Our current transportation infrastructure simply cannot handle the current and projected number of cars on the road. In the coming years, Montgomery County will add more than 200,000 new residents, and the same number of jobs. That’s hundreds of thousands of additional cars, unless we find a way to provide better options than sitting in traffic.
Clearly, we must do something to find a better way to get to and from home, work, and school. Building new roads is too costly, too harmful to our neighborhoods, and won’t solve the problem. Investing in transit is our best option to provide high quality, affordable transportation options, clean up our air, and improve our quality of life. Just like those who made the investment in Metro Rail 40 years ago, we owe it to the next generation to plan for and create modern transit projects.
The Three Legged Stool
Three investments are necessary to provide relief to traffic, reduce air pollution, and improve the affordability of getting to and from work, school, and other activities:
None of these projects will be built, nor will they receive needed input, if communities aren’t aware or showing their support. That’s why we’re embarking on a major public education initiative to connect with community leaders, civic associations, student groups, environmental organizations, and initiatives of all types to talk about transit, and work together to shape these projects and make them a reality for our communities, and for the benefit of future generations. We hope you’ll join us.
Rapid Transit System
Montgomery County’s proposed Rapid Transit System would be a high quality transit system based on successful bus rapid transit (BRT) lines built around the country, and is best described as Metrorail on rubber tires. Rapid Transit vehicles would run along major county roads like Rockville Pike, U.S. 29, Viers Mill Road, Georgia Avenue, and others.
Important features of the Rapid Transit System
- Frequency of service: Rapid Transit vehicles would arrive every five to ten minutes.
- Dedicated Lanes: Rapid Transit vehicles operate as much as possible in dedicated lanes physically separated from car lanes so they can bypass traffic congestion.
- Clean, permanent stations: Rapid Transit passengers wait at enhanced stations that are comfortable, accessible, weather-protected, and feature seating, lighting, and real time arrival information.
- Pay at the Station: Riders pay their fares at the Rapid Transit station just like Metro, instead of on board like Ride-On buses, reducing the time required to pick up and drop off passengers.
Benefits of the Rapid Transit System
- Congestion relief: With Rapid Transit you can move significantly more people per lane as compared to cars, greatly increasing transportation efficiency and reducing the number of cars on the road.
- Preparing for new residents: Rapid Transit is smart investment because the construction boom of new condos, apartments, and stores along roads like Rockville Pike means we’ll need more transit or be faced with many more cars on the road. A Rapid Transit System supports compact walkable communities and less reliance on cars for those who choose to live there, particularly the younger generation.
- Improving access and affordability: The Rapid Transit System will provide working families and those just starting out with more affordable transportation choices and better access to jobs.
- Cleaning up our air: Investing in Rapid Transit can contribute to substantial reductions in local air pollution from auto emissions, a major source of asthma and other illnesses, and a major contributor to climate change.
- Staying Competitive: A transportation system like RTV is a critical element of sustainable economic growth to keep Montgomery competitive both nationally and with other communities in the Washington region.
Please note: this is the latest Montgomery Planning staff draft route map.
Project history and current status
In 2008, Councilmember Marc Elrich hatched a plan for a lower cost solution to providing high quality Rapid Transit to connect many growing activity centers in Montgomery County. His initiative persuaded County Executive Ike Leggett to appoint a Transit Task Force which spent over a year meeting, studying, and producing a report and recommendations for a transformational new transit system.
Now, the Planning Department has been conducting its own analysis for a year to determine what roadways in the county should be included in the Master Plan as potential routes of the Rapid Transit System. Their recommendations are currently before the Planning Board, who will make their final recommendations sometime in the summer of 2013. In the fall of 2013, the County Council will review and take a final vote on what corridors to include in the Master Plan.
Meanwhile, Montgomery County’s Department of Transportation is currently undergoing various studies on different aspects of the system, and is chairing a Rapid Transit Steering Committee made up of technical staff from various county agencies and Metro.
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For More Information
Here are a few key links for more background on the Rapid Transit System
- Montgomery Planning’s Countywide Transit Corridors Functional Master Plan page
- Montgomery County Rapid Transit System Steering Committee page
- Transit Task Force Report (2012)
The Metro system is a major asset to our region, and serves tens of thousands of Montgomery County commuters every day. Yet for years, we didn’t invest in maintaining and improving its infrastructure, so that today it is in need of repairs and upgrades to make Metro convenient and reliable for today’s users.
Metro’s value is undeniable. Without Metro, it’s estimated our region would need approximately 710 lane-miles of additional highway lanes at a capital cost of $4.7 billion, causing severe impacts in terms of homes taken for highway expansion. Proximity to Metro is estimated to have sparked some $212 billion in regional real estate value, and it has played a key role in helping older suburbs stave off the inner-suburban decline seen in other cities around the U.S. Metro estimates that transit in our region saves drivers $1 billion per year in wasted time, and that transit riders are able to save nearly $500 million in auto maintenance, fuel, parking, and other costs.
Now, Metro needs investment to upgrade its infrastructure and improve service. Metro planners have major plans on the books to fix platforms, provide longer trains to ease crowding, and implement improved bus service like the recently opened K9 service on New Hampshire Avenue.
More about plans for Metro’s future:
To make your voice heard in the conversation about Metro’s future, visit:
The first phase of the Purple Line is in Maryland from Bethesda to New Carrollton, with intermediate stops in Chevy Chase, Silver Spring, Takoma Park, Langley Park, Riverdale, and the University of Maryland. Another important connection could tie Alexandria with National Harbor, Oxon Hill, and Branch Avenue in Prince George’s County. To date, Virginia officials have failed to pursue the Purple Line to connect Springfield, Annandale, Merrifield, and Tysons with Montgomery County, but Fairfax officials recently met with their counterparts in Montgomery to discuss transit connections at the American Legion Bridge and they are also studying new transit networks for the county.
Why Does the Purple Line Matter?
The Purple Line offers a fast and high quality public transit alternative for suburb-to-suburb travelers. It would take cars off local roads and the Beltway, relieve the burden of traffic congestion, and help curb greenhouse gas emissions. Even conservative estimates for Purple Line ridership demonstrate strong demand for the line.
Transit-oriented development near new Purple Line rail stations would also promote the revitalization of inner-suburban neighborhoods. By focusing development in inner-Beltway communities through a connected network of high quality transit stations, we can anchor our older communities, enhance property values, and bring new housing and business opportunities to underserved parts of the region. A high quality light rail line will foster job growth in Silver Spring and Prince George’s County, connect workers to jobs in Bethesda and the Red Line Corridor, and reduce traffic growth.
While the new high quality transit connection is a great opportunity for communities along the route, it can also pose challenges by pushing up housing and commercial space price that could lead to displacement. We are working with a variety of stakeholders in Langley Park, which will host two new Purple Line stations, to ensure that investment in the community benefits existing residents and small businesses.
To learn more and get involved with neighborhood planning for the Purple Line: