The BRT is coming to US29 in Montgomery County. Should Howard County be next?

Howard County has few transportation options for people traveling into DC. Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) may be a relatively inexpensive option.

Montgomery’s bet on an ambitious Bus Rapid Transit system hinges on Route 29

By Luz Lazo (Washington Post), May 13, 2017 – ABRIDGED

Montgomery County’s years-long plan to build a 14-mile Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) line on one of Maryland’s busiest commuter corridors appears to finally be moving from idea to reality.

County Executive Isiah Leggett (D), who has championed BRT as the county’s next major transit undertaking, included $21.5 million for the project in his capital budget. A County Council committee earlier this month signaled its support for the BRT project, voting to send the plan to the full council for approval of funding for the design phase, putting the project one step away from construction — and closer to a 2020 opening.

The plan as it stands would put buses on shoulder lanes for a portion of the route, but also in regular traffic. This decision, which sacrificed earlier plans to have a reversible HOV lane in the southern portion of the route, cut capital costs by more than half to $31.5 million. Officials say the money will pay for new stations, buses, and new bike and pedestrian infrastructure. The county’s portion will be matched with a $10 million federal grant.

For the complete article, go to:

What is Bus Rapid Transit?

by Institute for Transportation and Development Policy – ABRIDGED

Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) is a high-quality bus-based transit system that delivers fast, comfortable, and cost-effective services at metro-level capacities. It does this through the provision of dedicated lanes, with busways and iconic stations typically aligned to the center of the road, off-board fare collection, and fast and frequent operations.

Quito, Ecuador, by the Institute for Transportation and Development Policy

Because BRT contains features similar to a light rail or metro system, it is much more reliable, convenient and faster than regular bus services. With the right features, BRT is able to avoid the causes of delay that typically slow regular bus services, like being stuck in traffic and queuing to pay on board.

There are five essential features that define BRT. These features most significantly result in a faster trip for passengers and make traveling on transit more reliable and more convenient:

  • Dedicated Right-of-Way: Bus-only lanes make for faster travel and ensure that buses are never delayed due to mixed traffic congestion.

  • Busway Alignment: Center of roadway or bus-only corridor keeps buses away from the busy curbside where cars are parking, standing, and turning.

  • Off-board Fare Collection: Fare payment at the station, instead of on the bus, eliminates the delay caused by passengers waiting to pay on board.

  • Intersection Treatments: Prohibiting turns for traffic across the bus lane reduces delays caused to buses by turning traffic. Prohibiting such turns is the most important measure for moving buses through intersections – more important even than signal priority.

  • Platform-level Boarding: The station should be at level with the bus for quick and easy boarding. This also makes it fully accessible for wheelchairs, disabled passengers, strollers and carts with minimal delays.

For more information, and for pictures and videos that illustrate the above BRT features, see:

Coming Soon….Rapid Buses???

by Bill Woodcock (The 53 blog), May 14, 2017 – EXCERPT

Could bus rapid transit be closer to reality in Howard County?  I don’t know, but critical mass for HoCo movement on a rapid bus system could be forming.

I present as exhibit A, this article [above] from today’s Washington Post. . . .  So what’s the relevance to Howard County?  Well, US29 is a vital route for commuter bus transportation between HoCo and Washington, DC.  And, as I can attest first hand, commuter bus transit can be slow and laborious and even worse than driving at times.  So I welcome the promise of rapid bus transit as an option to help make the DC commute much easier.

But, even if Montgomery County’s funding is approved and this project becomes reality, does this mean a rapid bus route will come to the land of milk and honey?  Not so fast, my friends!  The Office of Transportation has done some studies [summarized below] regarding rapid bus transit for the HoCo, and the US29 route is along the proposed routes.  But from the County’s website, it doesn’t appear as if there are any funds currently allocated to efforts to create a rapid bus system.

I will say though that the plans as envisioned by the County are pretty comprehensive and interesting. [The 53 provides thoughtful and influential commentary on civic, political, social, and cultural matters affecting Columbia and Howard County, Maryland.]

Evaluation of Bus Rapid Transit in Howard County

by Howard County Office of Transportation – EXCERPTED

The Office of Transportation is evaluating the implementation of a Bus Rapid Transit system in Howard County. The implementation of such a system would represent a significant investment for the County and the state of Maryland  and should be pursued only where frequent bus service could be supported. In order to ensure that the BRT project is successful, it has to be supported by strong forecasted ridership and potential shifts from private auto mode shares.

The Concept Plan study presents preliminary plans and costs for a BRT system along various roads and corridors. These corridors are US 29, Broken Land Parkway, MD 216, MD 32 and Snowden River Parkway.

The Phase I report builds on the Concept Plan study and evaluates the proposed BRT network and determine which routes are most viable given the proposed services and ridership forecasts. Four corridors were studied in this report:

  • US 29 between Mount Hebron and Silver Spring
  • Broken Land Parkway between Columbia Town Center and Savage MARC Station
  • MD 32 between Clarksville and Odenton Town Center
  • MD 216 between Scaggsville and Odenton Town Center

Phase II effort focuses on a Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) system within three primary corridors (US 29, Broken Land Parkway, and US 1), and examines specific route alignment and stations, ancillary feeder transit services, landside services such as park and rides and pedestrian accessibility, preliminary operating costs, and land use plans to support high quality transit service within and between them. The aim is to identify and evaluate the corridors and feasible alternatives that demonstrate the potential for attracting riders and receiving funding.

Proposed site of BRT Station at US29 and US32 (HoCo Department of Transportation)

 To review these reports, go to: 


by The Nacional Association of Urban Transports Companies (NTU) and the ONG Embarq Brasil

Featured Image at the top of the post



Published by

Harry Schwarz

Nicknamed “The Professor” by his colleagues, Harry is a native Marylander who moved to Columbia in 2001. Harry’s wife, Cathy, is a Columbia acupuncturist and the family includes two college-age children, a dog and a cat. Harry is a partner with BearsolutionsLLC, assisting charter school authorizers to provide effective financial oversight. He is underemployed at this time and welcomes conversation about how he might help you.

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