November 15, 2012

Regarding the Nov. 11 Metro article “Montgomery County considers giving more of the road to buses”:

It is heartening to see conversations about adding dedicated bus lanes in Montgomery County. A stronger commitment to public transportation is the only way to combat the ever-worsening traffic that plagues the region. But I was dismayed that the article did not mention the environmental benefits of removing so many cars from the road. Carbon dioxide is being released into our atmosphere at an alarming rate, and yet, even in the wake of dramatic climactic events such as Hurricane Sandy, scant attention is being paid to climate change. The primary benefit of creating dedicated bus lanes is not the reduction in traffic congestion; it is the reduction in carbon dioxide output.

Until a concerted effort is made to reduce carbon emissions, climate change will continue to accelerate. Adding more bus lanes not only has the potential to enhance peoples’ lives, it can help protect our environment as well. 

Howard Weir, Washington

It is good to know that Montgomery County’s planners recognize the importance of buses, but bus-only lanes are a bad idea. Implementation of this proposal would result in a huge waste of scarce road capacity.

The proposition that “one transit vehicle would take up to 72 cars off the road” is fantasy — a triumph of hope over experience. Travelers do indeed seek to save time, but the travel times they value are total trip times, from starts to destinations, which would be little affected by speeding up buses on a few main roads.

Tolled express lanes, like those set to open Nov. 17 on segments of the Beltway, would be a much better idea. Such a system would enable drivers who are willing to pay to make use of some of the space between the buses in the dedicated lanes. Payment could be made electronically (e.g., with E-ZPass), at toll rates going up or down to ensure desired speeds at all times. And the revenue from the tolls could be used to increase the capacity of the road system, e.g., by improving clogged intersections.

Gabriel Roth, Chevy Chase

The writer is an independent transportation policy consultant.