MoCo Moves Toward Its Own Transit Authority To Propel RTS


Updated at 10 p.m. -- Montgomery County on Friday revealed new information about a possible county-dedicated transit authority that could pave the way for a proposed bus rapid transit system. This fact sheet posted on the county's website explains how the so called Independent Transit Authority (ITA) could plan, design, engineer, build, fund and operate the county's existing Ride On bus service and planned Rapid Transit System. Also on Friday, the Montgomery County Delegation introduced a state bill that would allow the transit authority. The new organization, first proposed by County Executive Isiah Leggett in December as he kicked off his third term, would be made up of a governing board of at least five members appointed by the county executive and confirmed by the County Council. The governing board would adopt its own multi-year construction budget, hire its own general manager and senior staff and administer a county transit tax that would have to be set up by the County Council. That transit tax would replace the current transit tax and wouldn't be subject to Charter Limits. It would be a key source of funding for the ITA, along with the county's capital budget, state and federal grants, private-sector contributions, fare revenues and revenues from the county's Parking Lot Districts -- including fees and fines. "We need to make Montgomery County a more 'walkable' and 'liveable' community, which will result in a better quality of life for you and your family," reads the fact sheet. "That future, however, depends on increased transportation investment to accommodate more residents and to encourage job growth within the County." With Gov. Larry Hogan making it clear he prefers building roads over transit, state funding for the county's RTS project (which could cost anywhere from $800 million to $1.5 billion to build) seems like a long shot in the immediate future. At an event in August at the county's annual Agricultural Fair, Councilmembers Marc Elrich and Roger Berliner set out an ambitious timeframe for the rapid transit vehicles to be zipping up and down roads such as Rockville Pike, Route 29 and through upcounty areas such as Clarksburg and Germantown. "There is nothing more fundamental to the future of Montgomery County than making this happen and making it happen during County Executive Ike Leggett's being county executive," Berliner said. "The next four years, we are going to make this happen. We are going to move from planning to putting this on the ground." According to the fact sheet, the ITA would be "a government agency with the benefits of a private-sector approach to problem solving." Besides Ride On and bus rapid transit, the ITA would take up coordination responsibilities with WMATA and the state for Metro, Purple Line and MARC train issues. It would take over management of the county's four Parking Lot Districts, including the one in downtown Bethesda. Some departments in the county's existing Department of Transportation and Department of General Services would be reorganized under the ITA banner. In order for the ITA to happen, the state legislature would have to approve and the County Council would have to agree to implement it. Also key: Bond rating agencies would have to agree that ITA-issued debt is not a state obligation.

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