support ridership.
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What features of BRT will the MD 355 BRT service have?

The BRT will include level boarding, off-board fare collection, all-door boarding, unique Flash branding, and TSP. Whether the BRT operates in mixed traffic or in dedicated lanes, which could be either in the curb or the median, and/or where it has features such as queue jumps to reduce BRT travel time will be identified in this Phase 2 study.
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What energy source will the Flash BRT buses use?

MCDOT is in the process of purchasing vehicles for the County’s first BRT corridor (US 29). At this time (Spring 2018), MCDOT has determined that the state of the technology for all-electric articulated buses and the limited number of manufacturers make this option not yet mature enough to consider. Therefore, the initial BRT vehicles MCDOT purchases will be clean diesel. MCDOT is in the process of purchasing standard (40 foot) all-electric buses for another route. MCDOT will continue to monitor the improvements being made regarding energy sources for articulated buses, and revisit this decision during the next purchase of BRT vehicles.
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What impact will this service have on current Metrobus and Ride On services on MD 355?

Current bus services on the corridor may be adjusted to better meet the needs of communities along MD 355. The planning process for these service changes will be an ongoing effort. If you’d like to submit comments regarding issues related to local bus service and connections between local buses and the BRT (as well as other topics), you can do so at https://getonboardbrt.com/feedback/.
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Will this project make driving on MD 355 slower?

Congestion along MD 355 will continue to be a challenge going forward and the ability to expand MD 355 is limited. This project is unlikely to have significant negative impacts on car travel times along the MD 355 corridor. As noted above, the BRT will enhance the effective capacity of MD 355 by increasing the number of people that can travel through this congested corridor in any given time.
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How much will it cost to ride the MD 355 BRT?

Fares have not been finalized yet, but the County expects that the BRT will cost the same as the standard Ride On fare.
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What impact will this have on the Purple Line?

This project is not part of the Purple Line project, but both the Purple Line and BRT will be part of a high-quality rapid transit network, moving Montgomery County residents, workers, and visitors around the County quickly and conveniently. MD 355 BRT riders will be able to connect to the Purple Line at the Bethesda Metrorail station.
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RELIABLE Frequent service, dedicated lanes, and green light priority signaling keep BRT vehicles moving.

EFFICIENT One BRT vehicle can take up to 90 cars off the road, making our transportation network more efficient and your commute easier.

CLEAN BRT reduces harmful greenhouse gas emissions, making our air cleaner.

COMFORTABLE New BRT stations will feature real-time travel info and provide a place for you to wait comfortably and pay your fare before boarding.

COST-EFFECTIVE You can save money by riding BRT instead of driving a car.