Wednesday, January 27, 2016

Assessing MoCo's snow response + Rockville transit schedule update

A Montgomery County voter
is asked if he remembers voting
for the County Council and Executive
who presided over the blizzard fiasco
Here's an update on the current status of transit services, snow plowing, and pedestrian/cycling facilities in Montgomery County. Before scrolling down, let's assess the County's blizzard fiasco and what can be changed to avoid another one. The experience of the last few days has shown there are several areas in which the County needs to improve its storm response capabilities.

One telling sign is that DC had over 600 pieces of equipment to move and clear snow. Montgomery began with over 700, and was up to 800 pieces in the last couple of days. Should a jurisdiction as large as MoCo have not much more equipment than the smaller District of Columbia? That's a clear indication, along with the results and many complaints, that MoCo did not have sufficient assets and personnel in place. Snow operations personnel have been working hard around the clock; there simply weren't enough of them.

Second, we've been told 311 will "get it done". Several residents around the County told me they could not get an answer from that County service line yesterday. Later, the County acknowledged that a record number of calls to 311 were received, and that many did not go through. 311 had more calls in one half-hour period Tuesday than it usually receives in an entire day. This was largely due to the number of unplowed streets residents were calling to complain about.

Third, despite Councilmember Hans Riemer's claims of being an open data guru, the storm fiasco helped bring to light that - five years after Riemer took office - the County's online Plow Tracker map isn't actually a real-time app, and isn't being instantly updated from GPS systems on trucks as we were led to believe. The map should be updated to provide that. Of course, a fancy map won't mean much if the County doesn't have enough personnel and trucks on hand to get the job done.

Fourth, Riemer's sidewalk-clearing law has been a complete bust. It's not being enforced, and we're getting the same dangerous results this time as pedestrians are forced to enter the roadway into oncoming traffic. Riemer took an unwarranted election year victory lap after passage of his law, as local media sycophants cheered him on. According to a Gazette (much missed - not!) report at the time, "the legislation seeks to ensure sidewalks are passable after storms and should improve how the county fulfills the intent of its law requiring snow removal, bill sponsor Councilman Hans Riemer said. 'The goal of this bill is to make our county more walkable in every season,' Riemer (D-At Large) of Takoma Park said."

Are you finding sidewalks around the County "walkable" today? I thought he said "every season." Cost of Riemer's law, the public education component that would magically move property owners to obey it, and the County implementation of it? $6,458,000, according to the Gazette.

We are being governed by some very incompetent people, folks.


Metro has announced that the Silver Line is back in service as of this morning, meaning the entire Metrorail system is now operational 82 hours after the snow stopped falling in the DC-area. Metrobus is operating under a Moderate Snow Schedule. The T2 is back in service today (Friendship Heights-Rockville via River Road). Many of the J routes remain out of service.

MetroAccess will operate on regular hours today.

All Ride On routes will have service on the S-Plan schedule.

Free parking in County public garages and lots has been extended through 9:00 AM tomorrow, January 28.

The Capital Crescent Trail has been plowed, is open, and still slick in spots; caution is advised.

The Bethesda Circulator bus will not operate again today.

A tractor-trailer jacknifed in the southbound lanes of I-270, leaving the local lanes temporarily blocked as rush hour got underway this morning.

Montgomery County's plow tracker map indicates that all streets that hadn't been reached yesterday in Springfield, Green Acres, Wood Acres, Spring Hill, Mohican Hills, Randolph Hills, Rock Creek Palisades, Stoneybrook Estates, and Aspen Hill have now been completed.

Most residents' assessment of Montgomery County's response to the storm is decidedly less positive than that expressed by County Executive Ike Leggett yesterday at a press conference. Leggett was not pressed to apologize by media, unlike DC Mayor Muriel Bowser, who did issue an apology.

Leggett promised every street in the County would have at least one lane cleared by 7:00 AM this morning. I've located only one complaint so far after the deadline passed, from a service road resident on Connecticut Avenue in Silver Spring. If your street has not been plowed yet, send me an email at robert [at] robertdyer [dot] net and call 311 to report it.

Bobcat loaders and plows worked all through the night to remove and move snow in downtown Bethesda and in neighborhoods along the River Road corridor.

In the Springfield neighborhood, one resident with an unplowed street flagged down a passing pickup truck with a snowplow attached to the front. After some negotiations, the pickup's driver began to plow part of the street for a cash payment. The private sector had provided service before the taxpayer-funded public sector in a classic free-market exchange.

Sidewalks remain snowdrifts in many places, including along River Road in Bethesda, and in front of the Columbia Country Club in Chevy Chase. Leggett acknowledged the widespread problem for pedestrians at his news conference, but has not yet produced a plan of action to address it.


  1. As much as the collective response to this latest snow storm has been dismal by all involved (state, county, public transit and residents), the County roads were in better shape yesterday and today than the state roads. Hope you have a follow up article blasting SHA and the Hogan administration for their shortcomings...

  2. 28 in Rockville is terrible but 270 is nice.

    Sidewalks are awful and the snow is now so heavy that melting is the only answer. Homeowners need to be responsible - clear your sidewalk or be fined - period! No excuse 5 days later to have sidewalks blocked as they are.

    Too many people waiting for government to do their jobs for them. Do it yourself, hire someone or fall back on some of the service organizations for support. Kids cant get to school and those who walk for need or pleasure cant get around.