DTMG Transportation Forum on March 9th:
We had a great DTMG Transportation Forum on Saturday morning, March 9, with over 100 people in attendance. We’ll be reporting more fully on the forum within the next week, but right now we have a few photos, the slide presentations used by many of our presenters, as well as video recordings of the forum, broken down into seven segments.
Forum Offered Divers Points of View
Today, DTMG reached its objective of offering a Transportation Forum that presented diverse points of view, though DTMG does, in fact, have strong positions of its own. After a few words of welcome, Executive Director Barbara Nouveau introduced the panel moderator, Aruna Miller, Executive Director of the Indian-American Impact Project, as well as a past Maryland Delegate (District 15) and engineer with the Transportation Department, who said that transportation costs top all family expenditures but food and housing.
According to County Councilman Tom Hucker, the last couple of decades have seen the County’s transportation strategy move from a focus on roads to one of “transit-first,” with proximity to transit a priority for building projects. He focused on three top issues: the Governor’s Public-Private Partnership Proposal (P3) to widen 270 and the beltway, to include toll lanes on 270; bus rapid transit (the BRT); and pedestrian safety. Most disturbing about P-3 or its seven “screened alternatives” he said, the Governor did not consult with local officials and experts in planning the project, which would threaten houses and businesses along its route and add to pollution.
Susan Swift, Executive Director of the Suburban Maryland Transportation Alliance, cited studies outlining why she believed toll roads would solve the traffic problems. She then addressed what she introduced as myths about road projects and expressed her belief that our traffic issues result from poor planning.
Stuart Schwartz of the Coalition for Smart Growth spoke about the “big picture” and the importance of Smart Growth to take the pressure off of traffic and create “connectivity” in our communities. Doing so would also reduce pollution and energy consumption, he observed.
Gaithersburg City Councilman Neil Harris stated that we needed a mix of transit and road solutions. He questioned the financial investment in transit, which is more costly, when most people still use their cars, Uber, and Lyft now and may be using electric or autonomous cars in the future.
Finally, District 19 Delegate Vaughn Stewart, who serves on the House Environment and Transportation Committee, listed and explained several bills to address related issues: HB695 requires a greenhouse gas study for any road project, HB91 would require an early environmental study, and HB 102 (SB442) would mandate negotiation with counties before toll road project could proceed through their jurisdictions. He also discussed electric school buses, transit agency coordination, and pedestrian safety.
The panel then took questions on the costs of transit, a second Potomac crossing, multi-modal transportation, “induced demand” (the build-it-and-they-will-come principle), the needs of low-income people, toll lane usage, BRT, and pedestrian access to transit.
The panel then took questions form the audience on the following topics:
Toll Lane Usage
Bus Rapid Transit
Pedestrian Access to Transit
Cost of Transit
A second Potomac Crossing
Needs of Low-Income Residents
The top issue today, however, was the Governor’s public-private partnership proposal (P3), overseen by MDOT, to widen 270 and the beltway—a project that would add to pollution and threaten houses, businesses, hospitals, parks, and even a golf course. This “Traffic Relief Plan” would add four new express toll lanes to 270. The seven “screened alternatives” offered by MDOT all in fact include toll and/or HOV lanes. Most disturbing, the Governor, according to Councilman Hucker, did not consult with local experts, the Planning or Transportation staff, or MCDOT. Despite requests that it do so, the project does not include transit; it instead exemplifies what Councilman Hucker calls “highway-only” thinking. On March 19 the Council will hear about the latest plan from MDOT Secretary Pete Rahn and State Highway Administrator Greg Slater. In the meantime, Councilman Hucker and Delegate Stewart mentioned the bills that have been introduced in the House and Senate that would require a sign-off by counties for new roads in their jurisdictions.