Plans for a bus rapid transit system through parts of Gaithersburg and Rockville are taking shape, but planners say they still need residents’ input as they get into the long process of street-level designs and implementation plans.
At an open house Wednesday in Rockville, visitors could see maps of Phase 1 of the proposed Corridor Cities Transitway, which winds from Shady Grove Metro station west to the Universities at Shady Grove and Great Seneca Highway before turning north toward the Kentlands neighborhood and the Metropolitan Grove commuter rail station. A second phase of the transitway is expected to continue north to Clarksburg.
Diane Ratcliff, director of the Maryland Transit Administration’s office of planning and programming, said the meeting drew good attendance from neighborhoods along the proposed Corridor Cities Transitway, or CCT, route.
“They’re seeing from here to there for the first time,” she said.
Although the most recent maps are more detailed than those previously released, Rick J. Kiegel, project manager in MTA’s Office of Planning, said detailed designs and architecture are yet to come.
“We’re at five percent completion,” he said.
Kiegel said open house attendees were still concerned about the impact of running the transitway through the King Farm neighborhood in Rockville, which was in the initial development plans. After studying other possible routes about three years ago, MTA decided to keep the route through King Farm, he said.
“King Farm Boulevard is the place to be,” he said.
Francine Vigeliotti of Gaithersburg said bus rapid transit is a great concept, but won’t be of much use to her since the buses are not planned to stop near her house.
Vigeliotti’s neighborhood is separated from Great Seneca Highway by a line of trees. She said she is concerned by maps that show a bus lane cutting into those trees. If the barrier of trees comes down, Vigeliotti is worried the noise levels will increase and her property value might decrease.
“I guess I wouldn’t mind it so much if the bus was going to stop where I live,” she said.
Richard Arkin, who lives in the Kentlands neighborhood in Gaithersburg, said he has long been an advocate of the CCT. He said the transitway is a test case to see whether bus rapid transit systems can work in a suburban area that is rapidly becoming an urban area.
“Suburbia in 20 to 30 years is not going to be your grandfather’s suburbia,” he said. “... There’s no room for (more) highways.”
Arkin said the key to making bus rapid transit work is making sure it is, in fact, rapid.
He also said that in other cases, the tendency has been to “dumb down” bus rapid transit by making it more like the existing bus service or by opening dedicated bus lanes to other traffic. To avoid that, he said planners should make sure the transit system is distinguishable from existing buses and lanes.
Kiegel said planners hope to start construction on the transitway in 2018 and have it operational by 2021, but that timeline depends on how quickly the project gets funding.
Ratcliff said another public hearing will likely be held next spring or summer. In the meantime, MTA is seeking volunteers to serve on four CCT advisory committees to advise MTA on things like design, traffic management and security. Nominations will be accepted until Dec. 3.
To learn more about the CCT plans or get a self-nomination form for the advisory committees, visit mta.maryland.gov/cct or call Tracee Strum-Gilliam at 410-454-9761.