Gaithersburg residents question bus rapid transit line along Great Seneca Highway -- Gazette.Net


Some Lakelands and Kentlands residents aren’t warming to the idea of having a new bus system run along the outskirts of their neighborhoods.

Project management team members for the Corridor Cities Transitway, a planned 15-mile bus rapid transit line that will connect Clarksburg to the Shady Grove Metro station in Rockville, presented information about the project and spoke to residents at a community meeting Wednesday.

Project Manager Rick Kiegel explained that the system will offer bus service that runs on an exclusive transitway — separate from vehicular traffic — and makes stops at 14 different stations, including the Kentlands. The stop will be located on Great Seneca Highway, right outside of the Kmart and Lowe’s Home Improvement stores.

The bus will be operating at an elevated height when it comes to the Kentlands station, so a raised platform will be built at that location to allow riders to walk onto the bus at an even height, according to Kiegel. When the bus travels south on Great Seneca Highway and passes the Lakelands Drive intersection, the bus will be moving at grade level.

Similar to the Metro, users will pay their fares on the platform, before boarding the bus. Kiegel said fares are expected to match those of the Ride On bus service, and parking is expected to be free.

Due to the placement of the bus lanes, it is probable that drivers will eventually be prohibited from making right turns on red onto Great Seneca Highway at the Kentlands Boulevard and Lakelands Drive signals, Kiegel said.

Construction is slated to begin in spring of 2018, and the system is expected to operational by spring of 2021.

Plans for the project are being created based on forecasted infrastructure and development conditions in 2035, including traffic and planned development, to allow room for potential future growth. According to Kiegel, buses are expected to stop every five or six minutes at the Kentlands station during peak hours when the system first opens in 2021. By 2035, buses will likely stop at the station every three minutes.

Kiegel said the trip from the Kentlands to the Shady Grove Metro would take about 25 minutes, leading several residents to question why riders would choose the bus option over driving their car, which currently takes about the same amount of time.

“That’s going to be 25 minutes forever,” he said, referring to the bus ride time. “Great Seneca Highway, Sam Eig are going to continue to get worse and worse.”

Several residents voiced concerns about the project.

Lakelands resident Terry Lieberthal said she was surprised and disappointed that the original plans to have the transit line on the opposite side of Great Seneca Highway had changed.

“We knew the CCT was on the books on the other side of the street,” she said. “We thought it was appropriate for the other side where already land had been set aside for it.”

According to Kiegel, it was the City of Gaithersburg that requested to have the transit line moved to the other side of Great Seneca Highway in an effort to increase ridership and aid future redevelopment on the Kentlands side of the highway.

With the change in plans. Lieberthal said she is worried that the beauty of the Lakelands entrance on Great Seneca Highway will disappear.

“It’s [CCT] going to take out the front our of neighborhood,” she said. “When you go into Lakelands, it’s a beautiful entrance. We’re very proud of that. Now it’s going to get wiped out for the bus lanes.

An open letter to the project management team, detailed with many concerns, was circulated at the meeting. It was signed by “a share of Lakelands residents.” The letter includes comments and questions surrounding ridership, existing bus service impact, and traffic at intersections.

Next on the agenda for the project is the creation of Corridor Cities Transitway Area Advisory Committees by the Maryland Transit Administration. Kiegel said within the next few days, letters will be sent out to citizens who were chosen to sit on the committees. Four committees will be formed, and 15 residents will be assigned to each. The citizens will meet with the project management team to give input on a quarterly basis for the next two years.