Hucker calls out misinformation circulated by BRT opponents

“It’s disturbing that I have received at least dozens of emails this week telling me blatantly misrepresentational things about this project, and I know that’s in none of our interest.
So I’d like to take this opportunity to clarify things…”

Councilmember Tom Hucker
May 4, 2017 T&E Committee Worksession
(watch archived video beginning at 1:23)

Last Thursday, Councilmember Tom Hucker spoke on the record to correct some “misinformation” that he has heard from constituents in opposition to the proposed Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) project on Route 29. More information about BRT is available on the Montgomery County Department of Transportation (MCDOT) website, getonboardBRT.com.

The six-minute, rapid-fire “myth-busting” session took place during the County Council’s Transportation, Infrastructure, Energy and Environment (T&E) Committee May 4 worksession. A short video clip is provided below.

Myth: This project will take away travel lanes from cars.
Fact: The current project will not make any changes to the existing travel lanes.

Myth: This project will include road widening, which could displace properties.
Fact: The current project does not include any road widening. The bus station locations however, will be located on the existing sidewalks. Their exact locations will be identified by MCDOT in coordination with stakeholders on the Corridor Advisory Committees.

Myth: This project will cost Montgomery County taxpayers $40 million dollars.
Fact: The total cost is $31.5 million, $10 million of which will be funded by the federal government. The County contribution is $21.5 million.

Myth: The burden on taxpayers would be reduced and residents would see lower taxes if this project is eliminated from the County budget.
Fact: At $3 million per corridor-mile, MCDOT has identified this as the most cost-efficient transit project available at this time. If this project is not approved, funds will be programmed for a less efficient transit project, which would provide lesser benefits to taxpayers.

Myth: The project will increase congestion by taking away travel lanes from cars to install dedicated lanes.
Fact: The project currently under consideration does not include dedicated lanes or take away travel lanes. This project is not likely to cause congestion, as it will only add 14 buses to Route 29. In fact, later in the worksession, Mr. Hucker acknowledged that growth in neighboring jurisdictions is “blowing up”, and that this project will mitigate the traffic and congestion. He stated

“There’s more and more people if we do nothing, that are going to be populating not just eastern Montgomery County but Howard County, northern Prince Georges County, western Baltimore County and still working in the DC metro region. To me, doing nothing is a guarantee that we increase congestion, and not this project.”

Councilmember Tom Hucker
(watch archived video beginning at 1:23)

Myth: This project will diminish pedestrian safety and put more pedestrians at risk.
Fact: This project aims to improve pedestrian safety. Part of the project includes bike share and pedestrian access improvements.

Myth: The County Council is being asked to fund construction of a project that has not reached 30% design.
Fact: The Montgomery County Department of Transportation (MCDOT) is not requesting money for construction at this time. Construction and final design funding would be requested later, after more preliminary design and public outreach has been completed. The County Council is currently suggesting deferring the right-of-way acquisition to next year so that it can be studied in more detail.

Myth: People will not get out of their cars to ride BRT on Route 29.
Fact: The projections by MCDOT anticipate that up to 4,000 people will switch from their cars to BRT because the bus travel time is competitive with driving. Unlike the Viers Mills BRT project, which is not anticipated to attract existing car drivers to the bus, the Route 29 project is anticipated to reduce the commute time by 20-60%, when compared to driving. In addition, the Route 29 BRT corridor is longer and has more residents that ultimately commute into DC and are more likely to use BRT to connect to the Metro system at Silver Spring.


And although Mr. Hucker did not address the following in the video clip above, it is worth bringing up this repeated misunderstanding:

Myth: Dedicated bus lanes do not fit on Route 29, because the existing road is too narrow (74 feet wide).
Fact: First off, the minimum curb-to-curb width of Route 29 north of Sligo Creek Parkway is approximately 84 feet, and you can see for yourself on Google Maps (right click on the edge of the road and select “measure distance”). Second, MCDOT and the County Council believe that it could be possible to fit dedicated bus lanes on Route 29 without widening the road or taking away travel lanes.  This would allow BRT vehicles to skip traffic jams and dramatically reduce bus travel times. For more details on how the plan would work, refer to the May 11 memo written by the County Council transportation expert, Glenn Orlin.

You can watch the Councilmembers discuss the specious 74-foot-width claim and the feasibility and benefits of adding a dedicated bus lane in the video below.

As a resident who has been following this issue closely, I agree with Councilmember Hucker that the level of misinformation about this project is alarming.

I applaud him and the other Councilmembers for seeking the truth and pushing for this project which would tremendously benefit East County. Let’s hope that the “alternative facts” are debunked and that the truth continues to prevail.

“There’s a lot of people probably paying attention to this, and I wanted to clear all that up, because I’m getting lots of email from people who I think that regardless of the intention of where the misinformation started, they’ve received that and that’s what they’re hearing, and they need to hear the truth on this work.”

Councilmember Tom Hucker
May 4, 2017 T&E Committee Worksession

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