On March 15, County Executive Ike Leggett released his recommended fiscal year 2017 budget. A highlight of his announcement was funding for Bus Rapid Transit and improved Ride On service for key corridors. In the memorandum that transmitted Leggett’s budget to the County Council, he explained the critical role that providing more transit will play in enhancing the County’s economic future:
“The future economic vitality of our County depends on increased transportation investment to accommodate more residents and to encourage job growth. One of my highest priorities is to provide world class transportation options to our residents who live and work throughout the County. While we continue to work with the State to plan for longer-term solutions, I am committed to putting practical, cost-effective transit options on the ground in the near-term.
“On Maryland Route 355, I am programming $5 million in my Capital Budget and calling upon the State to match my commitment to move the MD355 Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) study to the next stage. In addition, I am recommending the peak period express Ride On bus service from Clarksburg to the Shady Grove Metrorail Station to begin Spring 2017 and funding for bus acquisition for Ride On Plus priority service from the Lakeforest Transit Center to the Medical Center Metrorail Station. On US29, I am recommending $6.5 million in my Capital Budget for the planning and design of a high-quality BRT with the intent of getting this route up and running in less than four years.”
Other transportation highlights include:
- Continue to roll out the Parking Guidance System that uses dynamic signage to direct visitors to the Capital Crescent and Bethesda/Elm Garages. The signs will be installed at key locations in downtown Bethesda and will display real-time space availability and hourly rates.
- Enhance the Call-n-Ride program, a subsidized taxi service for low income seniors, by reducing age eligibility from 67 to 65 to add 445 participants to the program.
- Respond to 13 storms totaling 52.5 inches of snow in FY16.
- Work with the Maryland Congressional Delegation to secure $100 million in federal transportation funding towards construction of the Purple Line.
- Install new electric vehicle (EV) charging stations in garages and lots in Bethesda, Silver Spring and Wheaton.
- Convert single space parking meters to multi-space pay machines at the NOAA and Kennett Street garages and the Bonifant and Easley parking lot in Silver Spring. These new machines allow payment using coins, credit cards and pay-by-cell phone; provide receipts; and allow real-time communications, web-based management and secure wireless alarming.
- For the Call-n-Ride program, reduce average trip costs from $23 in 2012 to $16. The savings resulted from the introduction of a new swipe card system. With these savings, participants can take about three more trips per month.
- Implement a load testing program on bridges where heavy vehicles are restricted to provide more accurate calculations that could allow restrictions to be lifted and eliminate costly rehabilitation projects.
- Convert five new diesel Ride On buses to CNG using a petroleum reduction initiatives grant of $550,000 to reduce fuel usage by more than 825,000 gallons over the next 12 years, saving the County more than $1 million in future fuel costs.
- Complete construction of two new compressed natural gas (CNG) stations, one of which is open to public use. The CNG will replace more than one million gallons of diesel fuel a year, saving the County $2.2 million in operational and maintenance costs over the next 10 years.