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Increased service for Silver Spring circulator bus

ROCKVILLE, Md., January 15, 2015—Montgomery County Councilmember Hans Riemer today lauded Montgomery County’s dramatically increased free bus service in downtown Silver Spring. The Silver Spring circulator, also known as “VanGo,” will now run later into the evening and on Saturdays.

The new VanGo schedule is the following: Monday-Thursday: 7 a.m.-12 midnight; Friday: 7 a.m.-2 a.m.; Saturday: 7 a.m.-2 a.m. Buses will run every 12 minutes. Previously, VanGo service ran only from 7 a.m.-7 p.m. on weekdays.

Circulator stops are located at the Silver Spring Metro Station; 13thand Kennet Street; East-West Highway and Colesville Road; and Cameron Street and Georgia Avenue.

The new schedule for the Silver Spring VanGo Circulator will complement the existing circulator in Bethesda to provide improved transportation options in two of the County’s urban nodes.

“The Silver Spring VanGo Circulator service forms an important part of the urban area’s transportation fabric,” said Councilmember Riemer, who led the fight to secure additional funding for VanGo. “It supports Silver Spring’s growing residential population, efforts to get individuals out of automobiles and the burgeoning night-time economy there.”

Councilmember Riemer said the extended service will help people with different needs and purposes than were served by the previous weekday daytime hours.

“While VanGo’s old schedule helped individuals get to and from the Metro and parking facilities for their morning and evening commutes, it failed to meet the needs of a residential population who wants to use it in the evenings and on the weekends,” he said. “That demand is now met.”

Councilmember Riemer is also working closely with the County’s Department of Transportation, the Silver Spring Urban District and residents to explore rebranding and rerouting the circulator.

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Wayne Avenue and the Purple Line

I recently had the opportunity to sit down with neighborhood activists in the community surrounding Wayne Avenue. We discussed the anticipated construction of the Purple Line route, which, as you know, I strongly support.

As our council has reviewed various parts of the Purple Line route, we have requested changes from MTA and MC DOT. For example, many of us agreed that the plans for Lyttonsville needed to be improved, and we got a great result there.

I am concerned about plans for Wayne Avenue. Particularly, I am concerned that MTA and MC DOT are seeking to overbuild the new Wayne Avenue with more lanes than are necessary. For example, today, there are two lanes inbound to Silver Spring on Wayne Avenue, and they seem sufficient to handle the auto traffic. The new design would widen the existing four-lane road to effectively a six-lane road (by adding turn lanes and an additional transit-only lane) at the Dale Drive Station. The addition of left turn lanes at this intersection would result in negative consequences for pedestrian safety. This intersection is directly adjacent to both a middle school and an elementary school. While the signals would be timed to allow a 3.5-foot-per-second crossing speed for pedestrians only when other traffic along Wayne Avenue is stopped, we should forgo the turn lanes at this intersection in favor of building a pedestrian refuge on the west leg of the intersection, as well as providing for a better operation of the Purple Line.

A similar overbuilding of lanes at the Wayne Avenue/Fenton Street intersection, adjacent to the Silver Spring Library Station, would also have potential negative impacts on existing mature trees along Wayne Avenue.

Residents in the area are hopeful about the possibility of creating a “green street” or “boulevard” on Wayne Avenue. They want to optimally design and rebuild the infrastructure there with the planned Green Trail. This important opportunity to upgrade this street should be considered carefully by the County Council.

Accordingly, I am requesting that the T&E convene a worksession to review plans for the Purple Line alignment from the new Silver Spring Library to the Manchester Road Station. It would be helpful to consider the comments made by MNCPPC in their mandatory review about this segment, and to hear about neighborhood visions as well.

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Reducing property taxes for seniors

Seniors often have fixed incomes and rising expenses. About 9% of our seniors live in poverty. For some, property taxes are a significant burden on their small incomes.

I am pleased to share that the County Council unanimously passed my legislation that doubles the senior property tax credit.

Specifically, this bill will reduce the property tax liability for seniors whose property tax payments represent a large portion of their household’s income. In 2012, there were 3,063 recipients and the average recipient received $179.15 from the tax credit. Under this legislation, the average tax credit will double to $358.30. The additional tax credit will begin for the 2015 tax year, starting on or after July 1, 2015.

The age of eligibility will also change from 70 to 65.

While this may seem like a small amount, for our struggling seniors it could mean a lot.

Do you know someone who might be eligible for this tax credit? Please help us reach these vulnerable residents by sharing this information.

Learn more about this important tax credit, and find out how to qualify here.

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Making Silver Spring even better

What would YOU like to experience in Downtown Silver Spring?

To discuss this topic, I am pleased to announce that the Montgomery County Planning Department, in partnership with my office and the Silver Spring Regional Center, will be hosting three design workshops focused on “placemaking” strategies for Downtown Silver Spring.

Visit www.silverpringplacemaking.com

Over the past 10 years, county, state and private investment has transformed Downtown Silver Spring for the better. But there is still work to do. Do you have ideas for how we can make Silver Spring a better place to live? Attend our workshops and put your ideas on the table, hear what others have to say, and get involved!

This process is a new way of using our planning capacity, and I hope that it will succeed and become a model for other parts of the county.

What: WMATA Transit
Center Placemaking

Where: 8787 Georgia Ave
Silver Spring, MD 20910

When: Wednesday, October 15,
7:00 PM

RSVP for Workshop A

We have put together the following three workshops:

Workshop A – October 15, 2014 7-9pm, 8787 Georgia Ave, Silver Spring, MD
The session will examine enhancements such as temporary short-term green space and bike facilities as well as improving pedestrian experiences from the Transit Center to Downtown Silver Spring via Wayne Avenue.

Workshop B – October 29, 2014 5-7pm, Denizens Brewing Company
Focus on the community character of the Ripley District and the pedestrian experiences in the area to heighten community identity within the district. Creating a civic green space within the area will also be considered.

Workshop C – November 5, 2014 11am-1pm, TBD
We will examine the areas immediately surrounding the proposed Purple Line station in Downtown Silver Spring. These areas are slated for high density development. Participants will explore design options for the redevelopment of the Metro Plaza site (located on the northeast corner of East-West Highway and Colesville Road), a prominent gateway to Downtown Silver Spring from the District of Columbia. So that redevelopment can proceed in a manner best suited to this location, the workshop will address transit support structures and streetscape enhancements aimed at improving pedestrian connectivity.

Hope to see you there!