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Bus Rapid Transit could transform Howard County [Letter]

Howard County needs a new way to get to work and the leadership to make it happen. As the center of the Baltimore-D.C. region our geography is a blessing and a curse. We are nestled between two dynamic cities; however, we are just out of reach of the regional mass transit systems intended to serve each city. The absence of supply has not changed our demand; prompting thousands of Howard County citizens to spend hours on the road driving into and out of Baltimore and D.C.

This is why Howard County needs to lead on Bus Rapid Transit. BRT offers the opportunity to transform the way we work, play, and experience everything this region has to offer. Our business community supports it, our citizens demand it, and our leaders need to make it the top transportation priority for Howard County.

Howard County has an unmatched quality of life. We have great schools, great recreation, strong and diverse neighborhoods. But for all of our advantages, we have one of the worst commutes in the country. The idea that we can meet our transportation needs by laying more pavement is outdated and contradicted by available data. Studies have shown that additional road capacity is normally filled within three years with little to show for tens of millions of dollars in taxpayer investment. BRT provides a bridge to 21st Century that allows us to meet the demands of the future, while maintaining the regular means of getting to and from work.

Imagine a future where Howard County is connected to the economic powerhouses to our north and south via buses with dedicated lanes of travel, drop-offs at regional Metro and Light Rail stops, WiFi for working commuters, and a mass transit system that is fully integrated with Howard County's Green Bus transit system. Imagine a future where you can get in a BRT vehicle in Fulton and catch a flight to Paris out of Dulles and return to Fulton without ever touching a car. We should aim for nothing less.

This is not an option as much as it is a mandate. Increasingly, young people and retirees are leaving cars behind and are opting for lifestyles that offer walking, cycling, mass transit and convenient connections to amenities. We cannot compete for the best and brightest if we cannot give these folks what they want. If talent is forfeited to Silver Spring, Bethesda or Towson, our employers will follow, which will drain the tax base that has helped build one of the best school systems in the country.

There will be other transportation priorities raised and other objectives sought. This is a critical priority. Our regional neighbors understand this and are already taking strides to develop BRT in their counties.

The window of collaboration is narrow, but clear. We can either take on this great opportunity or watch it pass us by. I'm on board and I hope you are too.

Calvin Ball

Howard County Councilman

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