Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Tough crowd for Roger Berliner at the WPCA meeting

For those who do not know, Roger Berliner came to speak to the WPCA last night about transit and development issues in the county.  Aside from being a representative of District 1, Mr. Berliner is also the Chair of the Transportation, Infrastructure, Energy, and Environment Committee.  He was speaking to Woodmoor residents in his capacity as Chairman of the Montgomery County Transportation Committee at the meeting.

I was unable to attend the meeting because I am at college, but my father was present and he took very good notes, so I know what was said.  I spoke to him on the phone after the meeting, and the news I received disappointed me.  I felt embarrassed to call Woodmoor and Four Corners my home.





Apparently, residents were quite hostile to Mr. Berliner as he attempted to answer their questions, often speaking over him and not letting him finish his sentences.  Residents were particularly concerned about BRT and rumors of widening Route 29 to accommodate it.  Mr. Berliner is extremely knowledgeable on this topic, but instead of listening to him, many residents were dismissive and unwilling to hear him out.  Instead of taking this opportunity to learn more about this topic, too many people saw it as an opportunity to rant about something they have incomplete information about.   


Many people also kept pressing him on a Route 29/New Hampshire Avenue BRT line as an alternative to a Route 29 only line.  I wrote a post a couple weeks ago about such a line.  I think it would be a great idea, but it should not be viewed as an alternative to a Silver Spring-Burtonsville BRT line, but rather, a compliment.  Last nights meeting was an inappropriate setting to question Mr. Berliner on this idea for a couple reasons.  

Roger Berliner is a Montgomery County Councilmember, not a Prince George's County Councilmember or a DC Councilmember (the other two jurisdiction a New Hampshire Avenue line would have to go through).  He represents the interests of Montgomery County citizens, not the interests of PG or DC.  While it's good to tell him about this idea, many people were harping on it unnecessarily in a situation were Mr. Berliner alone could not provide the answer they wanted to hear.  The New Hampshire Avenue BRT line has been considered, and I know for a fact that it would require complex cooperation between the governments of Montgomery, PG, and DC.  While Mr. Berliner may work with MWCOG, he can not speak for those jurisdictions or what they will agree to do; but he can speak about the plans of the County Council, which he was trying to do at last night's meeting.  Instead of being open minded and allowing Mr Berliner to explain himself, many people continued to pursue the unanswerable question.          

I do not mean to generalize, as I'm sure there were some people there who came to listen instead of complain, but they were in the (silent) minority.  My dad has owned property in Woodmoor for 24 years, and he said last night's meeting was the most hostile and contentious WPCA meeting he has ever been to.  Many people were downright rude and unappreciative of Mr. Berliners time.  Behavior like this is not something we want our community to be known for.              


When an elected official offers to come to our community and address our concerns, they should be welcomed and listened to, not attacked as soon as they start talking.  I know politicians are not the most popular people in the world, but we should give them a chance to explain themselves and be respectful of what they have to say.  


It's fine to disagree with the BRT plan.  Disagreement keeps things interesting, and leads to the questions that hold government accountable.  There are many valid concerns that should be raised regarding the BRT plan, and they have been raised ad nauseam.  However, being rude and scolding an elected official who is a guest of the WPCA is completely uncalled for (such as one person who said "now we've educated you" to Mr. Berliner, which is a very insulting thing to say to any adult, much less an elected official who clearly knows what he's talking about).  I am writing a letter to Mr. Berliner apologizing for our community's behavior, and I encourage any residents reading this to do the same, whether you were present at the meeting or not.          


14 comments:

  1. Wow, thanks for this post. I would have gone, but was at an SSCAB meeting last night to talk about traffic in downtown SS, and a couple of people there were equally dismissive to the traffic engineers who came to speak. It made me sad, to say the least.

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  2. Sean, a few thoughts:

    (1) Unfortunate that anyone treated an elected official like that.

    (2) Most people in Fairland (including Briggs Chaney) and White Oak (including Lockwood Drive and Stewart Lane) do NOT use transit to get to work.

    (3) The better alternative, which Councilmember Elrich and friends have ignored (perhaps because they opposed its construction for so many years) is to reroute buses from Fairland to run to Glenmont via Md. 200 instead of Silver Spring. That provides better service for Fairland residents and removes buses from U.S. 29, and has no impact at all on Four Corners.

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    1. Hi C. P.,

      According to the Census, 20% of White Oak residents currently take transit to work. 14.4% of Fairland (your area of expertise) residents take transit to work. Those numbers arent that high, but they're much higher than the percentage of Four Corners residents who take transit to work (it's probably in the single digits).

      These numbers make me wonder how many people would take transit if it were quicker and more reliable. I doubt a large percentage of DTSS residents took transit before the Silver Spring Metro Station opened in 1978. I believe that number is now around 35 or 40 percent.

      Regarding your idea to run buses along Md. 200 to Glenmont, it's interesting, but I think it would be too circuitous. It's a 9 mile journey from the area of Briggs Cheney Rd and U.S. 29. to the Glenmont Metro via Md. 200. Once arriving at the Metro, riders would find themselves at the end of the line with few connections.

      The WMATA fare structure also makes boarding the Metro at Glenmont a dollar more expensive than boarding at Silver Spring. $2 additional dollars per day x ~250 working days a year = at least an extra $500 dollars per year for transit users. I think people could put that $500 to better use on things like food and housing costs.

      Running BRT to Silver Spring would connect to the Purple Line and the Red Line, giving BRT riders a one-transfer ride to Downtown DC, Bethesda, College Park, New Carrollton etc. Silver Spring is also major regional destination in and of itself, Glenmont is not, and probably never will be (Glenmont will improve, but it will not have the same vibrancy and appeal of Downtown Silver Spring). While it won't be easy, BRT must go to Silver Spring.

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    2. " It's a 9 mile journey from the area of Briggs Cheney Rd and U.S. 29. to the Glenmont Metro via Md. 200. Once arriving at the Metro, riders would find themselves at the end of the line with few connections. " This is an interesting idea. How much longer is that from the proposed route?

      Not only does Zilliacus' proposed option not make general traffic worse - putting BRT bus lines on under used 200 which mostly serves HoCo-Montgomery County direction (and would mean people think their bus trip is X amount cheaper than running their car through said toll road), but Glenmont and Silver Spring station are both on the Red Line. When that's not working, both are affected. If they are SS fans, it's on their Metro route. Also, Glenmont residents looking towards HoCo might like this plan.

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    3. "According to the Census, 20% of White Oak residents currently take transit to work. 14.4% of Fairland (your area of expertise) residents take transit to work. Those numbers arent that high, but they're much higher than the percentage of Four Corners residents who take transit to work (it's probably in the single digits)" Sean.. could you please post the census report you are using here? The representations you make do not comport to my personal experiences on the bus, nor with the numbers used by planning and council staffs at their presentations. Your census report might go a long way to resolving the conflicting perceptions.

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  3. I'm sorry to hear this. I don't live in Woodmoor but now I wish I had gone. Very short sighted attitude. Hope the crowd tomorrow night in Silver Spring is more receptive.

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  4. Amazingly dismissive attitude about the areas surrounding Four Corners! And mass transit is not just for those that do not have cars. Everyone should be looking for opportunities to get out of their individual cars. The Rt 29 route is an important piece of the County's transportation network and one community should not get to hold the entire corridor hostage.

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    1. If your saying I'm dismissive, I didn't intend to be. I have high school friends that live in apartments in White Oak and Langley Park, so it's not like I'm passing judgement on these places. The fact is that they have much higher poverty rates than Four Corners and they also have higher transit ridership. My goal was to remind Woodmoor residents that this issue affects people with many different lifestyles in Eastern MoCo. I agree that one community should not hold up this process like the Town of Chevy Chase is doing to the Purple Line.

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  5. Your father must have been at a different meeting from the one I attended. It was a good exchange of information including Mr. Berliner acknowledging that he was unaware that some of his factoids were factually incorrect.

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    1. He was at the same meeting. Tell me your name and address and I can get you two in touch. I'm sure he would appreciate a healthy neighborly discourse. Better yet, I'll be home for Spring Break in a couple weeks, and you and I could talk in person.

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  6. Very thoughtful article, Sean—well crafted, full of details and research. It's not necessary for folks to get out of sorts at these types of meetings. And good for you for calling out the anonymous poster!

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  7. Mr. Berliner is the Vice Chair of the Metropolitan Washington Council of Governments so I am sure he deals with PG and DC concerns. I wonder which developer is his biggest campaign donor?

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  8. Mr. Berliner does support some good environmental bills, however he is not from this side of the county and I doubt he has ever been here during rush hour-which is a problem---we need a candidate from the Four Corners area!

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