Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Hey! What About Our CCT? What Are We, Chopped Liver?!

By Jud Ashman, Gaithersburg City Council Member.

Can someone please come up with a serious argument against the Corridor Cities Transitway? Apparently all this “agreement” and lack of controversy has had the ironic effect of moving the CCT to the media and political backburner at exactly the time it makes the most sense.

If you don’t know - or can’t remember – what the Corridor Cities Transitway is, don’t blame yourself. It’s our fault! What gets news media attention - far more than any boring aspects of merit a project might boast - is a fight. If we just could have found someone out there among the citizenry, the business community, or the elected officials who opposed the project, you surely would’ve been inundated with stories in the Washington Post, the Gazette, NewsChannel 8, etc. Marc Fisher could’ve filed two columns a month on the subject and Adam, here at MPW, could’ve posted a 4 part statistical analysis!

But we obviously failed to find that opposition. “Why?” you ask. Because the CCT makes too much sense. Here are the facts:

• The concept for the CCT dates back to the 1964 General Plan for Montgomery County. It’s a 14-mile transitway that would link the Shady Grove Metro to Clarksburg. (Ultimately, the CCT could be extended to Frederick but that is not currently under consideration.) The project has earned the support of the cities of Gaithersburg and Rockville, as well as Montgomery County.

• The stated goals of the CCT are:
o Provide efficient, reliable transit enhancement
o Extend Metrorail Red Line and reduce demand for drive access to Shady Grove Station
o Support current and planned land uses in the corridor
o Relieve traffic congestion on area roads (particularly I270)

• The CCT is more than simple north-south transit. It links the existing Town Centers of King Farm and Kentlands – as well as similar communities in Germantown and Clarksburg - with the approved future Town Centers of Crown Farm/Washingtonian Rio and Watkins Mill, and potentially with a Johns Hopkins Shady Grove Life Sciences Center. Collectively, these town centers will provide countless opportunities to live, work, shop, learn, and play without getting in a car. (Note: With the Kentlands and the Lakelands, the City of Gaithersburg pioneered the sort of Transit Oriented Developments that most jurisdictions have been emulating for the past decade. Problem is, we’ve had no “Transit” and thus haven’t seen the full potential of the planning model)

• For the last 45 years, the City of Gaithersburg has taken the CCT into account when making all land use decisions related to its western sections. 100% of the right-of-way within the Gaithersburg city limits is available for construction at no cost to the public.

• Overall, 60% of the entire right-of-way for the CCT is available for construction at no cost to the public.

• Based on year 2030 population and employment forecasts, the CCT is projected to have an average daily boarding in the neighborhood of 30,000 riders.

• MTA is currently studying whether it’s best suited for Light Rail or Bus Rapid Transit. As a Bus Rapid Transit mode, the cost effectiveness ratio meets Federal “New Starts” criteria and is eligible to compete nationally for Federal funding.

It should be noted that, all things being equal, most people when asked would support a Light Rail (LRT) option over BRT. However, all things aren’t equal; LRT is probably 3 or 4 times more expensive. Careful readers of this blog will remember the estimates from Marc Elrich’s BRT plan: Light Rail costs about $75 to $102 million per mile vs. about $20 million per mile for BRT. (In fact, if the Purple Line is built as Light Rail, as is the preference of both Park and Planning and the County Council, and the CCT is built as BRT, then the CCT will probably come in at about ¼ of the cost, based on published estimates.)

All of this isn’t to argue that the Purple Line (as light rail) isn’t a worthy project. It certainly is. But let’s not allow it to suck all of the oxygen from the room. The CCT has enormous merit, and can be made into a reality at a fraction of the cost; both in terms of dollars and political capital.

The Corridor Cities Transitway is good to go!