EFFICIENT TRANSPORTATION: Q&A
Why did you develop the plan for the county's bus rapid transit (BRT) network?
When I first joined the County Council in 2006, I did a lot of research on how to both address our congestion problems and reduce the impact of transportation on greenhouse gas emissions. I first proposed it in 2008 after I heard a presentation at the Metropolitan Washington Council on Governments (COG). I researched BRT systems all over the world to understand what best to propose in areas that have constrained space and have pushed hard for it for the past decade; as County Executive, I would make it a top priority to ensure it is built and run cost-effectively and efficiently.
One critical component of the BRT network is the Corridor Cities Transitway (CCT), which would finally provide the transportation infrastructure that was promised when Clarksburg was developed and has now become critical to the Life Sciences plan near Shady Grove.
What do you think of Governor Hogan's highway proposals?
They require a lot more scrutiny. As I’ve said before, it makes neither environmental nor economic sense to use a sledgehammer where a scalpel will suffice. Reversible lanes were a lynchpin of my original BRT proposal and I continue to support them; they reflect space availability limitations and take advantage of the fact that traffic runs north/south and east/west in the morning and south/north and west/east at night. We can run buses back in the non-peak direction during rush hour without sacrificing speed or the ability to stay on time.
When it comes to I-270, for instance, I support the proposal from the County Council several years ago to add a maximum of two reversible lanes. We don’t have room for four lanes and traffic is only heavy in one direction during rush hour. The most efficient approach that could address I-270’s bottlenecks would be to make one reversible lane for BRT and other high-occupancy vehicles (HOVs), which would both save a lot of money and address the highway’s congestion bottlenecks. We should also add both BRT and a reversible lane for automobiles on 355 to deal with peak-hour congestion.
You serve on COG's Transportation Planning Board (TPB). What have you advocated for there?
I have wanted us to focus less on road construction and more on changing “mode share” (the percent of commuters using different modes of transportation for their commutes; a 50% non-auto mode share means 50% of commuters are not traveling by car). We need to implement a combination of improved transit and policies that support transit, including comprehensive parking policies, with the goal of reducing trips by single-occupancy vehicles. Recently, my longstanding proposal to focus on regional cooperation and adopt common policies came out as the top-rated proposal in a package of five proposals that the TPB is recommending as regional priorities.
How would you address the issues with Metro?
What Metro has suffered from is mismanagement, a lack of adequate funding, and longstanding efforts to mask problems both in management and the health of the system. My focus as County Executive would be on reducing unproductive management positions and working with local and state partners to replace Metro’s aging infrastructure and secure a funding source that doesn't detract from other needed transportation projects.
I believe one way to ensure Metro's sustainability is through station-area tax or assessment districts. Developers have made millions of dollars off of this publicly owned and operated asset; if they want to be near Metro stations, they need to share in the costs as well as the benefits by paying a Metro station policy tax on commercial development around the stations. This idea is not new and has had support in the past from Metro leaders. I believe it will be popular among residents as well. I also think Governor Hogan should be pressed to prioritize fixing Metro - if he believes the state has the money to make a massive investment in toll lanes on three highways, the state has the money to invest in the Metro system and should do that first.
Do you support MARC expansion?
Definitely. MARC needs a third track so it can operate bi-directionally throughout the day. MARC expansion would move long-distance trips off county roads and I-270 and, with connections to BRT, can provide interconnectivity that would serve the 355 corridor and trips into the District. It has a lot of potential.
What transportation projects have you opposed?
I opposed the Intercounty Connector (ICC) and fought it for decades. After I arrived on the County Council in 2006, four of us (Phil Andrews, Marilyn Praisner, Duchy Trachtenberg and me) wanted to remove the ICC from the master plan of highways. We could not get a fifth vote and the ICC was built. It has been an enormous environmental and financial disaster.
I also have led the fight at the TPB for over a year to oppose the second crossing of the Potomac. The TPB ultimately voted against the second crossing when the new staff analysis showed that it should not be considered a high priority given its limited benefits, its high cost, and the regional scarcity of resources.
Similarly, I oppose M-83. I am committed to addressing the transportation issues in this county in environmentally sensitive, community-friendly, and cost-effective ways.
What would you do to make it safer and easier for people to bike?
To encourage more bicycling as a safe and reliable transportation option, we should do everything we can to isolate bikeways from the general roadway. It should theoretically take the same amount of space to put bike lanes in the middle of the road or next to the curb, but putting them next to the curb is much safer for bikers. I am particularly interested in putting parking outside of bike lanes whenever possible. I also support “dockless” rentable bikes and other innovative efforts for increasing casual bike use.