The Washington Post recently ran a provocative article submitted by two leading transportation experts, Alan Pisarski and Peter Samuel, entitled Expand the Intercounty Connector for a Truly Regional Transportation Network.
The authors note correctly that — contrary to the “spin” we often hear from anti-road activists — tens of thousands of people are using the Intercounty Connector (ICC) every day. In fact, more passengers are traveling on the ICC each day than on the much more expensive Silver Line, traffic on the parallel section of the Beltway has dropped 8% since the ICC opened, and significant traffic relief is already being felt on surrounding local roads. It is clearly a big success. The question is, what’s next?
The idea of future extensions of the ICC — both to the west, into Northern Virginia, and to the east, to Route 50 in Prince George’s County are both worth exploring. The economic benefits from tying our region together with a more efficient highway network could be extremely significant, and it would open up new possibilities for a truly regional bus-rapid transit network using the new capacity.
What do you think? Give the article a read and share your comments here. Does extending the ICC across the Potomac and over to Route 50 make sense to you? What other priorities should we also be looking at that could deliver the same kind of game-changing impacts on congestion and overall transportation network performance across the Washington region? Let us know.
The SMTA Board was briefed recently on two efforts to expand bus-rapid-transit service, also known as “BRT” (or the more appealing acronym “RTV” for “Rapid-Transit-Vehicle”). RTV systems are seen as a cost-effective alternative to either single-occupancy-vehicle automobile travel or more expensive fixed-rail transit systems.
The first is being pursued in Montgomery County by County Executive Ike Leggett’s Transit Implementation Task Force, which is looking at a county-wide system covering as many as 18 routes. The system under consideration would be the region’s first “gold” level RTV system, meaning its vehicles would move in their own dedicated lanes and provide a much higher level of service and shorter travel times than traditional bus systems.
The second is currently under study by metropolitan Washington’s Transportation Planning Board. New modeling data presented this week shows significant traffic relief — a 12% reduction in travel delays — can be achieved through a scaled-down combination of new toll lanes on major highways, conversion of some existing lanes to toll lanes, a network of regional bus-rapid-transit lines using those managed lanes, and more focused development around transit stations. The study also conclusively shows that transit-oriented land-use changes, by themselves, do nothing to relieve congestion, but in combination with new lane capacity and transit service, yield significant positive results. The best part of all, the revenue from these new toll lanes more than pays for the construction and operating costs of the entire system, including the new lanes and RTV transit system. You heard that right, a self-financing project that cuts congestion delays in the entire region by 12%. This ought to be one of THE top priorities for local jurisdictions in the Washington region.
One of our key goals at SMTA is to raise the level of the debate over transportation policy in our region, to focus more on the factual issues, less on politics or ideology.
This is why we were pleased to participate in the recent survey of regional transportation experts released by the 2030 Group. A recent article in Patch.com reported on this effort.
NewsChannel 8’s “News Talk with Bruce DePuyt” also did a follow-up piece today, with both SMTA and anti-road activists represented, in what turned out to be a lively debate. The show illustrated areas of agreement and stark differences of opinion between those of us who seek to have multi-billion-dollar investments in transportation guided by solid planning, engineering and factual analysis, and those who prefer to rely upon blind ideology and wishful thinking.
Facts are stubborn things, however, and by focussing on the facts we hope to help bring the entire commnity together around a set of solutions that are realistic and can work, regardless of whether they are roads or transit, or something else entirely. We welcome your continued input on this topic as we move forward.
Click here for more on the key findings of the 2030 Group’s survey of regional transportation experts on regional transportation priorities.
We will also continue to press for increased investement in all modes of transportation, as no amount of discussion about priorities will accomplish anything without investing the necessary resources to get any of them built. Maryland legislators, are you listening?