Thursday, July 02, 2009

No LRT twofer: Maryland county planners opt for BRT

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Montgomery County, Md., planners evaluating I-270 Corridor transit needs are recommending Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) instead of light rail transit (LRT) for the route, citing lower costs, uncertain federal funding support, and planned highway widening that favor BRT as the choice.

The 14-mile “Corridor Cities Transitway” route, serving “upper” Montgomery County, would link Clarksburg and the Metrorail’s Shady Grove Station near Rockville, Md.

The recommendation for BRT runs counter to that of many Montgomery County public officials, and much general public comment, that  have called for light rail as a better long-term permanent investment option for the 14-mile route.

LRT is estimated to cost $778 million vs. $450 million for LRT, but rail advocates say LRT ridership would be higher and cost perpassenger mile significantly lower. County planners claim that BRT offers “flexibility”; LRT backers counter that rail offers “permanence.”

The county endorsed LRT for its portion of the proposedPurple Line, linking its  withneighboring Prince George’s County and creating a circumferential route linkingat numerous points with Washington, D.C.’s Metro system. Last month the NationalCapital Region Transportation Planning Board, the metropolitan planningorganization, also endorsed LRT for the Purple Line.