Upcounty Transportation

The TAME Coalition has produced a new film, “Road to Ruin: A Moral Choice.” The film’s title is the decision facing Montgomery County’s elected and appointed officials.

Montgomery County officials have two critical plans before them to be finished in 2021: Thrive Montgomery 2050 and Climate Action Plan. Both government draft plans are committing to best strategies in order to fight climate change.

County Officials must incorporate a No New Highways policy in both Plans, along with a related climate action in this direction: removal of proposed M-83 highway from the county’s master plans.

Removing M-83 highway from the master plans, and stepping-up investments in Upcounty transit, will set a clear direction toward people-centric and away from car-centric travel; will avoid increasing the county’s carbon emissions from transportation; and will enhance climate resilience through protection of existing forests, wetlands and stream valleys in Upcounty communities.


Transit Alternatives to M-83 | MCDOT on BRT
Boondoggle | Obsolete Projects | Math of Highways

Transit Alternatives to Proposed M-83 Highway

TAME Coalition’s support for improved transit includes:

Supporting the Ride-On Bus System: TAME Coalition is a signatory of the Montgomery County Better Buses Campaign Platform of Coalition for Smarter Growth.

This Better Buses Campaign Platform tracks the guiding principles of Thrive 2050:

Equity: Any improvement in transit service or reduction in fares overwhelmingly benefits vulnerable populations and the working class.

Environment: Getting more people to use transit takes cars off the road.

Economy: Transit connects workers with jobs and customers with businesses.

Within the Montgomery County Ride-On Bus System, the 55 Bus that serves Germantown-Rockville, and the 59 Bus that serves Montgomery Village-Rockville, are the most heavily-used routes within the entire Ride-On system. Montgomery’s Ride On Bus system ranks 33rd in total ridership among U.S. Bus Systems, with 2019 average weekday ridership at 68,500. (Source: Wikipedia.)

District of Columbia Department of Transportation (D-DOT) showcases its new Bus Rapid Transit program with buses running in dedicated lanes.

Expanded MARC Train Service to the Upcounty

TAME Coalition supports improved MARC train service improvements, including all-day, two-way MARC Train Service. In a 2019 piece in Greater Greater Washington, Alex Holt reviewed MDOT’s MARC Cornerstone Plan, stating: “Goals for MARC include adding third tracks to the CSX-owned Brunswick and Camden lines, introducing weekend and evening service, and increasing midday service. These two commuter rail routes are notoriously busy during rush hour, but lack rush hour trains.” State Delegate Marc Korman is quoted in this piece as praising the plan overall, but also criticizing “what he sees as a much lower prioritization of commuter rail by Maryland compared to Virginia.”

Highway Project Proposals Are Obsolete Remnants of the Twentieth Century

Proposed M-83 Highway Out of Step With Transit, Walkability Preferences of Millenials and Younger Adults

Two recent studies, one conducted by the American Public Transportation Association (APTA), and one by the U.S. Public Interest Research Group (US PIRG) have examined the changes in transportation preferences and habits on the part of the Millenial Generation. Millenials are those born between 1983 and 2000; they now comprise the largest generation of US residents.

The American Public Transportation Association (APTA) surveyed 1000 Millenials in cities across the country for their transportation preferences. APTA found that Transit allows Millennials to connect with their communities, and to work as they travel, with the latter being a trend noted by 40% of those polled. These benefits of public transit were not foreseen by the Boomers and World War Two Generation who planned car-centric projects like proposed M-83 Highway.

“The Millennial generation has led the recent change in transportation trends—driving significantly less than previous generations of young Americans. Millennials are already the largest generation in the United States and their choices will play a crucial role in determining future transportation infrastructure needs.” US PIRG (2013) A New Direction.

These pie charts were produced in 2019 by the Evaluation and Transportation Demand Management Sub-Groups of the Transportation Technical Working Group, part of Montgomery County’s climate planning effort.

The shift to people-centric travel shown here for the year 2035, is crucial to meeting our smart growth, climate, racial equity and social justice commitments.

Two MCDOT Reports Highlight Upcounty Bus Rapid Transit

MCDOT Midcounty Corridor Supplemental Report Shows Bus Rapid Transit 355 Yields Greatest Traffic Relief

The Montgomery County Department of Transportation (MCDOT) in 2017 issued its Midcounty Corridor Study Supplemental Report, following longtime advocacy by TAME Coalition and our allies on the need for a Midcounty Corridor Study that fully examines the role of Upcounty transit – and specifically, Bus Rapid Transit. MCDOT’s Supplemental Report found that when it excluded the proposed M-83 highway from its analysis, and focused instead on Bus Rapid Transit on Route 355, with improvements to existing intersections and roads, congestion relief was best across four key metrics:

  1. Lowest Vehicle Miles Traveled
  2. Highest Percentage of People in Transit Vehicles
  3. Shortest Rush Hour Travel Times on MD 355 – for AM and PM Peak Hour
  4. Fewest Number of Intersection Delays During AM and PM Peak Hours

In a related report published two years later (2019), MCDOT provided details of its Bus Rapid Transit planning for the Route 355 Corridor.

Summary of the 2019 BRT 355 Corridor study of MC-DOT.

M-83 Highway Extended: A Boondoggle Road

Since 2014, the United States Public Interest Research Group (US PIRG) has published a series of annual reports on “Highway Boondoggles” – wasteful government highway construction projects. Over the past six years, US PIRG has documented 58 Highway Boondoggles nationwide, including the “Maryland Traffic Relief Plan,” Governor Larry Hogan’s proposed expansion of I-270 and the I-495 Beltway.

Proposed M-83 Highway is a Highway Boondoggle – it’s a waste of taxpayer funds that are desperately needed to support improved transit and basic maintenance of our existing transit and transportation systems, including Ride-On Buses; MARC Train Service; and the WMATA-Metro subway and bus system.

TAME Coalition Testifies at the Maryland General Assembly for Local Consent for State Toll Projects. 

As part of TAME Coalition’s work supporting Transit Alternatives for the Upcounty, and opposing highway boondoggles: Joseph Horgan, a citizen from Montgomery County, testified for the TAME Coalition in Annapolis before the Maryland State Senate on January 29, 2020, in favor of SB229 – a bill to require county consent for toll projects.

“Montgomery officials now apply climate and justice tests to every proposed investment, including highway projects.”

On behalf of the TAME Coalition, Horgan slammed the proposed expansion of I-495 and I-270 via privatized toll lanes, saying that they “flunk the test for climate sanity, racial justice and social equity.”

  – TAME Coalition testimony in favor of SB229 delivered by Joseph Horgan

This bill in the 2020 Maryland General Assembly, was referred to the Senate Finance Committee, following First Reading and the 1/29/2020 hearing.  The bill does not give an absolute veto to any one county; rather, it requires that a majority of affected counties must approve a toll project (road, highway or bridge) in order for it to be green-lighted. Update: as of early February 2021 this bill does not yet appear to have been re-introduced before the Maryland General Assembly.

The Math of Highways

Transit Alternatives Bring Congestion Relief

TAME has issued a report describing congestion relief that results from investments in transit and existing roadway, and intersection improvements. TAME report, The Math of Highways, brings to light this core finding: Large improvements in traffic flow (congestion relief) result from modest reductions in car use. 

In 2016, Montgomery County Department of Transportation published a short video on Bus Rapid Transit, that makes this same point: “Less cars on the road means a better commute for riders and drivers.”

Influence of the Pro-Highway Lobby

The communities most impacted by Montgomery County’s transportation decisions – low-income communities and communities of color – have been under-represented in the process.  Real estate developers and the highway construction complex have exerted undue influence on elected and appointed government officials, resulting in a car-centric system that benefits the wealthy at the expense of the most disadvantaged communities.  To turn this around, County officials must ensure that low-income communities, communities of color, rural residents, and people with disabilities, are at the table when transportation investment decisions are being made. To continue the current inequitable transportation decision-making structure, is to continue to increase exposures of low-income and frontline communities to the health and economic damages of highways and the car-centric system.

Communities of color and low-income people experience higher exposures to traffic-related air pollution where they live, compared with wealthier communities. (paraphrase of the CDC)

U.S. Centers for Disease Control (2013) Residential Proximity to Major Highways – 2010.

Another result of inequity in transportation decisionmaking and the dominance of the highway industry, is that it keeps the M-83 highway plan alive and in the Master Plans, despite the clear need for greater public investment in transit, not new highways. M-83 is a proposed highway that would benefit primarily people with privilege, those who can afford to own and maintain cars. Combined with the political maneuvers of the highway construction companies and associated interests, a dwindling number of elected and appointed officials in Montgomery County continue to resist a clear shift away from car-centric transportation priorities. The pro-highway political culture resists removing the 60-year-old, obsolete proposed M-83 highway from the County’s Master Plan of Highways and Transitways, despite repeated requests from TAME Coalition and its many allied groups to eliminate this dinosaur in order to clear the way for prioritizing transit and other people-centric modes.

Purpose of the TAME Coalition

The Purpose of the Tame Coalition is to protect the communities, streams, and forests of Montgomery Village, Gaithersburg, Germantown and Clarksburg from being damaged and destroyed by the proposed M-83 Highway Extended. The TAME Coalition advocates cancelling the proposed M83 Highway Extended and promoting People-Centric transportation alternatives.

TAME Coalition promotes People-Centric transportation alternatives of walking, biking, taking transit, and teleworking for residents, workers and students in the Upcounty communities of Montgomery Village, Gaithersburg, Germantown and Clarksburg.  TAME Coalition works to support and to improve transit service to these communities – and to cancel the proposed M-83 Highway that would divert public and private resources from these People-Centric approaches, and which would make our transportation less safe, more disruptive of the climate, and less racially and socially just.