Silver Spring transit center faces a long road


(Montgomery County Department of Public Works and Transportation)
Robert Thomson
Columnist November 7, 2012

Dear Dr. Gridlock:

I read that yet another delay has been announced in the opening of the Silver Spring transit center.

Robert Thomson is The Washington Post’s “Dr. Gridlock.” He answers travelers’ questions, listens to their complaints and shares their pain on the roads, trains and buses in the Washington region. View Archive

This project has been going on since 2008. When is it going to be done?

Lauren Brownstein,

Silver Spring

DG: Washington Post reporter Victor Zapana wrote that Montgomery County officials say they hope the center will be open in September. The county and the contractor have been engaged in a nearly year-long dispute about concrete flooring.

As Brownstein noted, the project started in 2008. So it’s going to take longer to complete the one-block-wide transit center in Silver Spring than it did to build the 14 miles of express lanes along the Capital Beltway in Virginia.

What is this thing, anyway?

Well, it sure sounded like a good idea at the time: “a three-tiered, urban, multi-modal, state-of-the art transit facility,” as the county described the plan. It will have 32 bus bays, 54 spaces that can be used for Kiss & Ride drop-offs and taxis, and connections to MARC, Metro, the Purple Line and hiker-biker trails. It’s designed to serve as a focal point for transit-oriented development in a revitalized downtown Silver Spring.

That’s what we were looking forward to in 2008. In 2012, most commuters would settle for a building that won’t fall down.

It will be named after Paul S. Sarbanes. But given the center’s recent history, the distinguished former senator might prefer to have his name taken off and put someplace else, such as, say, a new sewage treatment plant.

The many thousands who use Silver Spring’s bus stops and the MARC and Metro stations aren’t getting impatient because they anticipate a glorious addition to the skyline. The transit center looks like a concrete parking garage, nothing more. But to make way for this structure, bus and taxi riders and Metro Kiss & Ride users were kicked out into the surrounding blocks. That’s four years of inconvenience, and counting.

Metro time

Dear Dr. Gridlock:

As someone who is usually running a few minutes late during the morning commute, I really noticed when Metro recently replaced the clocks at the station manager kiosks with big new flat-screen monitors.

Although this might seem like a positive technology upgrade, these monitors have never displayed anything. They are always off. I fear that Metro spent a trainload of cash on these monitors but has not developed the system to actually use them to communicate helpful information to customers about train delays or the time of day! What’s the story?

Tom Hackman, the District

DG: This Metro project is supposed to address the long-standing concern among riders that they don’t know about problems on the train lines before they go through the fare gates. Those screens will eventually report the status of service on the lines.

But they’ll also display the time again, just as the old clocks did. The units are being installed and tested over the next couple of months. But the time should return before all the line information is finally displayed.

Many riders noticed that the time is missing now, and they’re really annoyed, especially the riders who wait for the time to change so they know Metro has gone to the lower fares for the off-peak periods. They might have their own watches, but they want to know the official Metro time before they pay.

Crossings

Strategizing for safety would be a lot easier if we could focus our attention on only one driver, biker or pedestrian. But this next letter points out that many minds are present on a busy road. There’s the driver closest but also the one right behind to worry about.

Dear Dr. Gridlock:

Your discussion about drivers who honk at other motorists yielding to pedestrians dredged up a memory from the 1970s.

I was attending classes at the Takoma Park campus of Montgomery College. To get there, I crossed a very narrow bridge over some railroad tracks. There was no sidewalk and barely room for two vehicles to pass each other. Kids will be kids, and there were always a couple of them sauntering across the middle of the bridge. I’d have to slow down or stop to avoid hitting them.

Invariably, someone behind me would lean on the horn. I’m not sure what those drivers wanted me to do. Run down the pedestrians?

Tom Hoffman, Pearisburg, Va.

DG: I add Hoffman to the list of people I want driving near where I’m walking.

He’s not going to let an over-eager driver bully him into endangering pedestrians. He’s also not going to misuse his two-ton vehicle in some misguided effort to teach a lesson to kids being kids.

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