The Transit Challenge: What I Learned

Editor’s note: A number of local officials accepted a challenge from the Action Committee for Transit to spend the week of June 10-17 using only public transit, or active modes of transportation such as biking, walking or scooters, to travel around the county. The Source asked one of those participants, Councilmember Hans Riemer (D-At Large), who lives in Takoma Park, what he thought of the experience.

Here are my thoughts on the #moco #transitchallenge:

  • Long commutes are costly! An extra 1-2 hours a day commuting leaves less time for family and managing life’s responsibilities.
  • As a large urban/suburban/rural jurisdiction, long commutes are the norm for many people who cannot afford to live closer to job centers.
  • Living closer to jobs makes transit more realistic. That is why supporting more affordable housing near job centers is so important. You can’t be pro-transit and anti-transit oriented development.
  • The council has enacted zoning plans for affordable housing near transit and down the [Rockville] Pike and along the Purple Line and, if implemented, they will provide more housing to the market.
  • Turning MARC into a commuter rail with Metro-level service would provide a great option for many commutes inside the county or regionally. For example, my trip from Silver Spring to Rockville would be a great rail commute.
  • For many residents, using transit is just not a good enough option. Service is too infrequent and slow relative to driving. Expanding transit is essential to provide the option to everyone.
  • Cutting bus service (routes) in this year’s budget was a really bad idea!
  • Adding Kids Ride Free was a really good idea!
  • The bus is also a great option for many commutes. There are plenty of bus/Metro combinations or bus trips that are a reasonable time. For example, living in Wheaton and commuting to Rockville on the Q2 bus is super reasonable.
  • Would an ongoing #transitchallenge encouraging a mode shift one day a week be something folks would support? #TransitTuesdays, as @rachelvetica proposes?

Finally, scooters expand access to transit. Cutting down the time it takes to get to the bus or Metro is one of the best ways we have to increase the speed of the trip. Relative to the cost of increasing bus service by rebuilding roads or running more buses it is way cheaper. While we are in a learning mode about scooters, the value is clear.

Guest post and photo courtesy Councilmember Riemer. Top photo, while on the J2 bus home from Bethesda, Riemer met a group of students  taking advantage of the Kids Ride Free program.

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