Friday, July 11, 2008

rapid bus routes could blanket east county by 2012

A map detailing the twenty-four new rapid bus routes proposed by WMATA. The first route in East County, along University Boulevard, could open within a few months.

Within four years, East County could be served by a number of rapid bus routes, part of a 100-mile network proposed by WMATA. The transit agency unveiled their plans to roll out the system, dubbed "MetroExtra," to the Action Committee for Transit earlier this week.

A handful of the new lines are already operating throughout the region, including Route 79, which runs along Georgia Avenue between the Silver Spring and Archives Metro stations. WMATA Board Chairman John Catoe derived the concept from the popular Metro Rapid routes he pioneered while heading the Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transit Authority. Metro Rapid buses have seven "key attributes," among them easy-to-understand route layouts, fewer stops, more frequent service, and a system that gives buses priority at stoplights. Unlike Bus Rapid Transit (like what is proposed for the Purple Line), it doesn't use dedicated lanes or enclosed stations.

According to the WMATA proposal, routes along University Boulevard, Veirs Mill Road and East-West Highway could appear within the next several months; on New Hampshire Avenue between Fort Totten and White Oak in 2009; between Greenbelt and Twinbrook via University Boulevard and Randolph Road in 2010; on Georgia Avenue between Silver Spring and Olney in 2011; and along Route 29 between Silver Spring and Burtonsville in 2012.

so much more AFTER THE JUMP . . .

Boarding a Metrobus at Old Columbia Pike and Briggs Chaney Road.

While the Georgia Avenue and Route 29 corridors already have more daily ridership than University and New Hampshire, WMATA's chosen to given them a lower priority. (The Q2 bus on Veirs Mill Road, with 11,000 daily riders, is one of the heaviest-used routes in the entire system.) I was originally disappointed by that decision, but I soon realized it says a lot about the intentions of MetroExtra - who it's meant to serve and where it's best suited.

University, lower New Hampshire and Veirs Mill were largely built out during the 1950's, when it was still desirable to line a major street with houses. As a result, surrounding neighborhoods embrace all three roads with driveways and sidewalks. The speed limits are lower and there are frequent stoplights. Buses can get caught up very easily, and the potential MetroExtra improvements could make a big difference in travel time.

This isn't the case along Georgia and 29, where there are fewer stoplights, fewer cross-streets and no driveways. They were developed later, and the neighborhoods along them shy away from the road. The feel is like that of a freeway, and unsurprisingly so, given that's what Route 29 is eventually to become. As a result, average speeds are higher, and faster buses aren't as much of an issue. Several express routes already run along Route 29.

If the intention were simply to run faster buses, all of the new routes would run along the Beltway. But you'll only get so many riders from park-and-ride lots. People are more likely to walk along University Boulevard, whether or not it's actually safe to do so currently, because their neighborhoods are built around it. They may even be denser than their counterparts along Georgia or 29, making walking more practical and bus transit more efficient. Ridership may not be as high along University, but that only means more room to grow for MetroExtra.

East County's been waiting for rapid transit since planners first suggested running light-rail down the median of Route 29 in 1981. MetroExtra isn't as flashy, but it promises to improve the speed, reach and reliability of bus transit in East County, making it more attractive to users who'd rather drive or take Metro. After all, if it worked in Los Angeles, it can work anywhere.

10 comments:

Anonymous said...

Jim Hamre, WMATA's bus planner, knows how to improve bus service and this is a great initiative. While we need rail expansion - including the Purple Line, Corridor Cities Transit Line, MARC rail and the Silver Line (to Dulles), there is tremendous growth and benefit potential in this express bus initiative which covers a whole lot more territory.

Anonymous said...

Verry interesting! This could be good. Buses serve communities. Rail, alas, seems more aimed at changing communities into places that have more bricks and concrete, and more affluent people shoehorned in.

Anonymous said...

More mass transit is a good thing. Anyone who says otherwise is simply sticking their head in the sand.

Anonymous said...

Anonymous said...

More mass transit is a good thing. Anyone who says otherwise is simply sticking their head in the sand.

July 11, 2008 10:28 AM

RE: Anyone who believes that Maryland shouldn't build anymore Roads and Highways has Several Loose Screws in their Head and need to be Examined by a Psycho Specialist.......

Thomas Hardman said...

Wow, lots of anonymous cowards are all hiding behind the same name.

This is a good idea, and has worked well anyplace it has been tried, though many have been the annoyed would-be riders who have had a bus blow past them at highway speeds. Standing patiently at the bus-stop, the last thing you want to see is "Express" above the windshield.

And as much as light rail is desirable in some places, buses serve a journey, and rail serves destinations.

Me not being gregarious, I prefer to ride neither if there's any choice. But the more people that are riding the bus, the less congested are the roads I might wish to drive.

Now, new subject, increasing the ability to walk from one neighborhood to the other. Just try to get from southwest Aspen Hill to the nearby Twinbrook stores. More pedestrian bridges across Rock Creek might be nice, as might be a pedestrian trail on the western side of the creek.

Dave Murphy said...

Building on what Hardman said above about walking around the area, I'm hoping with express service will come better facilities at express bus stops.

I've got no problem walking a little further to catch a bus that will make fewer stops, but how about a bench and a rain shelter?

Over here on Rt 1, often you're lucky to find a sidewalk leading up to your bus stop. often they're little more than posts sticking out of a thin grassy patch with only a few feet separating you from speeding traffic.

Thomas Hardman said...

At least here in Aspen Hill there are a variety of covered bus-stops, but most of those are at high-visibility high-traffic areas, and often where lines cross and people are almost guaranteed to be waiting to transfer at almost any time the buses run.

I might add that most of those which were added in the last year or two have been quite nicely and strongly built, with concrete or stone bases which would provide some protection if a car came over the curb.

Of course there is the occasional vandalism, but it's usually repaired quickly enough.

Anonymous said...

Thomas Hardman said...
Wow, lots of anonymous cowards are all hiding behind the same name.

RE: And I can be be almost sure thats not your true name sir/ma'am......

So please cut the sarcasim, thank you.....

Thomas Hardman said...

I can be almost sure it is. It's what it says on my birth certificate, driving permit, and registration at the State Board of Elections.

I'm rather more certain that your real name isn't "anonymous".

Michael said...

If priority bus is going to work it needs to be done properly. There need to be dedicates bus lanes that cannot be converted later to allow HOT lanes to share the space. Car drivers will likely demand access to the lane if buses are regularly zipping past them while they're stuck in traffic. There must also be quick boarding through multiple doors which requires prepurchased tickets and gated areas for ticket holders. The goal is to get passengers on quickly so the bus can continue without the operator checking passes and taking fares. Finally, to get people out of their cars give the riders comfort with good seats, option to board with food and drink, AC adapters and wifi access. Here again the goal is to get people out of their cars. If the buses are a slight upgrade on the current service in all respects then what's the point?