The Montgomery County Department of Transportation (MCDOT) celebrated the one-year anniversary of the County’s first rapid transit service—the Flash—with special greetings of riders on Oct. 14. More than 500,000 riders have used the frequent and reliable Flash service. And now the County is looking toward expansion.
MCDOT outreach teams were at several Flash stations on Oct. 14 to greet riders, solicit feedback about the service and distribute Flash anniversary items to riders.
The Flash currently operates on Colesville Road/Columbia Pike (US 29) and connects Downtown Silver Spring Transit Center with White Oak, Briggs Chaney and Burtonsville with stops along the way. Flash buses feature bike racks inside, free Wi-Fi service and USB ports.
The Flash has two routes that each start at the Silver Spring Transit Center. The Orange route makes 10 stops from the Transit Center to Briggs Chaney. The Blue route makes five stops from the Transit Center, ending at the Park and Ride in Burtonsville.
The service—which uses 60-foot-long articulated buses—carries more than 1,800 riders per day. Buses run every 15 minutes from 5:30 a.m. until midnight seven days a week and twice as often during peak hours. At full capacity, the buses can transport up to 80 passengers and are more time-efficient than traditional buses.
The US 29 Flash was the first step in creating a network of rapid transit lines in the County. The County is performing preliminary engineering and design for it next two planned Flash corridors along MD 355 (Rockville Pike) and MD 586 (Veirs Mill Road). It also is in preliminary planning stages for New Hampshire Avenue and North Bethesda.
“Many of our residents depend on our public transportation systems to get to work, school and to run essential errands for their families,” said County Executive Marc Elrich. “They deserve a transit network that is efficient and gets them where they want to go. That is why we will continue to work to improve and expand Flash to support economic development and improve quality of life. Effective and efficient public transportation is good for the economy, our residents and the environment.”
The service along US29 links a continuous corridor of neighborhoods, retail operations, job centers and regional Park and Ride lots. The route serves the Food and Drug Administration headquarters in White Oak and expands transit connection options near the new Adventist Healthcare White Oak Medical Center and the emerging East County development that includes Viva White Oak.
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 the regular price of Ride On. That will make Flash a premium transit experience at an economical price.
Flash has distinctive, modern stations along the route that feature weather protection, pre-payment kiosks and real-time transit information.
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.
“I'm encouraged by the success the Flash has seen in its first year despite the unprecedented impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic on transit services,” said MCDOT Director Chris Conklin, “The Flash has demonstrated its ability to provide fast, comfortable and reliable travel in Montgomery County. This system is shaping the future of local transit. Even with the pandemic, our ridership numbers demonstrate that this is a valued transit system, and we are looking forward to its expansion.”
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.
MCDOT continues to advance planning for additional improvements to US 29, including dedicated lanes for transit and adding high occupancy vehicle lanes.