October 14, 2020

County Launches ‘Flash,’ Maryland’s First Bus Service of its Kind

Montgomery County on Oct. 14 launched its inaugural “Flash” transit service in ceremonies led by Montgomery County Executive Marc Elrich, County Council President Sidney Katz and Council Vice President Tom Hucker. Immediately after the ceremonies at a Flash station in Silver Spring, the County’s Department of Transportation (MCDOT) began the 14-mile service along US Route 29 that spans from Burtonsville to Silver Spring. 

Flash is MCDOT’s first transit service in which specially designed, 80-passenger capacity buses will bypass other vehicles in certain locations and provide high quality and reliable transit service and amenities at the same price to ride as any other local bus.

Specific information on the service, including maps and hours of service, can be viewed at ridetheflash.com. A video explaining features and amenities of the new service, including footage of the buses and stations, can be viewed at https://youtu.be/2m5jQT-wMJU

The dedication ceremonies can be viewed on twitter from @MCDOT and can be viewed in its entirety at any time at https://twitter.com/MCDOTNow/status/1316389438801543168. Officials who helped guide the Flash to its start, but were unable to attend in person, have provided virtual remarks to acknowledge the occasion. Those remarks can be viewed at https://youtu.be/xmAsohgt6Ss

Flash, which serves the County’s busiest transit corridor, has frequent service with fewer stops than regular buses; shorter waits at bus stations (15 minutes maximum); and runs seven days a week. Similar to Metrorail, the buses stop at each station, so there is no need to request a stop or have riders pay attention to their location between stations.

Flash could reduce travel times by an estimated 30 percent compared with current bus routes.

Flash stations are constructed to be at the level of the bus doors, so there are no steps to get on or off at any door, and bicycles can be rolled right onboard and secured to the first bike racks inside a bus in the region. The buses are the first in the region to employ a fully automated wheelchair securement system, allowing passengers in wheelchairs to secure themselves onboard.

MCDOT is currently providing all bus services free of charge in response to the COVID-19 health crisis, but when fares are reinstated, the cost to ride Flash will be the same as Ride On’s regular prices ($2 per ride, and all special passes and discounts apply), making Flash a premium transit experience at an economical price. With Flash’s free WiFi and USB ports for charging devices at stations and also on the vehicles themselves, riders will be able to stay connected while traveling.

Flash has comfortable stations along the route that feature weather protection, pre-payment kiosks and real-time transit information. Each station includes an interactive screen with public interest information available in seven languages. The kiosks include USB ports and a free WiFi hot spot.

New bus safety features include Mobileye, a pedestrian detection system that alerts bus operators when a pedestrian is approaching the vehicle’s path. Flash buses are the first in the region to use this new technology, which further supports the County’s Vision Zero Initiative to eliminate serious and fatal injuries related to traffic incidents.

More than a decade ago, County Executive Elrich, who was then an at-large County Councilmember, was the first to propose Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) lines to address the County’s long history of traffic congestion.

“I'm most excited about bringing high quality transit service to the east side of the County,” said County Executive Elrich. “We have a huge population that has a very difficult time getting to work if they don't drive. I wanted to make sure that residents have a transit network that is efficient and gets them where they want to go. I also know that if we are going to support economic development in this corridor, we must have quality transportation that serves it. I wanted to start making these kinds of investments to open up economic opportunities for people and businesses, but also to help the people that commute have an easier time.”

The new service links a continuous corridor of neighborhoods, retail operations, job centers and regional Park and Ride Lots. The route serves the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) headquarters in White Oak, and also expands transit connection options near the new Adventist Healthcare White Oak Medical Center and the emerging East County development that includes Viva White Oak.

“Flash is an innovative transit system that will open the County up to greater investment and economic development,” said Council President Katz. “This is exactly what we need right now. It will bring new jobs and businesses to US Route 29/Colesville Road in Silver Spring. I applaud this outstanding first step for a more transit and business friendly Montgomery County.”

Flash is intended to be the first step in creating a network of BRT lines in the County. The County is performing preliminary engineering and design for planned routes along MD 355 (Rockville Pike) and MD 586 (Veirs Mill Road).

Total project costs for Flash on US 29 were nearly $40 million, of which $10 million was funded by a Federal TIGER (Transportation Investment Generating Economic Recovery) grant. Flash vehicles and stations were all fabricated in the United States.

“Montgomery County thanks our Congressional delegation—Senators Cardin and Van Hollen and Representatives Sarbanes, Trone and Raskin—for their dependable and strong commitment to funding public transit programs,” said Flash Program Manager Joana Conklin. “Each year, they go to the mat and fight for Federal dollars that provide the crucial funding needed to advance innovative infrastructure projects. That is the case with Flash—a $10 million TIGER grant through the U.S. Department of Transportation made the difference, and our partnership with our Congressional delegation allows us to be here today.”

For the most up-to-date service information, riders should follow @RideOnMCT on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram, In addition, information is available at RideOnBus.com or by subscribing to MCDOT news releases.

Flash BRT Launch Silver Spring