Mr. Leggett’s Magic Traffic Trick
By Gary Featheringham
All that county executive Isiah Leggett’s latest trick requires are some buses, at least $1.6 Billion in upfront money and a bit of magic.
The buses would run on three of the most congested corridors in the county: Rockville Pike, Viers Mill Road and Colesville Road. As all existing traffic lanes on these roads are presently clogged, new bus-only lanes would be built. Stations would also be constructed to make collecting fares an off-bus activity. And, of course, a lot of buses would be bought. Not just ordinary buses, mind you, but buses with a special button that will turn all traffic lights in an intersection red so the bus can slip through. Think of it as congestion upgraded to gridlock.
All-in-all a very tidy package except for a couple of things: according to the New York-based Institute for Transportation and Development Policy, successful Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) requires an urban setting. Montgomery County is suburban. Urban systems – such as Pittsburgh’s – generate a peak rush hour ridership of 3,500. The projection for the busiest of the Montgomery routes – Colesville Road – is just 800. The other routes are projected at fewer than 300.
And then there’s the money. Mr. Leggett is already calling for a 10% increase in property taxes to cover the cost of an adverse court decision. The BRT would require another 10%. Come to think of it, maybe that’s his magic answer: price the people out of the county. No people, no traffic. Just the occasional empty bus.