Friday, June 27, 2014

Montgomery County Advances Plan To Take Lanes From Motorists

Montgomery County is moving ahead with a rapid bus transit plan which would result in motorists having fewer lanes available to them while they end up paying higher taxes to fund the program.

WTOP reports on the transit plan:
Getting the job done will require the reworking of a lot of major roads. It would mean narrowing existing lanes where you drive, shortening the shoulder, buying up lanes or paving over grass in the median between lanes.
A draft document from the Montgomery County Planning Board finds that most of these roads can support a brand new 11-foot lane without too many changes for drivers.
The proposed network would include lines on Md. 355, U.S. 29, Georgia Avenue, New Hampshire Avenue, Veirs Mill Road and Randolph Road. But the most likely scenario would include the Md. 355, U.S. 29 and Veirs Mill Road routes being built first, the others later.
But some stretches along 29 in Four Corners and 355 near the National Institutes for Health and Walter Reed can't accommodate new lanes. 
Along these stretches, a proposal would take away a current lane of traffic for cars and repurpose it for buses only. People living in these areas have opposed that idea because they are worried it'll make bad traffic even worse for drivers. 
The plan is based on the unproven assertion that it will relieve traffic congestion by encouraging motorists to give up driving.  Those taken in by this idea often allow themselves to believe the fantasy that a transit project will make their commute better because OTHER motorists will use it and make room for them on the road.  However this wishful thinking is doomed to fail because other drivers are thinking the same thing.

The fact is that the county is not capable of providing transit routes between all homes and people's work places.  Except for those people who both live and work along the route, most would end up having to walk or take other transportation at one or both ends of their commute, and that ends up taking significantly more time than driving even taking traffic congestion into consideration. Furthermore, even this "rapid" transit line will still make frequent stops, and thus won't be faster than driving in most cases.  Since time is the basis on which most drivers arrive at their choice of commuting options, most drivers will not stop driving to work unless this plan succeeds in making driving conditions so much worse for drivers that driving becomes am unacceptable option.  What is more disturbing is that this may be what some members of the county government actually want.

Despite this, motorists will still be the ones who pay for Ike Legget's plan.  The proposal is likely to cost $1billion-$2billion to implement.  The county has yet to figure out where the money would come from, but it would likely be either from motorists' recently increased state gas taxes, or from their property taxes.

Drivers should not be deceived by the county government's false assertion that this expensive plan paid for by motorists will make their commute easier.
One thing is for certain: if motorists do not become more vocal and more organized about defending their own interests, we will continue to be last served when it comes to transportation planning and the first ones taxed to pay for things every other interest group wants.