Category Archives: CCT

Does Larry Hogan Really Care About Jobs?

By Adam Pagnucco.

Larry Hogan has worked hard to portray himself as a Jobs Governor.  In nearly every one of his public appearances, speeches and press statements, he talks about jobs, jobs, jobs.  Here’s a quote from his inaugural address that has set the tone for his administration.

“Maryland has an educated workforce, world-class universities and colleges, great community colleges, and public schools. We have our beautiful Chesapeake Bay, the Port of Baltimore, and a great location in the heart of the Mid-Atlantic region. We must leverage these amazing assets to transform Maryland into a place where businesses can flourish and create more jobs and opportunities for our citizens. Starting today let me say loudly and clearly: Maryland is open for business.”  Governor Hogan, Inaugural Address, 1/21/15

The statement above deserves a big asterisk.  In practice, Hogan’s enthusiasm for jobs depends on where they are.  When jobs are located at a Northrop Grumman facility in Anne Arundel County, the Governor proposes tens of millions of dollars in state subsidies for them.  When employment growth lags in the Eastern Shore and Western Maryland, Hogan promises a new jobs initiative.  But when the Red Line was projected to add billions of dollars in economic activity and over 15,000 badly needed jobs to the City of Baltimore, Hogan cancelled it.  And last week, he sent another large public works project into limbo: Montgomery County’s Corridor Cities Transitway.  What do Montgomery County and the City of Baltimore have in common?  You guessed it – they voted for Hogan’s opponent in the last election.

The Corridor Cities Transitway (CCT) is one of the state’s preeminent transportation projects, and one that has an awful lot of job growth tied to it.  The CCT, a 15-mile Bus Rapid Transit Line from the Shady Grove Metro Station to the southern part of Clarksburg, has been planned since the 1970s.  It would link some of Montgomery County’s fastest-growing places, including Gaithersburg, Germantown, Clarksburg, the Life Sciences Center and the federal government’s National Institute of Standards and Technology, in an area that has few transit options.  A 2011 economic impact analysis by Parsons Brinckerhoff estimated that the project would create $2.2 billion of economic activity through 2050 and would create over 6,000 jobs during its construction phase.  Those jobs would go to craft employees like carpenters, laborers, operating engineers, cement masons, iron workers and electricians – blue-collar workers whom the Governor cultivates.

“The government needs to do everything it possibly can to help people provide for themselves and get a job.”  Larry Hogan, candidate for Governor, 10/9/14

But the CCT is far more than just a transportation project.  It is tied to the massive Great Seneca Science Corridor Master Plan passed by the Montgomery County Council in 2010.  The plan leverages the CCT to allow new development including 10.6 million additional square feet of commercial space, 5,700 more residential units and 31,300 new jobs.  This would be one of the biggest developments in the state, comparable to Baltimore’s Port Covington project.  Many of the Great Seneca plan’s jobs would be professional and high-paying, including scientists, doctors and engineers.  All of this is worth countless billions to the State of Maryland.  But because the area’s existing infrastructure can’t handle the traffic volume created by this level of development, the plan is contingent on the CCT’s construction.  In other words, no CCT – no jobs.  As Council Member George Leventhal has said, “By deferring this project, Governor Hogan is deferring our high-tech economy.”

“The primary focus of our administration is economic development, growing our private sector and creating more jobs.”  Governor Hogan, MACo conference, 8/22/16

Governor Hogan is uniquely qualified to understand the ties between growth, development and jobs.  He is, after all, a real estate developer who has made a fortune building projects not so different from those that would be located near the CCT.  He requires no education on the economic merits of this issue.  But the politics are a totally different matter.  The Governor’s political play is obvious: he gets to kill (or at least indefinitely delay) a transit project in a blue county so that he can spread highway money around to the red counties who will presumably vote for him.  And because he (barely!) allowed a stripped-down version of the Purple Line to proceed, he can ax the CCT and still raise money from his friends in the real estate industry.

“The primary focus of my administration is to get Maryland open for business once again and create jobs for our citizens.”  Governor Hogan, 5/12/15

In economic terms, the CCT and its associated development would be a huge win for everyone around the state.  That’s because the state government is the primary recipient of income tax revenues from new residents, and it’s the only recipient of sales taxes and corporate income taxes from new businesses.  Because of how Maryland’s wealth formulas work, the huge majority of those state revenues would not stay in MoCo – they would go to the poorer counties of the state, many of whom are in rural areas that vote in huge numbers for Hogan.  In his effort to score points with his supporters, the Governor is actually damaging their economic interests.

So what does the Governor really care about?  Is it jobs?

Or politics?

MCDOT Tries to Eliminate Grade Separated Crossing on the CCT

The Washington Area Bicyclists Association blog reports:

After years of public input and agreement on the design for the future Capital Crescent trail, the Montgomery County Department of Transportation (MCDOT) just moved unilaterally to eliminate the long-promised grade-separated crossing of busy Jones Mill Rd.

The grade separation makes the trail safer, and safety is vital to ensuring this heavily travelled trail remains a viable transportation option. Through thousands of hours of meetings on the future of the Capital Crescent Trail, County officials have promised safe crossings of major roadways that don’t leave bicyclists competing with cars or pressing “Walk” buttons and waiting for minutes.

Good news, however. MCDOT has suspended its previous orders to MTA and is reviewing the situation. They now promise to consult the community in advance of a final decision.

This is part of a history of broken promises regarding the Capital Crescent Trail. For example, after repeated assurances that the Trail could be run through the same tunnel under the Air Rights Building as the Purple Line under Wisconsin despite outside claims to the contrary, that was deemed too expensive and removed from the current plan.

The County is now trying to persuade the owner of the building over the best location for the proposed Purple Line station to redevelop so that the station, and hopefully a different tunnel, could be built. The building’s owner, unsurprisingly, is holding out for an even better offer since they have the County over a barrel.

Moving Forward with RTS in Montgomery

RTSMap

Proposed Rapid Transit System Map

Montgomery County has adopted plans for a bus rapid transit system (RTS) of nearly 96 miles. This system includes not only the long planned Corridor Cities Transitway (CCT) of 15 miles but a separately planned system of nearly 81 miles.

Proposed and pushed relentlessly by at-large Montgomery County Councilmember Marc Elrich, the plan to add 81 miles is the most ambitious effort to expand public transit in the area since Metro. While other jurisdictions, including DC and Alexandria, are ahead of Montgomery in moving ahead with RTS, Montgomery’s is the most extensive network.

The above schematic map shows the proposed routes as well as the planned light-rail Purple Line and CCT. The map produced by Communities for Transit, an RTS advocacy group, uses the familiar Metro system design, which makes it look attractive but also misleadingly suggests that RTS is heavy rail like Metro. It’s not. Repeat: map looks like Metro; system is not Metro.

On the other hand, I understand the drive by proponents to avoid the word “bus.” In the DC area, people associate the buses with Metrobuses–the slowest still moving form of transportation ever invented. Drivers perceive buses as barely moving hulks to avoid and to pass. Though RTS is not heavy rail, it is also definitely not Metrobus.

RTS buses move much faster and are much nicer, more analogous to light or heavy rail cars. These buses are also designed to approach platforms at level–again like Metro or light rail–so there is no climbing up or down.

Greater speed than conventional buses is achieved because RTS buses usually travel in their own dedicated lanes. There can be two lanes on either side of the street along the curb or two in the median. Alternatively, in tighter areas, there may just be one lane that switches direction. Buses traveling in the direction of heavy traffic use the dedicated lane while buses going in the other direction travel with regular traffic.

In some areas with little room, the buses may have to travel in regular traffic in both directions. However, even in these areas, RTS buses can go faster than regular buses because they communicate to hold the traffic lights so that they can make the lights if they are close to the light but it’s about to change.

People often wonder why we don’t just expand Metro, like the delayed Silver Line in Virginia, or build light rail, like the planned Purple Line, instead. They reason is cost. RTS is far cheaper than either of these methods. This item from the Communities for Transit presentation caught my eye:

SLC BRT

In Salt Lake City, light rail would have been ten times as expensive as the RTS alternative. The price difference means that Montgomery can get far more bang for the buck with RTS. Indeed, the CCT was originally planned as a light rail but is now expected to be a bus rapid transit system, so that it is financially feasible.

The low cost is critical because, even with the Governor’s successful  drive to take measures to expand Maryland’s transportation fund, there is not nearly enough money for all of the State’s transportation priorities from roads and Baltimore’s Red Line to MARC and Metro (those elevators. . . ).

One of the most appealing aspects of RTS is the potential, and it remains just potential, to help weaken the battles between civic groups and developers. Developers want greater density while civics worry about the impact on infrastructure, especially the increased traffic.

The Montgomery RTS plan allows more growth to occur in the context of a system designed to address heightened traffic and also to spread development, along with its benefits and problems, around a much larger area rather than one or two nodes. It recognizes that Montgomery remains a spread out suburban area even as we develop multiple new urban centers.

According to Communities for Transit, RTS does produce additional investment:

Cleveland

And growth needs to occur to provide jobs and income, as well as to pay the taxes to regenerate our aging infrastructure and expand it. The key is to invest the public transit money wisely.