Thursday, February 8, 2024

Go Montgomery! Special Flash Edition - FEBRUARY 2024

 

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Montgomery County Executive Marc Elrich announced that the Maryland Board of Public Works (BPW) approved more than $87 million in funding for pedestrian improvement projects and advancing the Flash Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) network in Montgomery County.  

The State funds were allocated to the County through a General Assembly Bond Bill passed in 2022.   

An additional $6 million was allocated to the MD 355 Flash BRT corridor in a Fiscal Year 2021 bond bill. 

The funding also will be used as a local match for two Federal transportation grants including the Federal Small Starts Capital Investment grant for Veirs Mill Road Flash BRT and the Federal New Starts grant for MD 355 Flash BRT.  

Flash is Montgomery County’s Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) service. BRT is a limited-stop bus service that is gaining popularity in metropolitan areas across the U.S. and worldwide. BRT systems such as Flash are designed to arrive every few minutes, have upgraded amenities, pre-boarding payment, priority traffic light signaling and dedicated bus lanes where possible.  

The completed Flash network will include nine routes, including a US 29 extension to Howard County, with more than 100 stops. Flash fare is the same as other County buses, $1 per ride. Seniors 65-and-over, persons with disabilities and youth 18-and-under ride County buses for free using specialized SmarTrip cards. 

Learn more here.

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US 29 Flash is One of the Most Popular Bus Routes

Have you seen the articulated Flash buses on US 29 Columbia Pike/Colesville Road? These buses run between Downtown Silver Spring and Briggs Chaney, and extends to Burtonsville on weekdays, with stops in Four Corners and White Oak along the way. The County-operated bus line began in 2020 and offers fast, convenient service running every 15 minutes all day and more frequently during rush hour.

US 29 Flash has been a popular option ranking as one of the County's most utilized bus routes. 

Flash operates like light rail, stopping at each of the bus stops along a fixed route. Montgomery County has plans for 9 additional Flash corridors. These projects will transform mobility options by connecting riders to activity and employment centers. The service will also improve passenger transit mobility and bicycle and pedestrian improvements along the corridors, making it easier and safer to get to Flash stations.

Flash uses queue jumps and transit signal priority at select intersections to provide faster and more reliable service. Where possible, Flash will run in its own dedicated bus lanes to bypass traffic congestion. On the US 29 Flash corridor, MCDOT is currently assessing the route for dedicated bus lanes.

The stations are designed to make boarding vehicles easier, improving travel time and increasing transit equity. The unique modern stations will provide weather protection, pre-payment kiosks and real-time arrival information. 

Learn more at ridetheflash.com.

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RIDERS LOVE FLASH

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MCDOT is spreading the love during the month of February with five US 29 Flash buses decorated with pink neon heart-shaped lights in honor of Valentine’s Day. In addition to the decorated buses, MCDOT is offering residents and riders a way to send love to their Valentines, and possibly win a prize package for two.

Through Wednesday, Feb. 14, residents and riders can repost a #LoveFlash Valentine to a friend on social media and tag both their valentine and @MCDOTNow for a chance to win two $50 Visa gift cards -- one for the sender, and one for their Valentine. Since Thursday, Feb. 1, #LoveFlash Valentines have been posted on RidetheFlash.com and on the @MCDOTNow XFacebookInstagram and Threads social media channels.

The winning entry will be drawn at noon on Wednesday, Feb. 14 and announced on the @MCDOTNow social media channels at 5 p.m. The sender and the person they tagged each will win an electronic Visa gift card. Full contest rules can be found on RidetheFlash.com.

On Valentine’s Day MCDOT outreach teams will visit Flash bus stops along the US 29 corridor to pass out sweet treats to riders and bus operators. Look out for us at the Silver Spring and White Oak transit centers.

At full capacity, each articulated Flash bus can transport up to 90 passengers lightening resident’s carbon footprint, easing traffic congestion and making travel faster and easier. 

“The Flash buses are a convenient and affordable way to reach some of Montgomery County’s most popular destinations on Valentine’s Day or anytime,” said MCDOT Director Chris Conklin. “We hope the decorated buses and engagement, online or in person, will encourage our community to try a Flash bus for their next trip along US 29 and learn more about our plans for future Flash corridors. We’re building a Flash network that will better connect riders throughout the County with faster, more convenient service." 

HERE'S WHAT RIDERS ARE SAYING:

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TRANSIT EQUITY

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Look out for posters on Ride On buses throughout February commemorating civil rights activist Rosa Parks and her impact on transit equity. The posters have a QR code directing people to the MCDOT Transit Equity Day website. The website features information about the historical and cultural significance of Transit Equity Day and rider video testimonials on the importance of transportation access as a civil right.  

Transit Equity Day is observed annually on Rosa Parks’ birthday, Feb. 4, to promote public transit as a civil right and a strategy to combat climate change.  

MCDOT is currently operating 14 zero-emission buses, with a contract to purchase 100 more within three years. The zero-emission buses are part of the County’s Climate Action Plan to eliminate greenhouse gas emissions from County transit by 2035. 

Transit Equity Day is part of a larger recognition of the contributions of Black Americans. During Black History Month MCDOT will post a series on historical Black figures who contributed to the transportation system we know today on social media platforms and the website.

Montgomery County will recognize Black employees making history today through their work, leadership and public service throughout the month on the County’s X and Facebook social media channels. 

Learn more here.

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MCDOT Celebrates Black History Month

Look out for @MCDOTNow social media posts celebrating Black inventors and engineers who have positively impacted the way we travel today.

Garrett Morgan
Invented the first 3-light traffic signals in 1923, leading to the “yellow light” as a caution to drivers of an upcoming stop.

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Isaac R. Johnson
Invented an innovative bicycle frame in 1899, that could be taken apart to allow for easy storage in small places. 

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Meredith Gourdine
Invented an exhaust purification system for vehicles, now known as the catalytic converter, in 1967 that reduces harmful carbon emissions released into the air.

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FLASH FLYERS

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For the most up-to-date service information, riders should follow @RideOnMCT on XFacebookYouTube, and Instagram. In addition, information is available at RideOnBus.com, by subscribing to receive email alerts, or by texting MONTGOMERY RIDEON to 468311 to receive text alerts. 

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Ready to Ride the Flash on US 29? 

The above video describes the features and amenities of the US 29 Flash service. 

Did you know? One Flash vehicle can take up to 90 cars off the road.


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Transportation Schedule for Presidents Day, Monday, Feb. 19

  • County Offices - Closed.
  • Ride On, extRa and Flex - Holiday schedule.
  • Ride On Flash Orange Line - Holiday schedule. 
  • TRiPS Commuter Store at Silver Spring Transit Center - Open 10 a.m.-
    4 p.m.
  • TRiPS Mobile Commuter Store - Closed.
  • Public Parking in Garages and Lots in Bethesda, Silver Spring and Wheaton - Free.

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Super Bowl is Sunday, Feb. 11 – Don’t Drink and Drive

Download the Ride On Trip Planner App for regional public transit trip planning here.

All County run buses have $1 fare.


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Ride On Ridership is Rising

This past December ridership was up 37% from last year.

The average weekday ridership for the month of December 2023 was nearly 54k which is a 37% increase over December 2022 when ridership was 39k. 


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Wheels are Welcome

Flash provides full accessibility for wheelchairs, persons with disabilities, strollers, bikes and carts. Wheelchairs should enter through the front door. Bikes should be walked on through the backdoor and easily secured.

Watch this video on how to board on wheels and this video on how to board with your bike.

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MCDOT is Hiring Bus Operators

MCDOT is looking for dynamic individuals with a passion for public service, at any stage of their career. No experience is necessary. Benefits include:

  • Competitive Starting Salary
  • Paid Commercial Driver’s License Training
  • Paid Holidays, Annual and Sick Leave
  • Retirement Benefits
  • Health Insurance
  • Ongoing Professional Development 

Learn more and apply at rideonbus.com/jobs.


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Ride On Transit Advisory Group (TAG) is Recruiting Riders With Disabilities, Bilingual Adults and High School Students

Ride On is seeking applications from high school students, riders with disabilities and bilingual adults who wish to be selected as a TAG member. 

TAG members receive monthly updates on Ride On events and news and meet with Ride On management staff three times a year so they can voice their opinions and give feedback on Ride On bus services. Students can earn Student Service Learning (SSL) hours.

Those interested can apply online here.


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MCDOT Interviews Bus Riders on Transit Equity

Watch interviews online here.


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Metro Eliminates $2 SmarTrip Card Fee for Seniors 65+

As of Tuesday, Jan. 16, Metro has been offering Senior SmarTrip cards at no cost to customers aged 65 and older. With the card, seniors can ride all County buses and most Metro buses within the County for free.

Senior SmarTrip cards are available at all Montgomery County librariesTRiPS stores, and the County Treasury office in Rockville. Please bring a valid government issues ID.


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Winter is underway and Ride On is here to help you explore Montgomery County this season! Learn more about the places you can go for recreation in Montgomery County.


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Lose Something on the Flash Bus or Want to Give Feedback?

Contact MC311 by calling 311 (or 240-777-0311or online at montgomerycountymd.gov/ 311.


A Ride On Guide to Montgomery County Libraries

As the weather gets colder and outside activities are no longer plentiful, Montgomery County residents look for other sources of entertainment to get them through the darker days. Luckily, the County has 21 public library locations, ensuring there's always a public library near you! Everyone knows libraries are a great place to read, but our County libraries also include a variety of internal activities, attached community centers, and so much more. 

If you and your family need to get out of the house while still staying toasty warm indoors, Ride On is ready to help get you there. Read below for a selection of the area's public libraries and which Ride On routes you can take. Before you go, visit mcpl.libnet.info/events?r=today to find an event that meets your family's needs.

Noyes Library for Young Children: Young children realize immediately that this charming one-room library in Kensington is just for them. Noyes offers books and programs specifically for early childhood, along with a comfortable space for babies, toddlers and preschoolers to read and play. To get to this branch, take Ride On Routes 4 or 33.

Rockville Memorial Library: Located in Rockville Town Square, this library offers all the programs and services library patrons have come to depend on in a convenient location. Stop in for a book or periodical while running errands or picking up dinner. To get to this branch, take Ride On Routes 454655, or 301.

White Oak Library: Visit the White Oak branch of the Montgomery County Public Library in East County off New Hampshire Avenue. Programs cover a range of ages and interests, including story times, finance and investing seminars, and Tai Chi and Qigong classes. To get to this branch, take Ride On Route 21.

Damascus Library: Our northernmost library location, Damascus Library can be found right in the center of town. Programs at this location include games and crafts for teens, computer help and repair, and weekly bluegrass music jam sessions. To get to this branch, take Ride On Route 90.

Wheaton Library: Located off of Georgia Avenue in Wheaton, Wheaton Public Library is a destination for the whole family. The jointly housed Wheaton Community Rec Center includes activities ranging from sports, fitness, dance, music and art, while the outdoor playground is a draw for children on a rare warm winter day. An incredibly unique feature is an indoor track for walking or running. To get to this branch, take Ride On Routes 9 or 31.

Gaithersburg Library: The Gaithersburg branch has something for everyone when it comes to its programs. Attend a pro bono legal clinic, participate in the Intergenerational Graphic Novel Book Club, or join an English Conversation club. The Charles W. Gilchrist Immigrant Resource Center and Montgomery College Community Engagement Center are also located on the second floor. To get to this branch, take Ride On Routes 555658 or 59.

Little Falls Library: Tucked deep into the neighborhoods of Bethesda, the Little Falls Public Library is our southernmost branch. This location features tons of programming for children, including story times, play hours, and a weekly Mandarin Chinese lesson for children ages 5-10. To get to this branch, take Ride On Routes 23 or 29.

Ride On bus fare is only $1 and monthly passes are $22.50 using SmarTrip, cash, or tokens. Seniors age 65 or older, persons with disabilities and youth ages 18 and under all ride free using specialized SmarTrip cards.

Riders can plan trips online using the free Ride On Trip Planner App

For the most up-to-date service information, riders should follow @RideOnMCT on XFacebookInstagram, and YouTube. In addition, information is available at rideonbus.com, by subscribing to receive email alerts, or by texting MONTGOMERY RIDEON to 468311 to receive text alerts. 

For information on MCDOT programs and services visit montgomerycountymd.gov/mcdot, follow @MCDOTNow on XFacebook and Instagram and subscribe to MCDOT’s “Go Montgomery!” newsletter.  

Thursday, January 11, 2024

MCDOT's Go Montgomery! SNOW EDITION Newsletter


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County Storm Response Based on Forecast

County storm responders begin their job well before snow is predicted to fall. MCDOT Highway Services staff track weather reports days in advance to determine if and when the MCDOT Storm Operations Center should be activated. Snow plow crews at each depot are called to report in advance of a storm and if conditions are right, they may begin pretreating major roads with salt brine, a solution of salt and water.

Salt brine prevents ice and frost from forming on pavement and makes snow removal easier. The use of salt brine also reduces the amount of salt needed to treat pavement following a snowfall.

Use of salt and salt brine is only done in specific conditions to ensure that excessive salt does not end up in local waterways. Often when rain is predicted, threatening to wash away treatment, salt will be withheld. Salt bine is applied when the storm is predicted to begin as snow or ice.

At the start of a storm, storm patrols monitor road conditions and measure pavement temperatures around the County. This information is consistently reported to the SOC to ensure treatments are used only where needed.

If snow or freezing precipitation begins to cover the roads, and conditions are right, crews will spread salt on emergency and primary routes.

Plows are ineffective until snowfall accumulations reach about three inches. At that point, Highway Services starts plowing operations and continues salting, focusing on main roads and transit routes. During the snowfall, about 1,000 lane miles of main roads are kept in “bare pavement” condition. This ensures that every County resident is within one-half mile of a cleared road and can be reached by emergency services. It also means that when residents leave their neighborhoods, the main roads are ready to handle traffic.

Once the snow stops falling and major roads are clear, crews turn their attention to removing snow from more than 4,300 miles of neighborhood streets. Their goal is to make these streets passable – not clear them to bare pavement. Crews eat and sleep at the depots and do not go home until snow removal operations are completed.

MCDOT has 200 Highway Services employees and 175 pieces of equipment to handle snow operations. If more resources are needed, contractors can be called upon immediately to provide hundreds of additional plows and operators. 

During a snowstorm, residents can get the latest updates by visiting the County's Snow Portal website.


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Montgomery County and WSSC Water Urges Everyone to be ‘Salt Wise’ and Use Less Salt During Winter Storms to Reduce the Impact on the Environment and Drinking Water

The Montgomery County Department of Environmental Protection (DEP), MCDOT and WSSC Water held a media event at the Rockville salt barn earlier this month urging homeowners to be “Salt Wise” and use less salt on sidewalks and driveways during winter storms.

Salt runs off into storm drains, local streams, and eventually, to the Potomac and Patuxent rivers which are drinking water sources for residents in Montgomery and Prince George’s counties. Salt can corrode concrete and masonry, harm pets, damage surrounding plants and lawns, and adversely impact the water supply. Salt levels have been steadily increasing in local streams. Once salt gets into waterways, it does not go away.

Find out what steps MCDOT is taking in their storm response to reduce salt usage and how residents can help


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Ride On Bus Service During Winter Storms

Need to go out during a storm? Ride On buses run during most weather events and are on primary routes that are given priority by plows. Ride On bus drivers are well trained and take the hassle out of driving in a storm.

Buses generally run regular service if snow is under 4 inches.

At 4 inches, the MCDOT Director, Chris Conklin, together with the County Executive, decide if buses will operate on an S (Special) Service Plan. This is a reduced schedule in terms of the number of routes, span and frequency of service. If the snow is over 8 inches, the service may be reduced further.

During a snow event, Ride On contractors clear nearly 800 bus stops and work to keep transit centers clear of snow and ice. 

Follow Ride On @RideOnMCT on XTwitter or Facebook for service announcements related to the weather.


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Look out for MCDOT's Painted Snowplows

MCDOT held its second Paint the Plow Middle School Snowplow Naming Contest this past May, in honor of “Public Works Week.” 

The contest is free for schools and is a unique and fun way to introduce middle school students to some of the work done by MCDOT. The decorated plows are a part of MCDOT’s snow-clearing fleet and are used in neighborhoods the following winter.

The contest will run again this spring. Last year’s winners can be seen online here.

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MCDOT Snow Removal Operations

The MCDOT Storm Operations Center activates for all major winter storms to track the storm and deploy an emergency response.

Information from 311 and 911 is passed onto the depot staff and makes its way to the plow operators. Staff also tracks the storm and provides updated reports to other County agencies. 

MCDOT Highway staff start tracking forecasted storms several days ahead of the event and develops a plan.

MCDOT is responsible for clearing snow from about 5,300 lane miles of County-maintained roads, 60 miles of sidewalks along County right-of-ways and three miles of bike paths and trails. 

E-scooters

MCDOT asks e-scooter companies to remove scooters before the snow begins to fall and return them once it is safe to do so.


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Winter Storm Reminders

Drivers:

  • Avoid driving during storms if possible. If you have to travel, ride the bus. Ride On buses operate during most storms and are supported by emergency snowplows when needed.
  • If you have to drive, drive slowly. Stopping distances increase in poor weather conditions.
  • Equip your vehicle with snow tires or chains to reduce the risk of getting stuck, damaging your car, blocking traffic and snow removal equipment.
  • Stay alert for pedestrians walking in the roadways.
  • Be especially alert for pedestrians at intersections where snow mounds may limit sight lines.
  • In advance of a storm, park vehicles in your driveway or as close to the curb as you can.
  • Fill your gas tank before the storm.
  • Charge your phone before you go, and have a car emergency kit including blankets, a flash light, extra warm clothing, an ice scraper, nonperishable snacks and water.  

Pedestrians:

  • Wear bright, reflective clothing to ensure you will be seen.
  • Watch for icy and slick spots.
  • Wear shoes or boots with non-slip soles.

Keep animals and pets safe:

  • Pets should be kept indoors during periods of cold weather.
  • Provide livestock animals with a place to get out of the wind and dry bedding to protect them from frostbite.
  • The law prohibits endangering animals during unusually cold, windy or snowy weather. If an animal is outdoors and appears to be in danger, call 911 for emergency situations or the Police non-emergency number at 301-279-8000 for other animal-related issues.

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Clearing Sidewalks of Snow and Ice - If You Own Property, It's Your Responsibility

County residents are required by law to clear sidewalks in front of and alongside their properties within 24 hours of the end of a snowstorm. 

Follow these tips:

  • Dress appropriately for winter weather. Ears, hands and feet need extra protection in frigid temperatures.
  • If you can, shovel as the snow falls. It is easier to remove fresh snow that has not hardened or turned to ice.
  • Put less pressure on your back. Lift with legs bent to avoid injury and try pushing the snow instead of lifting it.
  • Pace yourself and take it slow. Shoveling can raise blood pressure and heart rate dramatically.
  • Do not work to the point of exhaustion. Take breaks. If you run out of breath or feel tightness in your chest, stop immediately.
  • Be a good neighbor. If you are able-bodied, offer to assist your neighbors who are not able to, or would have difficulty, shoveling.

For more information on shoveling click here.

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Who Plows Where?

MCDOT plows County-maintained roadways, public parking garages and lots located in downtown BethesdaSilver Spring and Wheaton.

Other agencies that handle snow removal and laying salt include:

For any plowing requests or to report excess salt for cleanup, residents can call Montgomery County’s Customer Service Center by dialing 311 (or calling 240-777-0311 if outside the County). Residents can also visit the website at montgomerycountymd.gov/311. 311 Operators will route requests to the responsible agency.


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Information on Snow Emergency Routes

Both the State of Maryland and Montgomery County have designated certain roads as Snow Emergency Routes prominently marked with red and white signs. When the State and/or County initiates its snow emergency plan, it is illegal to park on these designated roads.

Vehicles found blocking snow routes during an emergency may be ticketed and towed at the owner’s expense. State and County snow emergency plans may not be put into effect simultaneously.


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During Snowstorms, When is Parking Free in County Garages?

During a County Executive-declared snow emergency in Montgomery County, the MCDOT Director may announce that parking is free in County-owned garages and lots for the duration of the snow emergency. This helps get cars off the roads to aid plowing operations and overall safety.

For on-street meters along non-snow emergency roadways, regular parking rates will continue to be charged. For any parking-related questions email parking@montgomerycountymd.gov.


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JANUARY 2024

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Follow snow removal progress by visiting MCDOT’s Snow Portal or follow @MCDOTNow on FacebookX or Instagram.

Tag @MCDOTNow in your snowstorm-related photos.  


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Be in the Know During Storms

Residents can stay updated during storms by:

  • Visiting MCDOT's Snow Portal website.            
  • Signing up for Alert Montgomery for updates by email and text.
  • Following MCDOT on X.
  • Watching County Cable Montgomery, Channel 6 for RCN Comcast subscribers and Channel 30 for Verizon subscribers, provide continuous updates on roadway conditions and transit services.

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View These One-Minute Videos to Answer the Most Frequently Asked Questions About Snow Removal

These informative videos contain key information about what to expect during snowstorms.  


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Service Requests

The MC311 County informational call center can answer questions and handle requests for service like downed trees that may block a county road.

You can reach MC311 by calling 311 in the County or 240-777-0311, 711 for MD Relay TTY , from anywhere, Monday - Friday 7 a.m. – 7 p.m. Questions can also be asked or requests made of MC311 through their website. Often, MC311 will remain open for extended hours during periods of emergencies. Otherwise, residents can call the police non-emergency number 301-279-8000 or 911 if there is an emergency.


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Please Use Caution Around Snowplows

  • Don’t crowd the plow. The front plow extends several feet in front and may cross the centerline and shoulders.
  • Don't tailgate or follow too close behind a snowplow.
  • Don’t travel next to a plow, if possible. The packed snow or snowdrift can move the truck sideways.
  • Plows turn and exit the road frequently. Give them plenty of room.

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Learn More About How to Prevent Hypothermia

The County’s updated Hypothermia Alert webpage has more information on steps to take before and during extreme temperature conditions. 


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Do You Know the Difference Between a Winter Weather Advisory, Watch or Warning?

The National Weather Service issues winter alerts. Know the difference between a warning, a watch and an advisory.  

  • WARNINGTake Action.
    A Winter Storm Warning is issued when a significant combination of hazardous winter weather is occurring or imminent.
  • WATCHBe Prepared.
    A Winter Storm Watch is issued when there is the potential for significant and hazardous winter weather within 48 hours. It signifies that significant and hazardous winter weather is possible.
  • ADVISORYBe Aware.
    A Winter Weather Advisory will be issued for any amount of freezing rain, or when 2 to 4 inches of snow (alone or in combination with sleet and freezing rain), is expected to cause a significant inconvenience, but not serious enough to warrant a warning.

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Emergency Numbers

The power utilities serving Montgomery County are Pepco, BG&E and Potomac Edison/First Energy. Each has a downloadable mobile app for reporting power outages. They also can be contacted by phone.

Water

In case of water main breaks or other issues, contact the  Washington Suburban Sanitary Commission at 301-206-4002 or email EmergencyCallCenter@
wsscwater.com.

Recycling and Trash Collection 

For updated information about the collection schedule during snow storms, sign up for email or text updates, or follow Solid Waste on X.

Down Trees

Report downed trees on the public right-of-way by contacting the County's Call Center by calling 311 or online.  If downed wires are sparking, call 911.

Police

Emergency: 911
Non-Emergency: 301-279-8000

Residents are asked to call 911 only in a true emergency, such as downed live power lines. 

MCPS Schools

Call: 240-740-3000
Spanish Hotline: 240-740-2845 (Línea Informativa en Español) or email askmcps@
mcpsmd.org.

WMATA (Metro Services)

Call 202-637-7000, visit wmata.com/alerts or follow on X for Metrobus and Metrorail service.

MDOT MTA (Maryland Transit Administration)

Call 410-539-5000, visit mta.maryland.gov/contact-mta or follow on X.