A better transportation system in our region would comprise a mixture of heavy rail, light rail or streetcars, and rapid buses. The biggest transit campaigns going on right now focus on rail: Virginians fighting for the Silver Line, the debate over the Purple Line, and efforts to bring streetcars back to DC. But amid all this energy, are we forgetting to also advocate for our bus improvements?
In Montgomery County, there’s another major crosstown transit link on the books: a dedicated bus lane for the Q2 between Wheaton and Rockville. Little stands in the way except for money and political will. Yet the Veirs Mill lane has gotten little attention. In DC, the K Street Busway was just delayed seven more years. The major reason appears to be the lack of a champion. It’s not at the top of any DC Councilmember’s priority list, and the press and blogs have recently paid little attention to this project.
The Purple Line is indeed a higher priority than the Viers Mill lane. Getting streetcars into DC may be more important than the K Street busway. But this needn’t be either-or. All of these would better improve mobility than widening I-66 or building the ICC. Even transportation funding isn’t a zero-sum game. The more we advocate for all types of transit, the more political support we build, the more federal and local leaders will see the importance of improving our transportation systems.
Unfortunately, opponents of specific transit projects, like the Columbia Country Club, have turned to buses as a way to oppose rail. That’s given BRT a bad name. Buses don’t replace rail, but supplement it. They are the right tool on many corridors. Where rail is the right tool, like on the Purple Line, Corridor Cities Transitway, or H Street NE, we should build rail. Elsewhere, we should build dedicated bus lanes. And as transit advocates, we must maintain a strong push for all parts of a comprehensive transit system.