The county’s Department of Transportation launched a new bus rapid transit service yesterday with a media-only event that included County Executive Marc Elrich, Casey Anderson, chair of the Planning Board, and Council Vice President Tom Hucker (D-District 5).
The first BRT in Maryland, known as Flash, will run in a 14-mile segment of U.S Route 29 from Burtonsville to the Silver Spring Transit Center, offering limited-stop service seven days a week.
During his remarks, Elrich, a proponent of BRT for more than 12 years dating back to his time as a councilmember, recalled how people questioned the choice of this route for BRT.
“These people have the worst commutes in the county,” he said. “They have no way to get out of here except 29 and maybe going over to Randolph Road and try to swing over to that side of the county using Randolph Road, which is not a good road to drive either way. So they deserve the same kind or transit that we’ve provided other people in the county.”
Riders will board new 80-passenger capacity buses at stations that were to be at the level of the bus doors, so there are no steps up to get on or off at any door. The stations include kiosks where customers can pay the fare before a bus arrives, real-time transit information on an interactive screen with public interest information available in seven languages, USB ports and a free WiFi hot spot, according to a press release.
The buses have three doors for faster boarding, bike racks inside the bus, automated wheelchair securement system, allowing passengers in wheelchairs to secure themselves onboard, WiFi and USB ports.
The buses are equipped with traffic signal priority system that allows buses to get through some intersections more efficiently, along with a first in the county—Mobileye, a pedestrian detection system to alert drivers when a pedestrian is approaching the vehicle’s path.
Total costs for the project were nearly $40 million, of which $10 million was funded by a federal Transportation Investment Generating Economic Recovery grant.
Flash, like all other MCDOT bus service, is free in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. When fares are reinstated, the cost to ride will be the same as Ride On’s regular prices—$2 per ride, and all special passes and discounts apply.