Monday, December 28, 2009

ACT Slams MoCo Department of Transportation as "Anti-Transit" (Updated)

There's nothing unusual about Action Committee for Transit (ACT) protesting the policies set by the Montgomery County Department of Transportation (MCDOT) as "anti-transit." The organization has discussed each of its specific complaints before. What is unusual is that ACT's press release quotes both veteran leader Ben Ross as well as potential County Council candidate Hans Riemer. Following is the press release.

For Immediate Release, Monday, Dec. 28, 2009
Source: Action Committee for Transit

ACT Slams Montgomery County DOT's Anti-Transit Policies

The Montgomery County Dept. of Transportation has become systematically hostile to transit riders and pedestrians, charges a front-page article in the January 2010 issue of the Action Committee for Transit's quarterly newsletter, Transit Times. "The county's traffic engineering philosophy," commented ACT president Ben Ross, "is to push pedestrians, bicycles, and buses out of the way so that there are more cars on the road.”

The 600-member advocacy group backed its charge with a five-point bill of particulars:

MCDOT forced a four-month halt in the Maryland Transit Administration's work to design a new Metro entrance in Bethesda which will also serve as the future Red Line - Purple Line connection.

MCDOT opposes provisions of the White Flint master plan that would make Rockville Pike more friendly to pedestrians and bicyclists. It insists that the road's overriding function is to carry high-speed traffic into D.C.

MCDOT is trying to divert $40 million that has been designated for improved pedestrian access to the Medical Center Metro station and use the money to build an automobile underpass. The underpass is part of a larger highway-building scheme whose full extent is being kept secret from the public.

MCDOT plans to waste $80 million by building an overpriced $80,000-per-space garage in Bethesda, even though the garage across the street isn't full.

More than a year has gone by since ACT made specific suggestions of cost-free ways to speed up bus movement, and the county still has not responded.

"That's not even the end of it," added ACT vice-president Hans Riemer. He pointed out that the county DOT has stalled completion of the Metropolitan Branch bicycle trail through Silver Spring and insists that local streets should be built with wide lanes that encourage cars to move at unsafe speeds.

Riemer observed that MCDOT's policies undermine the county's efforts to promote smart growth and non-automobile transportation. "Our Transportation Department is years behind the times," he said. "The kinds of places their policies create--like today's Rockville Pike--are often the most difficult and unpleasant places for people to live, to visit, to commute. These policies destroy community life, and they are less and less effective at promoting economic growth. The path we are on is unsustainable."


Update: A MCDOT official sent this reply acknowledging delay at the Bethesda South Entrance but denying it is deliberate.

There has been no deliberate call for a delay in the project by DOT or anybody. According to our project manager, there have been coordination issues that needed to be resolved concerning the number of elevators (4 or5), the configuration of the same and the effect of such configuration on the Elm Street right of way, and therefore, the impact on the futuretraffic flow on Elm Street (two-way or one-way).

Mr. Erenrich also points out that the final design of the elevators need to be closely coordinated with the design of the Purple Line Station. Construction of the elevators will be an integral part of the construction of the station. Like with many other projects coordination of the different elements anddifferent interests make for a slower process than many of us desire.

But certainly, there are not any efforts on DOT's part to delay this or anyother project associated with the Purple Line, one of the two highest state transit priorities in the County.