MoCo Better Buses Letter on Ride On Reimagined Study Outreach

August 5, 2022

Director Christopher Conklin
Montgomery County Department of Transportation
Executive Office Building
101 Monroe St, #10
Rockville, MD 20850

Re: Ride On Reimagined Study Outreach Strategies

Dear Director Conklin:

The Montgomery Better Buses coalition members and other signatories are excited about the upcoming Ride On Reimagined Study and its potential to greatly improve bus service in Montgomery County. This is a critical effort for improving equity, addressing climate change, and making Montgomery County an even better place to live for everyone. While the study’s process is still in the early stages, we would like to share suggestions for how the Montgomery County Department of Transportation might work together with the community for a meaningful stakeholder and public engagement process.

There are many lessons learned to take away from previous community outreach efforts for recent large-scale county plans, such as the Climate Action Plan and Thrive Montgomery 2050, as well as best practices used for similar bus restructuring projects in other jurisdictions throughout the country. We seek for this to be a process in which as many people’s voices are heard as possible, especially those of underrepresented communities who make up the majority of bus riders and struggle the most with reliable, affordable transportation.

We suggest that MCDOT:

  • Create a Ride On ambassador program, similar to Durham, North Carolina’s, to partner with and pay community organizations and individuals with deep community connections and cultural competency to do outreach about the study on behalf of the county. Using existing relationships community organizers have built with residents will help to solicit honest and detailed feedback. 
  • Partner with existing community organizations. Many of the undersigned organizations would be enthusiastic to engage with MCDOT in this process by co-hosting outreach events, distributing surveys, and collaborating on other engagement activities. Similar to the reasons listed above, partnering with community organizations helps to build trust and connect with residents that MCDOT would otherwise not reach.
  • Conduct on-bus outreach to riders. Montgomery Planning has embraced a new model for master plans, which includes knocking on the door of every tenant in a plan area. A similar approach can be adopted for the Ride On Reimagined Study. Thus, we encourage MCDOT to conduct outreach on both Metrobus and Ride On buses and at bus stops, the most reliable places to find riders. 

With any of these strategies, equitable outreach in multiple languages is critical to hearing from all of Montgomery County’s diverse communities. Data from WMATA’s Bus Transformation Project shows that 24% of Metrobus riders have limited English proficiency, compared to 11% of the general population. Thus, written materials, virtual communications, and on-the-ground engagement should all be inclusive of the county’s most commonly spoken languages.

In conclusion, we are excited for the Ride On Reimagined Study to move forward. Deep and meaningful engagement with existing bus riders, low-income residents, and communities of color will make the study’s resulting implementation plan strongest. Community input is essential for community buy-in and for a plan that best serves the needs of county residents.

Action Committee for Transit
Audubon Naturalist Society
Bethesda Green
Cedar Lane Unitarian Universalist Church – Environmental Justice Ministry
Coalition for Smarter Growth
Community Development Network of Maryland
Everyday Canvassing
Gaithersburg HELP
Glen Echo Heights Mobilization
Habitat for Humanity Metro Maryland
Institute for Policy Studies
League of Women Voters of Montgomery County
Manna Food Center
Montgomery County Democratic Socialists of America
Montgomery County Food Council
Sierra Club Montgomery County Group
Takoma Park Mobilization
The Climate Mobilization Montgomery County
Transit Alternatives to Mid-County Highway Extended (TAME) Coalition
UFCW Local 1994 MCGEO
Washington Area Bicyclist Association  

CC: Montgomery County Council
County Executive Marc Elrich
Tim Cupples, MCDOT Acting Assistant Director
Phil McLaughlin, MCDOT Ride On Chief for Planning & Implementation
Dan Hibbert, MCDOT Division Chief of Transit Services
Deanna Archey, Senior Transportation Planner