bus rapid transit


BRT photoby Kelly Blynn

As we’re all well aware, our area suffers some of the worst congestion in the nation. According to the Census, we waste 20 more minutes every day in traffic, away from family and home, than any other region in the country. Congestion makes our air pollution among the worst in the country; and an ever-increasing threat to the health and well-being of children and the elderly. The major challenge is that our current transportation infrastructure simply cannot handle the current and projected number of cars on the road. In the coming years, Montgomery County will add more than 200,000 new residents, and the same number of jobs.

That’s why Montgomery County has looked to plans for a Rapid Transit System, based on successful bus rapid transit systems from around the nation. The best way to describe the Rapid Transit System is a high quality transit system that operates like Metrorail on rubber tires.

This summer, the Montgomery County Planning Board passed a draft plan for a 79-mile system, entitled the Countywide Transit Corridors Functional Master Plan, and this fall that same plan will go to the County Council for consideration. Now is the time to learn more about this plan, and get involved.  Luckily, there’s a new video to get up to speed about the basics of the project:

Clearly, we must do something to find a better way to get to and from home, work, and school. Building new roads is too costly, too harmful to our neighborhoods, and won’t solve the problem. Investing in transit is the best option we have to provide high-quality, affordable transportation options, clean up our air, and improve our quality of life.

To get more involved in this project, sign up to testify at the upcoming public hearings on September 24 and 26, or visit www.nextgentransit.org for upcoming educational events.

Kelly Blynn is the Campaign Manager for the Coalition for Smarter Growth’s Next Generation of Transit Campaign. A former international campaigner at the climate change organization 350.org, she believes in thinking globally while acting locally, and she is now working hard to organize with communities for sustainable and equitable transportation in the Washington, DC region.
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by Alison Wentzell

Maryland updates Bike and Pedestrian PlanBGnews_logo

A little over a decade ago Maryland adopted the 20-year Bicycle and Pedestrian Master Plan.  Now at the half way point, it is time for the Department of Transportation to update the plan.  While the plan does not establish any specific projects, it does set goals and outlines what we will see over the next 10 years.

A lot has changed since the plan was originally drafted, and the number of Maryland residents who choose to bike and walk has increased, with a concurrent demand for more infrastructural supports.  Bike lanes are popping up in communities that never had them before, and programs that support bicycling are growing.

The state of Maryland has budgeted $151 million over the next six years, and once the plan is complete officials can start making decisions on which projects get funded.

To see the full article published in the Gazette, click here.

Residents push back on rapid transit proposal

To improve long-range transportation options, be more environmentally friendly and support local business, the Montgomery County Planning Board recently approved a proposal to dedicate two lanes for rapid transit buses along Wisconsin Avenue from Friendship Heights Metro to the Rockville Metro.

However, according to a report published in the Gazette, many residents attending a May 28 meeting challenged the plan, especially in the Green Mile corridor between Friendship Height and downtown Bethesda.

See the Gazette article here.

CO2 Emissions Rose 1.4% in 2012     

According to the International Energy Agency (IEA), global carbon dioxide emissions rose 1.4% in 2012, warning that if  we don’t change by 2020, there will be more carbon dioxide in the atmosphere than we can reasonably deal with.

IEA representative Fatih Birol warns that “climate change is slipping down in the political agenda in many countries.”  To keep this issue at the forefront of our global leaders’ minds the IEA is urging countries and companies to implement four drastic measures by 2015.  This includes implementing aggressive energy efficiency measures, limiting coal output from inefficient plants, reducing the release of methane in gas and oil operations, and phasing out fossil fuel subsidies.

Click here to read the complete article published in the Washington Post.

Upcoming Events Bethesda Green Events

Come out and see entrepreneurs practice their pitch for our panel of investors, and get helpful feedback!

Join Bethesda Green for a great baseball game.  Tickets are free and available while supplies last. Email info@bethesdagreen.org.

Upcoming Partner Events

Join GreenWheaton for their 3rd anniversary!  The night includes appetizers, beer, wine, refreshments, green vendors, and door prizes!  Tickets are $30.

Alison Wentzell is a senior at American University and an intern with Bethesda Green.  Her interests in sustainability focus on the community, environmental politics, and cultural aspects of the environmental movement.

by Dan Rudt

County Requests $1 Million for Bikeshare Program

The Montgomery County Department of Transportation (MCDOT) has, for the fifth time in three years, submitted an application to the Maryland Department of Transportation (MDOT) for a $1 million grant to fund a bike-sharing system in down-county transit corridors. What is different about this application? It is the first since the state government announced a bike-share grant program this past November.

If approved, the grant will fund 29 docking stations and 204 bikes between the Beltway and the D.C. line. The docking stations will be located at several Montgomery County Metrorail stops on both branches of the Red Line and will be integrated with the Capital Bikeshare system in D.C. and Arlington.

Montgomery County previously secured a $1.3 million Federal Transit Administration (FTA) grant for a bike-sharing program in portions of the City of Rockville and Shady Grove. That grant is provided through the Metropolitan Washington Council of Governments under the FTA’s Job Access Reverse Commute (JARC) program to link lower income residents and employers with jobs and job training. The City of Rockville is partnering with the County to provide matching funds and implement the program. The Rockville/Shady Grove bike-sharing program will eventually be connected with the proposed down-county system as it expands.

The new bike-sharing application requests 80 percent of the funding needed for capital facilities. The County would be responsible for the remaining 20 percent, which it intends to raise through private sector sources. The County also will be responsible for operating and maintenance costs, some of which are expected to be offset by revenues from membership and usage fees.

Building developers, businesses, residents and other organizations in the County that have an interest in bike sharing are invited to contact the County’s bike-share program staff at  mcdot.bikeshare@montgomerycountymd.gov  to explore opportunities for joint funding, as well as to suggest locations for bike-share stations.  

Montgomery County Food Council Taking Applicants through Friday

The Montgomery County Food Council aims to bring together a diverse representation of stakeholders in a public and private partnership to improve the environmental, economic, social and nutritional health of Montgomery County through the creation of a robust, local, sustainable food system. The Food Council Search Committee selects and appoints between 13 to 17 representatives for a two-year long term as Montgomery County Food Council Members. Members are selected based on their individual qualifications in the following areas:

1. Commitment to improving the Montgomery County food system.

2. Lives, works, or has a strong interest/investment in Montgomery County.

3. Expertise in one or more local food-related issues such as agriculture, food security and access, nutrition, food business and industrial practices, food education and research, land use, urban food production and distribution.

4. Representation of one of the five food-system sectors (production, processing, distribution, consumption, waste management) and one of the following “working communities”:

 ■ Business Community

 ■ Local Governance

 ■ Community Organizations and Citizens

 ■ Health and Educational Organizations

 ■ Rural and Regional Organizations

5. Capacity to bring specific food system relationships and resources to the effort, as well as potential to represent diverse sectors of the local food system and/or the community at large.

The application process closes this Friday, January 13. Council members will be selected by Friday, January 27 and the first general meeting of the Montgomery County Food Council will be on Wednesday, February 15. Application and more information here.

Thirteen Green New Buses for Ride On

Montgomery County Executive Isiah Leggett recently announced the addition of 12 new hybrid electric-diesel buses and one new non-hybrid clean diesel or ultra-low-sulfur diesel (ULSD) bus to the existing Ride On fleet.

For many of us, the word diesel conjures up images of foul smelling black sooty exhaust. Today’s clean, or ultra-low-sulfur diesel fuel, however, contains 98.5% less sulfur than the diesel fuel of two decades ago. In addition, the newer diesel engines inject a solution into the exhaust stream to help reduce nitrogen oxide emissions. Finally, today’s diesel engine exhaust systems include an emissions-reducing device called a particulate filter that traps most of the remaining tiny particles of soot in the exhaust. Given all these emission reduction measures, and the fact that diesel engines are more fuel efficient than gasoline engines, taking the bus today does more to curb air pollution than ever before.

Of course, these are not the first green buses for Ride On. Eighteen percent of the 339 bus fleet is now hybrid electric-diesel, another 19 percent are non-hybrid, ultra-low-sulfur-diesel, and 27 percent run on compressed natural gas (CNG).

The new buses, made in the USA by Hayward, California-based Gillig, were purchased with $6.55 million in federal American Reinvestment and Recovery Act (ARRA) funds provided by the State of Maryland. They will be used on Ride On’s busiest routes in the down-county and mid-county areas.

Upcoming Green Events

Bethesda Green Education, Outreach and Marketing (EOM) Group Meeting – Newcomers Welcome! Wednesday, January 11, 4:00 – 5:30 pm., 4825 Cordell Ave., corner of Woodmont Ave., Suite 200, above the Capital One Bank. A team of volunteers, EOM supports all of Bethesda Green’s communication efforts. From recycling to energy efficiency, sustainability to green building/design, EOM expresses the organization’s various areas of expertise in a clear and concise manner via various media.  New members are welcome to join. More information here, or contact Bethesda Green Communications Director Dave Heffernan, dvheffernan@bethesdagreen.org.

Future Harvest – Chesapeake Alliance for Sustainable Agriculture, 13th Annual Conference, “Farm to Institution: Making Local Food Economies a Reality,” January 13-14, National Conference Center, Lansdowne, VA. Two keynote addresses on local food economies, six learning tracks, pre-conference workshops, farmer panel on advocacy and much more! Information and registration here.

MLK Day of Service 2012, Monday, January 16, 1:00 – 3:00 pm. Montgomery County will be celebrating Martin Luther King, Jr. Day of Service at North Bethesda Marriott Hotel and Conference Center and at two satellite site locations (Universities at Shady Grove in Gaithersburg and the Silver Spring Civic Building). That is followed by a tribute to Martin Luther King, Jr. at Strathmore Hall at 4 pm. Volunteers can sign up to participate in this exciting event and learn about the great work that local organizations are doing, find out ways to get involved, and make a difference. More information and registration here.

Help the Hungry Food Drive:  Support those in need by bringing non perishable food items to the Bethesda North Marriott.  Food collection will be located near the Montgomery County Volunteer Center table.  Donations will go to Manna Food Center.

TEDxManhattan 2012: Changing the Way We Eat, Saturday, January 21, 9:00am – 5:30pm, at Bethesda Green. This all day, free event is a combination of live video from TEDxManhattan and local sessions at Bethesda Green. The event will highlight several aspects of the sustainable food movement and the work being done to shift our food system from industrially based agriculture to one in which healthy, nutritious food is accessible to all. Speakers with various backgrounds in food and farming will share their insights and expertise.

Learn about our burgeoning local food movement and opportunities to engage in our community, here in Montgomery County. No need to stay for the whole day. Drop in as your schedule allows. Local co-hosts of this event are Bethesda Green, Full Plate Ventures and Slow Food D.C.

Information about the New York speakers is here. The Bethesda program is outlined here, where you will find a registration link as well.

2012 “Keep Winter Cold” Polar Bear Plunge sponsored by CCAN, Saturday, January 21, 2012 at 11:00 am, The Beach at National Harbor, Maryland. For seven years, groups of people who care have plunged into cold bodies of water in our region to fight climate change, bring back the Arctic sea ice, and save polar bears. The Polar Bear Plunge is the Chesapeake Climate Action Network’s biggest annual fundraising event. The money raised during the plunge goes to support programs to combat global warming at the state level in our area. Information here.

BG 101, Wednesday, January 25, 4:00 – 5:30 pm, at Bethesda Green. Join us for an orientation about Bethesda Green, our history, upcoming events and volunteer opportunities.

Dan Rudt is the editor of Montgomery County Sustainability News,  or MoCo-Sustain.com serving the local area with environmental sustainability news, information and events.

by Dan Rudt

Maryland Solar Installation Applications to Double this Year

Margie Hyslop writes in the October 7 Gazette that the state Public Service Commission says it has received 1,550 applications so far this year from Marylanders seeking to certify their homes or businesses as solar renewable energy facilities. At that rate, applications are expected to double the 922 received last year. Montgomery County has more solar power installations than any other jurisdiction in the state. Hyslop says Kevin Lucas of the Maryland Energy Administration estimates 150 to 200 of Maryland’s 1,700 solar power installations are commercial; the rest are residential. The state currently generates 26 megawatts of solar power.

Maryland is not alone in solar energy growth. Public Radio International program, Living On Earth, reports that this year, “the U.S. [solar panel] industry expects to double its production.” The program mentions three reasons for this stunning growth. The first is the federal government solar installation incentive signed by President Bush three years ago. (Not mentioned in the story are the many state and local government incentives.) The second is the huge drop in the cost of solar panels from roughly four dollars and twenty cents a watt three years ago, down to roughly one dollar and twenty cents a watt today. Finally, the advent of solar leasing programs that eliminate the up-front cost of rooftop solar has created a spike in demand.

Gaithersburg Residents Create their Own “Citizens Plan” for Smart Growth

An article by Pam Lindstrom in the October 5 Greater Greater Washington begins with: “Filling a void of vision for a livable, sustainable future for Gaithersburg, my neighbors and I created our own plan for managing growth along the MD-355 corridor.” Lindstrom, with fellow Gaithersburg resident Judy Christensen, and architect Scott Knudson of Wiencek and Associates offering pro bono services, organized three charrettes in spring 2011, inviting neighbors and zoning lawyers representing some of the larger land and building owners in the 355 corridor. They presented their “Citizens’ Plan” to Gaithersburg elected officials and Planning Commission in July, and were met with a positive response. Here is a link to the article and another to a PDF of the Citizens’ Plan on the City of Gaithersburg Website.

Wind Energy: Marylanders are Ready; Are Politicians Willing?

A survey of 805 registered Maryland voters found 62 percent said they are willing to pay an additional $2 per month for electricity if more of it is generated by “clean, local offshore wind farms, instead of coming from coal, oil and gas.” Only 34 percent said they are not willing to pay more. The telephone survey was conducted throughout the state in late September for the National Wildlife Federation and the Offshore Wind Coalition. Margie Hyslop breaks down the poll numbers in the October 10 Gazette, and discusses the possible political ramifications of the survey in a follow up article on October 14.

Hyslop found that politicians who support a Maryland offshore wind farm plan to use the survey results in the next General Assembly session as one justification to move forward. In addition, she says, “advocates are more organized, have hired a lobbyist and are putting together a business coalition” to support the wind farm.

Let your Voice Be Heard; Take the Cycle Maryland Survey

The Maryland Office of Tourism, Department of Transportation, and State Highway Administration are conducting a bicycle user survey to learn more about cyclists in Maryland and what products they would find most useful to help plan bicycle trips. They hope to gain knowledge that will be used to improve cycling products and services. The survey is expected to take approximately 10 to 15 minutes to complete. After you are finished, you may choose to enter a prize drawing. The survey is here. The Cycle Maryland Webpage is here.

County Farmers Selling Pumpkins, Hayrides and Seasonal Fun

Support your local farmer, and have fun doing so! A number of Montgomery County farms are now offering pumpkins and hay rides, pony rides, petting zoos, mazes and haunted houses. For a list of pumpkin farms and their offerings, click here and scroll down to the Montgomery County listings.

Upcoming Green Events

Montgomery County Community Service Week, October 16 – 22. The Montgomery County Volunteer Center invites you to participate.  Attend the Volunteer Engagement Expo on Saturday, October 15 from 1-6pm at White Flint Mall where representatives from 20 local nonprofits will have information about current volunteer opportunities or click here for more information.

Green Home Expo, Saturday October 22, 10:00 am – 4:00 pm. This free educational event is held at Bethesda Green, 4825 Cordell Ave., 2nd floor, above Capital One Bank. Learn easy ways to green your home and save money.  Presentations will cover conservation, efficiency and renewable energy.  In addition to industry vendors, meet representatives from nonprofits and Montgomery County government. More information.

Community Forklift Fundraising Extravaganza, Saturday, October 22, 7:00 – 10:30 pm, 4671 Tanglewood Drive, Edmonston, MD.
Entertainment by the DC Lady Arm Wrestlers, Silent auction, Wonky Dog food truck, DJ One HeART Muszik, and adult beverages! Must be 21 or over. Community Forklift is a low-cost building materials warehouse open to the general public and a project of Sustainable Community Initiatives, a 501c3 nonprofit. More information on tickets, sponsorships, or to donate a silent auction item.

Community Meeting about Bus Rapid Transit, Monday, October 24, 5:30 – 8:30 pm, Parks and Planning headquarters, 8787   Georgia  Ave., Silver Spring. The Montgomery County Planning Department hosts a community meeting to discuss bus rapid transit (BRT). The proposal includes dedicated traffic lanes for buses along as many as 16 traffic corridors covering 150 miles. Come see where the service is proposed and let the planners know how you think Bus Rapid Transit service can best fit into our community.

Food Day, Monday, October 24, 7:00 pm, at the Church in Bethesda, 5033 Wilson Lane, Bethesda, MD 20814. You are invited to a local screening of the documentary film “Ingredients” co-sponsored by Church in Bethesda, Bethesda Presbyterian and Graceful Growing Together. The evening will also include short presentations by community members about healthy food, sustainable farms and related topics. Please RSVP if you plan on attending!

LEED for Existing Buildings, Operations + Maintenance Event, Thursday, October 27, 8:00 – 11:00 am, Bethesda Green, 4825 Cordell Ave., 2nd floor. This presentation is designed specifically for building owners, managers, developers and other building professionals. Details here.

BG101, Thursday, October 27, 4:00 – 5:30 pm, at Bethesda Green, 4825 Cordell Ave., 2nd floor. Join us for an orientation about Bethesda Green, our history, upcoming events and volunteer opportunities.

Maryland Clean Energy Summit, Thursday, October 27 – Saturday, October 29, Hilton Inner Harbor, Baltimore. Includes a consumer trade show and conference sessions that are FREE TO THE PUBLIC – on Saturday 10/29 9:30 – 2:30. Test drive a Chevy Volt, learn how to use your smart phone to control your home’s thermostat and lighting while you’re away, how to finance home energy improvements and much more. Click here, then scroll down to “Saturday, October 29th” for more information about the free consumer event.

by Dan Rudt                                                                                                               

Bethesda Magazine 2011 Green Champions Honored

Bethesda Green’s 2nd Annual Gala this past Wednesday (10/5) honored this year’s winners of the Bethesda Magazine Green Champion awards. Winners included green energy supplier Clean Currents, non-profit Rock Creek Conservancy, Congressional Bank, Brookside Gardens, the Bullis School, the Young Activists Club at Piney Branch Elementary, and Mike Tidwell of the Chesapeake Climate Action Network. Beverly Firme writes about the event for the Bethesda Patch.

Community Meeting about Bus Rapid Transit

The Montgomery County Planning Department will host a community meeting to discuss bus rapid transit (BRT). The plan would include dedicated traffic lanes for buses along as many as 16 traffic corridors covering 150 miles. Come see where the service is proposed and let the planners know how you think Bus Rapid Transit service can best fit into our community. The meeting is on Monday, October 24 from 5:30 – 8:30 pm at Park and Planning headquarters,8787 Georgia Ave., Silver Spring.

Kodak American Greenways Award Goes to Potomac Conservancy

Potomac Conservancy is one of four honorees to receive national recognition for outstanding achievement in greenways and open space preservation at the 22nd annual Kodak American Greenways Awards, presented at the National Geographic headquarters in Washington, D.C. on Thursday (10/6).

“I am particularly pleased to present the Potomac Conservancy with an award for its outstanding record of leadership and accomplishment in conserving and advancing stewardship of the Potomac River corridor and its tributaries for the benefit of present and future generations,” said The Conservation Fund’s President and CEO, Larry Selzer. “In the face of relentless regional development and population growth, the Potomac Conservancy has been an effective voice for protecting this irreplaceable resource.”

The Kodak American Greenways Awards were established in 1989 by Eastman Kodak Company, National Geographic Society and The Conservation Fund. The other winners this year were U.S. Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison (R-Texas), Philadelphia Mayor Michael Nutter and Mayor Karl Dean of Nashville.

For Teens: Project Green Challenge

Youth-led non-profit Teens Turning Green has organized a Project Green Challenge that seeks to engage high school and college students across the country and inspire them to transition “from conventional to conscious.” The 30-day green lifestyle challenge runs through October. Huffington Post writes about this and other teen-focused green education offerings.

Chesapeake Bay Trust Seeking Award Nominations

The Chesapeake Bay Trust is currently soliciting applications for its 2012 Awards Program. Five awards are available, one for Teacher of the Year, two student scholarships, a Steward of the Year and a project grant. Nominations must be completed online by December 16. Award criteria are available here.

Upcoming Green Events

Bethesda Green Education, Outreach and Marketing (EOM) Group Meeting – Newcomers Welcome! Thursday, October 13, 4:00 – 5:30 pm. This team of volunteers meets monthly to discuss Bethesda Green’s marketing and communications needs.

Conservation Montgomery Four Corners Community Stroll, Saturday, October 15, 10:00 – Noon. Learn about the natural features of the Four Corners community and the threats to open space in the area. Carol Ann Barth, First Vice President of the Montgomery County Civic Federation, will lead the walk and discussion. More information.

Montgomery County Community Service Week, October 16 – 22. The Montgomery County Volunteer Center invites you and your group to participate. More information.

Green America’s Annual Luncheon, Wednesday, October 19, 12:00 – 1:00 pm. Washington Post Conference Center. Green America’s mission is to harness economic power, the strength of consumers, investors, businesses, and the marketplace to create a socially just and environmentally sustainable society. Learn about the organization, their campaigns and programs. More information.

Green Home Expo, Saturday October 22, 10:00 am – 4:00 pm at Bethesda Green. Learn easy ways to green your home and save money.  Presentations will cover conservation, efficiency and renewable energy.  In addition to industry vendors, meet representatives from nonprofits and Montgomery County government. More information.

Community Forklift Fundraising Extravaganza, Saturday, October 22, 7:00 – 10:30 pm, 4671 Tanglewood Drive, Edmonston, MD. Entertainment by the DC Lady Arm Wrestlers, Silent auction, Wonky Dog food truck, DJ One HeART Muszik, and adult beverages! Must be 21 or over. Community Forklift is a low-cost building materials warehouse open to the general public and a project of Sustainable Community Initiatives, a 501c3 nonprofit. More information on tickets, sponsorships, or to donate a silent auction item.

Food Day, Monday, October 24, 2011, 7:00 pm, at the Church in Bethesda, 5033 Wilson Lane, Bethesda, MD 20814. You are invited to a local screening of the documentary film “Ingredients” co-sponsored by Church in Bethesda, Bethesda Presbyterian and Graceful Growing Together. The evening will also include short presentations by community members about healthy food, sustainable farms and related topics. Please RSVP if you plan to attend.

Peter Doo LEED EB: O+M Event, Thursday, October 27, 8:00 – 11:00 am, Bethesda Green, 4825 Cordell Ave., 2nd floor. Building owners, managers, developers and other building professionals are invited to attend a special presentation on LEED for Existing Buildings: Operations & Maintenance. Details here.

Maryland Clean Energy Summit, Thursday, October 27 – Saturday, October 29, Hilton Inner Harbor, Baltimore. Includes a Consumer Trade Show – FREE TO THE PUBLIC – on Saturday 10/29, 9:30 – 2:30. More information.