Montgomery County proposes bus-only lanes for busy roads

Everyday thousands of drivers hit Montgomery County roadways for their daily commute. For real estate agent Brittany Calomeris, it's a nightmare.

"It's terrible,” she says. “There's usually a lot of traffic. What should be a 20 minute drive can take, like, an hour."

Montgomery County planners say they have the answer. By dedicating at least one lane of the county's most congested roads into bus-only lanes, buses could bypass normal traffic.

"It takes some of the cars off the road, puts some of those people on buses and then the cars in the remaining lanes have less traffic to contend with,” says Larry Cole, a top level transportation planner for Montgomery County.

And when time is tight and budgets are even tighter, planners say it's the best option. Building extra bus lanes could cost the county up to $30 million per mile. But using lanes that already exist is free.

"There is a limit on how much we can expand and how much congestion people are willing to take,” Cole says.

And the traffic problem is poised to worsen by 2040, when the population will have grown by 1.6 million residents.

But experts say the personal car is still the driving force, and dedicated bus lanes won't encourage drivers to give up their keys

"Buses don't go every place that people need to go and in many cases getting there by mass transit is still several transfers and takes much, much longer,” says Lon Anderson of AAA Mid-Atlantic.

Officials plan to hold public hearings on the proposal through the winter. The soonest drivers would see less road space - 2015.