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Montgomery County’s Department of Transportation Launches ‘Flash,’ Maryland’s First Bus Service of its Kind, in Ceremonies Led by County Executive Elrich and Council President Katz  

For Immediate Release: Wednesday, October 14, 2020

Montgomery County today 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.

Today’s event was kept small in order to minimize public health risks, but a recording of the broadcast 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 because of its added features that include paying the fare at the station before a bus arrives, boarding at any of three doors on the bus, exclusive transit use of the shoulders along the northern section of US 29 and traffic signal priority that allows buses to get through some intersections more efficiently.  

The stations are constructed to be at the level of the bus doors, so there are no steps up 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. These kiosks include USB ports and a free WiFi hot spot.

The station platforms are decorated with unique, locally inspired inlaid mosaics, which were created by teen artists from Arts on the Block, a nonprofit in Silver Spring providing students with real-world experience in art, design and business. The Flash project also includes efforts to improve access to the bus stations through improved pedestrian walkways and ADA sidewalk upgrades, bike facilities and 10 new Capital Bikeshare stations placed along the corridor. 

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). 

“I'm really proud of the entrepreneurial spirit our team has shown,” said MCDOT Director Chris Conklin, “They had a fixed timeline, they had a fixed amount of money to make this project happen and we've achieved both of those marks. It's being delivered on time and on budget and it's taken collaboration among all of the groups within MCDOT to make that happen. Everything from traffic signals to our transit operators, to the design and construction teams—it has all come together as we wanted it to.” 

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.”

Operational changes implemented by MCDOT during the health emergency for riders boarding buses will remain in place. All passengers are required to wear a face covering to board and must continue wearing the covering for the entire time riding on a bus. All buses have a supply of face coverings for those who cannot provide their own. 

Riders are asked to make best efforts to maintain maximum physical distance between themselves and other riders who are not from the same household. Passengers generally may not board at the front door of the bus but can board through the front door to accommodate a wheelchair.  

Bus interiors are cleaned twice daily with hospital-grade disinfectant. Bus filter and ventilation systems are treated each night with a disinfectant. 

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. 

For department updates, follow @MCDOTNow on Twitter, visit the department website at montgomerycountymd.gov/mcdot, subscribe to MCDOT news releases or subscribe to MCDOT’s ‘Go Montgomery!’ newsletter. 

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Release ID: 20-595
Media Contact: Hannah Henn 240-777-8389