March 7, 2022
Montgomery County Council
Stella Werner Council Office Building
100 Maryland Ave
Rockville, MD 20850
Re: Prioritizing Buses in the FY23 Budgets
Council President Albornoz and County Councilmembers:
The Montgomery Better Buses coalition strongly urges you to support bus riders and transit workers in the FY23 operating budget, FY23 capital budget, and FY23-28 Capital Improvements Program (CIP). Our coalition consists of nearly 30 groups, including labor, climate and transit advocates, service providers, and community organizations.
Construct Bus Rapid Transit (BRT): Our top funding priority is construction funding for Veirs Mill and MD-355 Central BRT routes. Thus, we are excited that the County Executive’s recommended CIP funds these critical projects. Both of these projects are major steps towards transit equity. We also encourage you to keep the county moving towards implementation of the bus rapid transit on New Hampshire Avenue and on the North Bethesda Transitway. Implementation of the 2013 planned BRT network has taken too long given the urgent need for better transit access to jobs and fighting climate change.
Prioritize buses: We thank the Transportation and Environment Committee for their previous support of bus lanes on US 29. We urge you to ensure that MCDOT continues to be supported in its US 29 Phase 2 study so as to be able to properly prioritize this project, which should help us move closer toward true BRT on US 29. We also support other bus prioritization projects in Wheaton, downtown Silver Spring, and the Great Seneca Science Corridor.
Extend free fares: We are grateful for the County Council’s continued support of free Ride On fares, and permanently free fares for kids, the elderly, and disabled riders. We request that Ride On fares remain free until the Ride On Reimagined Study has been completed. Our understanding is that the study’s current timeline would result in a final report in Fall 2023. After the completed study, the County Council will have better information to determine the best use of funds. The Montgomery Better Buses coalition supports permanently free fares, but recognizes that this must be pursued hand-in-hand with service improvements.
Return pre-pandemic service: Transit is a vital public service. Bus riders in Montgomery County are overwhelmingly lower income, without a car, have limited English proficiency, and nearly 80% are people of color. Almost half of riders have an annual household income under $30,000. They deserve the same access to opportunities and amenities as those with private vehicles. Therefore, we urge you to ensure Ride On has the funds needed to provide high-quality service that is frequent, reliable, and reduces crowding. This includes supporting transit operators with competitive wages and high-quality working conditions. Ride On cannot get back to pre-pandemic service levels without a robust workforce.
Electrification: One of our coalition’s core goals is a carbon neutral bus system, so we are excited to see $152 million included to help transition the Ride On bus system to a zero-emission fleet. This is an important step toward meeting the county’s greenhouse gas emission reduction goals and improving public health.
Buses are the backbone of a sustainable, equitable transportation system and a thriving local economy. Every day, residents use Ride On to go to work, school, and medical appointments; shop; and visit loved ones. Transportation connects us to the world around us and is crucial to social mobility. This is why we urge you to prioritize buses, and thereby the people in them, through these investments in the FY23 capital and operating budgets and FY23-28 CIP.
Action Committee for Transit
Affordable Housing Conference of Montgomery County
Audubon Naturalist Society
Cedar Lane Unitarian Universalist Church, Environmental Justice Ministry
Coalition for Smarter Growth
Community Development Network of Maryland
Glen Echo Heights Mobilization
Habitat for Humanity Metro Maryland
Institute for Policy Studies, Climate Policy Program
League of Women Voters of Montgomery County
Manna Food Center
Montgomery County Democratic Socialists of America
Montgomery County Faith Alliance for Climate Solutions
Montgomery County Food Council
Sierra Club, Montgomery County Group
Takoma Park Mobilization
Transit Alternatives to Midcounty Highway Extended (TAME) Coalition The Climate Mobilization
UFCW Local 1994 MCGEO
Washington Area Bicyclists Association
Young People for Progress