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Mar 14 13

Planners to Present Countywide Transit Corridor Recommendations to Planning Board

by Valerie Berton

SILVER SPRING – With Montgomery County’s population expected to grow by 30 percent by 2040, planners have drafted a series of recommendations to keep all of those people moving.

On Monday, the Planning Board will review a draft plan for a transit network targeted at some of the county’s most congested areas – inside-the-Beltway communities, suburban activity centers and highly traveled commuter corridors. The plan addresses bus rapid transit (BRT) – high-quality buses that run in dedicated lanes or get traffic signal priority, as well as bicycle and pedestrian needs.

Along with forecast population increases, Montgomery County is expected to add more than 200,000 jobs. For the last two decades, policy-makers and planners have encouraged alternative modes of travel to reduce congestion.

BRT provides a flexible, cost-effective alternative to congested roadways, planners say, by offering reliable, fast connections in areas where development and density is not high enough to warrant rail. The draft plan recommends 10 transit corridors spanning 79 miles. Options include dedicated bus lanes in the median or repurposing curbside lanes for bus use.

map 1 revised 3

To determine which corridors warranted treatments to promote rapid transit, planners analyzed forecast ridership, traffic volumes, existing roadside development and planned land use changes. The plan recommends where busways would require replacing an existing traffic lane based on location – for example, downtown areas typically have limited land area in which to build new bus lanes – and on 2040 forecasts of ridership versus traffic demand. Transportation modeling showed an improvement in traffic speeds on a countywide basis with the introduction of BRT, even after converting some traffic lanes.

In some areas, such as Rockville Pike, where forecast ridership is as high as 2,500 people per hour in rush hour in the peak direction, planners recommend creating median busways by reducing the existing six traffic lanes to four. In other locations, such as northern New Hampshire Avenue, where fewer than 700 passengers are forecast to ride during rush hour, planners recommend mixing buses in traffic. Planners call for more detailed analysis during the planning and design process for each corridor to determine specific lane repurposing strategies and treatments.

As part of the plan, planners focused on creating transit connections to Metro’s Red Line, the planned Purple Line and MARC. They also addressed BRT station locations.

Planners also recommend designating bicycle-pedestrian priority areas around major stations and adding a third track on part of the MARC train’s Brunswick Line.

The Countywide Transit Corridors Functional Master Plan will amend the Master Plan of Highways, which will be renamed the Master Plan of Highways and Transitways.

Montgomery County Planning Board

Review of Countywide Transit Corridors Functional Master Plan staff draft

6 p.m. Monday, March 18

Park and Planning Headquarters auditorium
8787 Georgia Avenue, Silver Spring

Oct 24 11

Montgomery County Congestion Remains Steady, Transportation Planners Say

by Valerie Berton

SILVER SPRING – Montgomery County’s traffic congestion has remained at the same level for the past two years, according to the Mobility Assessment Report, a bi-annual study by county transportation planners that monitors local transportation trends.

The Planning Board will consider the report at its meeting on Thursday, October 27.

The mobility assessment, which also measures transit ridership, bike use and pedestrian activity, finds that the county’s network of roads continues to be strained by increasing numbers of residents and commuters relying on cars as their primary means of travel.

To improve the road network, but recognizing that roads alone can’t address congestion, planners are addressing new options, such as expanded transit, bike paths and sidewalks to achieve more sustainable, less congested communities. Moreover, building future homes near transit will create more opportunities for people to avoid driving.

Particularly bad for commuters, according to travel time indexing: southbound US 29 between Howard County and University Boulevard in the mornings and eastbound University Boulevard between Georgia and New Hampshire avenues in the evenings.

The travel time assessment is based on 50 real-time travel observations collected along priority corridors – MD 355/Rockville Pike, MD 185/Connecticut Avenue, U.S. 29/Columbia Pike and MD 586/Veirs Mill Road – that have a history of the greatest congestion. Planners analyze travel conditions by comparing the slowest time traveled along a corridor compared to a vehicle traveling at the speed limit.

The report also ranks the county’s most congested intersections based on critical lane volume data gathered between 2008 and 2011. Critical lane volume data takes snapshots of intersection performance, literally capturing traffic volume at a particular time and place.

The top most congested intersections include: 

  • Old Georgetown Road at Democracy Boulevard
  • Darnestown Road at Riffle Ford Road
  • Shady Grove Road at Choke Cherry Lane
  • Rockville Pike at West Cedar Lane
  • Georgia Avenue at Norbeck Road
  • MD 355 at Edmonston Drive
  • Great Seneca Highway at Muddy Branch Road
  • Connecticut Avenue at Jones Bridge Road

Montgomery County Planning Board

2011 Mobility Assessment Report

Thursday, October 27, approximately 3 p.m.

Park and Planning Headquarters
8787 Georgia Ave.
Silver Spring, MD

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Jun 3 09

Planners Highlight Montgomery County’s Most Congested Roadways, Document Increased Transit Use in Traffic Trends Report

by Valerie Berton

SILVER SPRING – In a report that provides a snapshot of just how long it takes commuters and others to traverse Montgomery County roadways, county transportation planners have ranked the top 10 most congested intersections and roads as the basis for improvements to the local network.

The Highway Mobility Report provides background to local policymakers like County Council members as they weigh funding priorities to improve area transportation networks. The Planning Board uses the report to make decisions about lane, intersection or crosswalk improvements while reviewing development applications.

It should come as no surprise to county motorists that most congestion occurs along busy north-south corridors Rockville Pike, Connecticut Avenue, Georgia Avenue and Colesville Road and east-west connectors like Veirs Mill Road and MD 28. Planners labeled the intersection of Shady Grove Road and Midcounty Highway as the most congested, followed closely by Rockville Pike at West Cedar Lane.

Transportation planners calculate congestion by counting cars and determining average traffic volume in each lane at peak morning and afternoon commuting periods.

View the 2009 Highway Mobility Report and the list of most congested intersections and corridors.

In a departure from previous studies, this year’s Highway Mobility Report, which goes to the Planning Board on Monday, analyzes transit use and pedestrian activity to provide a more holistic view of travel in the county. Reflecting national trends, planners found a 5 percent increase in Metrorail ridership between February 2006 and February 2009. Metrorail ridership was highest at those stations located amid a mix of houses and businesses, such as Silver Spring.

Residents also frequent the county Ride On buses, with heaviest ridership –about 8,000 bus passengers daily – on routes running from Silver Spring to Germantown along the I-270 corridor, and among down-county commercial centers. Ridership in 2008 exceeded the number of passengers – measured by daily average boardings – using Metrorail, demonstrating the importance of Ride On buses to how people get around.

For those who travel by car, the report offers some cause for hope. Two projects now under construction will improve highway mobility. The Intercounty Connector will relieve congestion along Norbeck Road, and extending Montrose Parkway across Rockville Pike will improve mobility in North Bethesda. Two of the top 10 intersections – Rockville Pike at West Cedar Lane and Connecticut Avenue at Jones Bridge Road are recommended for improvement associated with the Base Realignment and Closure (BRAC)  project at Bethesda Naval Hospital.

Montgomery County Planning Board

Review Highway Mobility Report and transmit to County Council

Approximately 7:30 p.m. Monday, June 8

Park and Planning Headquarters
8787 Georgia Ave., Silver Spring