Name: Joana Conklin
Job: Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) Manager, Montgomery County Department of Transportation

Can you outline three of most important benefits of a BRT program over some other public transportation systems?

We see different modes of transportation as complementary and believe that better transit can come in many forms. A strong public transportation network should include multiple modes, including rail, local bus, express bus, bike-share, sidewalks and BRT, that work together to maximize options and efficiency. BRT, or Bus Rapid Transit, is a bus-based rapid transit system with features that improve reliability and capacity, so you can get where you need to go quickly. BRT is a good option for arterial roads with dense, mixed-use destinations and limited space, as it can carry more people than a local bus while taking up less space than a rail line.

Ideally, when do you actually see BRT becoming a reality in Montgomery County? And how do you see the corridors being prioritized?

The County’s first BRT line will begin operating on US 29 in 2020. The line will travel between downtown Silver Spring and Burtonsville with stops in areas such as White Oak and Four Corners. The service will feature frequent, reliable, all-day service; new, covered, and well-lit stations; uniquely branded vehicles with WiFi and USB charging ports; and pedestrian and bike improvements to facilitate station access. The stations will feature real-time information and allow for off-board fare collection, and level-boarding through all doors, which reduces waiting time and makes for a faster ride.

The County is also actively working on a study for BRT on the MD 355 corridor. Upon completion of the study, we will identify a single “Recommended Alternative” – which includes the BRT route, station locations, and other infrastructure features – that can be advanced toward design and implementation.

Joana Conklin

Joana Conklin

MCDOT

Two other BRT projects, BRT on Viers Mill Road (MD 586) and the Corridor Cities Transitway (CCT) have been led by the State.

Prioritization of planning and implementation of additional lines will depend on need and feasibility.

What have been your biggest takeaways from the recent CAC meetings and Open Houses?

The question we get the most often is “When is it coming?” People are really excited about BRT and want it in their community as soon as possible.

What are the biggest obstacles now in getting BRT implemented?

Funding for future projects following implementation of the US 29 BRT. The County has lots of worthy projects and limited funds.

Do you anticipate BRT in the county operating with dedicated bus lanes, or a green-light prioritization system? Or would it be some combination of both?

We anticipate a combination of both. Our first BRT line on US 29 does not include any major changes to the roadway. BRT on US 29 will use existing bus-on-shoulder lanes in the northern section of the corridor and will travel with general traffic in the southern section. The project does feature Transit Signal Priority (TSP) at select intersections. Future lines, like BRT on MD 355, could include dedicated lanes and other roadway improvements. Most BRT lines will include TSP where feasible.

What do your projections show in terms of potential BRT ridership and the number of cars taken off the road?

Ridership will vary by corridor.

The US 29 BRT is projected to have 13,000 daily boardings in 2020 and 20,000 daily boardings in 2040. This number of daily boardings exceeds the ridership for most BRT lines in the United States. Each BRT vehicle can carry about 90 people, potentially reducing traffic congestion on the roadway by 90 cars. BRT is a way to move more people using less space.

How do you see BRT working with other transportation infrastructure in the region, including Metrorail and Metrobus, bike and pedestrian trails, and, eventually, the Purple Line?

BRT will complement and connect to other transit modes in the region. For example, the US 29 BRT line connects to 19 local bus routes, the Metrorail Red Line, MARC train service, and the future Purple Line in Silver Spring. These connections are essential to expand the reach of the BRT and further improve access in communities along the corridor.

The US 29 BRT project also includes improvements to bike and pedestrian access near BRT stations, bike racks at some stations, and 10 new Capital Bikeshare stations along the corridor at and near the stations to help make connections. The BRT connects to many trails and bikes can be stored on-board the vehicle.