Rapid Buses To Serve Suburbs?

A local leader in the suburban Maryland/Washington DC area proposes aggressive use of "rapid buses" in dedicated lanes to accommodate growth, like other jurisdictions in the U.S.

2 minute read

December 14, 2008, 11:00 AM PST

By Larry Schooler

"Montgomery County Council member Marc Elrich thinks he might have found a way to let the suburbs grow without putting more cars on the roads: Build a rapid bus system that can speed past traffic.

Rapid buses, sleek vehicles that look like trams or light-rail cars, run on alternative fuels and can include comfortable seating, WiFi, multiple doors and cashless fares. They operate in Boston, Chicago, Los Angeles, Miami and Pittsburgh, among other cities. They are planned for a dozen other jurisdictions, including New York, Atlanta, Albany, N.Y., and Hartford, Conn. Rapid buses are used in Australia, China, England, France and South America.

In the next decade, thousands more people are expected to move into Montgomery, pushing the county's population to more than 1 million. Despite expected increases in housing density that will make parts of the county look like small cities, there is little urban-style infrastructure, such as sidewalks or closely spaced Metro stops. Many residents get in their cars for the shortest of trips.

A rapid bus system may be the cheapest and quickest way to add seats for new riders, said Lurae Stuart, a bus expert at the American Public Transportation Association. "It is flexible, too. You can do something very low-cost and then move up the scale."

Rapid buses can run on paved medians, or special bus guideways, without competing with car traffic. The buses often are longer and more luxurious than standard Metrobuses. They use magnetized fare card systems and often have station stops that look like rail stops.

"It is what a real transit system in a real city would do," Elrich said.

Cost is always a concern, but Metro senior planner Jim Hughes said that over time, faster bus systems could boost revenue and increase efficiency. Metro officials want to add about 20 express bus routes in the next seven years across the region to the four it has. In Montgomery, possible routes are Veirs Mill Road and Georgia Avenue."

Monday, December 8, 2008 in Washington Post

Single-family homes in a suburban neighborhood in Florida.

New Florida Law Curbs HOA Power

The legislation seeks to cut down on ‘absurd’ citations for low-level violations.

June 16, 2024 - The Guardian

Multistory apartment building under construction.

New Tennessee Law Allows No-Cost Incentives for Affordable Housing

Local governments in the Volunteer State can now offer developers incentives like increased density, lower parking requirements, and priority permitting for affordable housing projects.

June 10, 2024 - Nooga Today

Aerial view of intersection in New York City with yellow cabs and zebra crosswalks.

Planners’ Complicity in Excessive Traffic Deaths

Professor Wes Marshall’s provocatively-titled new book, "Killed by a Traffic Engineer," has stimulated fierce debates. Are his criticisms justified? Let’s examine the degree that traffic engineers contribute to avoidable traffic deaths.

June 13, 2024 - Todd Litman

Bike parking in underground area with ramp for taking bikes upstairs.

California Building Code to Add Bike Parking Requirements

Convenient and secure bike parking can make a major impact on whether people adopt biking as a daily transportation option.

2 hours ago - Streetsblog California

Close-up on map of Kemmerer, Wyoming.

Nation's First Nuclear Power Plant in Nearly Half a Century Breaks Ground in Wyoming

Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates had shovel-in-hand for the groundbreaking of his company's small-scale nuclear power plant in Kemmerer, Wyoming, on June 10.

3 hours ago - WyoFile

Close-up of red Houston BCycle bike share bikes parked at a station

Houston Will Be Largest US City Without Bike Share

The city’s bike share system will cease operations at the end of June.

4 hours ago - Houston Public Media

Urban Design for Planners 1: Software Tools

This six-course series explores essential urban design concepts using open source software and equips planners with the tools they need to participate fully in the urban design process.

Planning for Universal Design

Learn the tools for implementing Universal Design in planning regulations.