County Executive Marc Elrich
101 Monroe St, 2nd Floor
Rockville, MD 20850
May 22, 2020
Re: Ride On & COVID-19
Dear County Executive Elrich:
Thank you for your work in suspending Ride On fares thus far during the novel coronavirus crisis. This has protected transit workers and riders, ensuring that transit can continue to operate as an essential public service. Ride On’s continued service means that our front-line workers are able to get to work and those without private vehicles are still able to get food, prescriptions, and other necessary goods.
Montgomery County has an opportunity to “reopen” the transportation network in a way that furthers racial, environmental, and socioeconomic justice, as well as aids in our economic recovery. These functions cannot be achieved without transit. We don’t have to go back to the same congestion, dangerous roadways, and air pollution.
Therefore, we have two urgent requests:
1. We ask the county to publicly commit to Ride On fare suspension throughout the duration of the public health emergency.
This commitment is necessary to maintain the health and safety of bus operators and riders, as well as keep money in the pockets of those who need it most right now. Due to low ridership, fare revenue this quarter is already nearly half of the budgeted fare revenue, and even under normal circumstances is less than 10 percent of total revenue in the Mass Transit Fund. The benefits of continuing fare suspension throughout the crisis greatly outweigh the costs.
2. We ask that Montgomery County Department of Transportation (MCDOT) pilot bus prioritization, including bus-only lanes, on key corridors in a timely manner.
Efficient service is more important than ever right now. Ride On will need to maintain low headways in order to limit buses to the recommended 20 riders per bus. Bus-only lanes are one of the most effective and low-cost strategies for improving frequency.
We urge you to consider portions of US-29, Georgia Avenue, Veirs Mill Road, and MD-355 for bus-only lanes, especially in areas along those corridors that typically accommodate street parking. The time to implement this is now, while traffic is still low, so that as more cars return, buses can continue to operate safely and drivers can grow accustomed to bus-only lanes.
Finally, once the immediate public health threat has been addressed, we will need to rebuild trust in public transit so that ridership may recover. Although ridership should not be the sole goal of public transit, moving people out of cars is key to an equitable, healthy, and climate resilient future for Montgomery County.
To do that, transit must be attractive, easy, affordable, frequent, and safe. In the coming year, we urge you to work towards suspending Ride On fares in perpetuity, providing permanent dedicated bus lanes, and redesigning the Montgomery Ride On and WMATA bus network through a public process to improve service in a budget and job neutral way.
President, Steering Committee
Maryland Conservation Advocate
Audubon Naturalist Society
Chair, Environmental Justice Ministry
Cedar Lane Unitarian Universalist Church
Maryland Advocacy Manager
Coalition for Smarter Growth
Transportation & Environment Lead
Friends of White Flint
Glen Echo Heights Mobilization
Climate Policy Director
Institute for Policy Studies
Labor Network for Sustainability
Diane Hibino and Kathy McGuire
League of Women Voters of Montgomery County
Frank Santos Fritz
Chair, Montgomery County Branch
Metro DC Democratic Socialists of America
Lead Organizer, Montgomery County
Transit Alternatives to Mid-County Highway Extended (TAME Coalition)
UFCW Local 1994 – MCGEO
CC: MCDOT Director Chris Conklin
Montgomery County Council