The video also features interviews with a variety of local residents and community leaders, including Planning Board member Casey Anderson, Friends of White Flint executive director Lindsay Hoffman, college student Jonathan Jayes-Green, local Sierra Club chair David Hauck, and activist Elaine Binder. Transportation planner Larry Cole, who led the BRT planning process, also talks about how traffic continues to increase in Montgomery County.
For almost 5 years, Montgomery County has been working on a plan for a countywide BRT network, including routes on major corridors like Rockville Pike, Route 29, Georgia Avenue, and Veirs Mill Road. The plan, which the Planning Board approved last month, has significant issues, but it's still a huge step forward for the county as it seeks to accommodate new residents and workers while helping everyone get around more quickly and affordably.
We don't have room on our streets today to accommodate everyone in a car today, let alone in the future. If done properly, and if given its own dedicated lanes, BRT can give people a new transportation choice that's faster than driving will ever be in many of the county's congested corridors. We simply cannot afford not to make a significant investment in new transit that can support future growth, economic development, and environmental stewardship.
The plan goes before the County Council this fall, but first, they will hold two public hearings on September 24 and 26 to hear from the community. If you'd like to show your support for BRT, you can visit CSG's Next Generation of Transit website to learn more or visit the council's website to sign up to testify or send written comments.
The video is 4 minutes of pro-BRT opinion, but there isn't one word about what it would cost. So how can we judge whether the cost, both to build BRT and the ongoing operating subsidies, is justified by the benefits? BRT would obviously be great if we didn't have to pay for it, but that's not going to happen.
What are the capital and operating costs? How much would each taxpayer have to pay each year? Once I know that, I can decide whether I think BRT is a good idea or not.
As they say, there are people who know the price of everything and the value of nothing.
The plan before the Council is simply about where to set aside room for transit. Once it's approved, we still have to figure out questions about design and engineering and phasing, and we'll be able to get more detailed cost figures.
Most of the master plans that get passed by the Council and propose new public amenities, whether it's roads, transit or schools, don't include cost estimates. Would building a school in an area where there are a lot of young children be a "bad idea" if it were expensive? Of course not. Ditto for needed improvements to our transportation infrastructure.
Merriam-Webster defines "value" as: 1: a fair return or equivalent in goods, services, or money for something exchanged
2: the monetary worth of something : market price
3: relative worth, utility, or importance
I can see there is potentially a lot of value in BRT, but the question remains as to whether there is enough value to offset the cost.
Can we afford it?
Would it be a better use of limited funds to spend the money on schools, health, police, fire, libraries, better RideOn and Metro, etc., etc.
Since the County and its taxpayers have limited funds, we have to make choices in the public sector just as we do in our private lives. It makes little sense to plan for something unless we have at least some preliminary estimate of what it will cost and whether we can afford it so we can prioritize our wants and needs.
Surely there are some preliminary estimates for the cost of the proposed BRT in Montgomery County. If would cost each taxpayer $10 a year, bring it on! If it would cost each taxpayer $100,000 a year, it will never fly! The reality is somewhere in the middle, and BRT may be a good idea given its cost or it may not. If it is, great! If it isn't they we need to figure out the next best alternative.
Can we afford for people to continue to sit in traffic? Probably not.
It's less about the money that we're spending (and trust me, honey, it would be nowhere near $100,000/person, considering that Montgomery County could simply designate the right-hand lane of Georgia Avenue and every other major street a bus lane tomorrow) and more about the money that we're losing from time spent in traffic: people who could be otherwise working, or spending time with family, or shopping or dining out, or volunteering in community groups, or leaving comments on blogs.
I understand that you and your neighbors in Woodside Park are concerned about BRT (though as you know, historically, Woodside Park has been concerned about the introduction of any change to their neighborhood, good or bad) but if we're going to talk about affordable ways to improve transportation in Montgomery County, this is about as affordable as it gets.
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