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Capital Spending FY23-FY28: My County Council CIP Testimony

Capital Spending FY23-FY28: My County Council CIP Testimony

I’ll share the testimony I presented to County Council’s February 9, 2022 public hearing on the county’s FY 23 Capital Budget and FY23-28 Capital Improvement Program (CIP)

Council President Albornoz and Council Members,

Recognizing that the six-year Capital Improvement Program (CIP) proposal covers a variety of worthy but competing spending priorities, I will focus my advocacy on bus rapid transit (BRT) and affordable housing. I support spending in both areas and regret only that the county executive has not proposed a greater amount for affordable housing.

Veirs Mill Road and MD355 are priority Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) corridors. Veirs Mill Road service will provide a much-needed higher-speed, roughly east-west transit option to a significant number of minority and low-income riders. It will connect housing and employment centers, reducing congestion and – particularly with bus system electrification – the environmental impact of getting around Montgomery County, as will the MD355 route. As a bus rider myself – but more important, as an environmental and equity advocate – I support full CIP funding of these BRT routes.

I will add two points: Current plans would have a significant segment of the MD355 service operate in mixed traffic, rather than in dedicated lanes, and there’s no guarantee that the Veirs Mill Road service will have dedicated bus lanes. We won’t have true bus rapid transit without dedicated bus lanes. Also, please keep Ride On fare-free through the entirety of the network, to better support riders who are struggling financially, grow ridership, speed trips, and boost operator safety by eliminating fare collection.

Affordable housing: $146.3 million sounds like a munificent sum. However that’s only $22 million each CIP year for affordable housing acquisition and preservation. That’s not a lot, given Montgomery County’s huge unmet demand for housing of all types, and especially for affordable housing.

Please see whether you can find additional funds for affordable housing, without taking funds from school, park, and other investments, and complement our affordable-housing support with zoning and land-use reforms that will encourage property-owner and developer creation of new housing without county capital investment. I urge you to bring Thrive 2050 to a vote and advance the zoning reforms that we all know are needed.

In conclusion, equity and environmental considerations call for robust funding of Montgomery County affordable housing and transit projects including particularly bus rapid transit.

End Transit Fare-Evasion Enforcement

End Transit Fare-Evasion Enforcement

I wrote a letter on behalf of the Silver Spring Justice Coalition and recruited cosponsors, calling for cancelation of a request for proposals for Montgomery County FLASH bus service traffic enforcement. We call for “an immediate end to police referral of fare evasions that are not accompanied by violent crime or the threat of violent crime. As soon as feasible, we also call for free bus service for all riders, building on existing free and reduced-fare programs.” Our message is below and also posted on the SSJC Web site.

From: Silver Spring Justice <>
Date: June 26, 2020 at 3:12:33 PM EDT
Subject: MCDOT Fare Evasion Security RFP

Director Conklin and Division Chief Hibbert,

Silver Spring Justice Coalition and the additional undersigned partners call for the cancellation of this solicitation and for reform of Montgomery County’s Transit Services fare policy, including an immediate end to police referral of fare evasions that are not accompanied by violent crime or the threat of violent crime. As soon as feasible, we also call for free bus service for all riders, building on existing free and reduced-fare programs. The reasons are as follows:

  • Fare enforcement is discriminatory. Studies in Washington DC, New York City, Portland, Minneapolis, Seattle, Los Angeles, and Cleveland have shown that fare enforcement disproportionately targets Black and Brown people, and that people of color face harsher penalties when they are stopped. In Washington, a report found that 91% of citations and summonses were issued to Black people, according to a article.
  • Police referrals risk escalating minor incidents into problematic encounters. These problematic encounters are likely to disproportionately harm Black and Brown people.
  • Fear of fare-evasion challenges could discourage immigrant use of transit. Some community members fear that interactions with authorities could lead to referral to immigration enforcement.
  • It has not been established that fare enforcement affects evasion rates.
  • Enforcement actions, even educational interventions, may disrupt transit service and degrade performance. This will harm riders who depend on punctual service.
  • The loss of revenue due to fare evasion will not pay for contemplated enforcement action. Enforcement is costly, and fares are set at approximately $2.

By contrast, free FLASH service (and making Ride On service free permanently) would have a host of benefits. It would boost ridership and lead to fewer cars on the road, decreasing traffic congestion and transportation energy consumption. It would eliminate the question of enforcement and its assorted costs. Further, free service would disproportionately assist Montgomery County’s most needy residents and visitors. It would help the County recover from the devastating economic effects of the COVID-19 pandemic, which has left many thousands of our neighbors unemployed or barely getting by.

In short, the cancellation of the fare-evasion solicitation, an immediate end to police referral of fare evasions that are not accompanied by violent crime or the threat of violent crime, and free bus service would have enormous benefits for the County and its residents.

Thank you for your attention to this matter.


The Silver Spring Justice Coalition
Christ Congregational Church, United Church of Christ, Racial Justice Circle
Democratic Socialists of America
IMPACT Silver Spring
Montgomery County Civil Rights Coalition and Defending Rights & Dissent
Progressive Montgomery
Racial Justice NOW
Showing Up for Racial Justice – Montgomery County, MD
Sisterhood of Salaam Shalom Silver Spring
Takoma Park Mobilization
NEPA and the “strange case of Maryland’s Purple Line project”

NEPA and the “strange case of Maryland’s Purple Line project”

Excerpting from am article in Governing, “What Judges Don’t Understand About Transportation”:

“NEPA [the National Environmental Policy Act] was enacted in 1970, at a moment when environmental activists were giddily enthusiastic about their ability to produce a cleaner planet through federal regulation… It wasn’t meant to be a statement of transportation policy, and for most of its early history it wasn’t that… And so we come to 2017, and the strange case of Maryland’s Purple Line project…

“The whole case provides glaring evidence of how years and millions of dollars can be wasted arguing about projections that can’t possibly be made with even a shred of confidence… Whether or not to build the Purple Line is a question for the democratic process — for the citizens we elect as legislators and appoint as managers. Reasonable people will differ on it. But when a judge hijacks the whole issue and issues rulings on spurious legal grounds, he undermines public trust in the judicial system.”

Read the full article at

P.S. Author Alan Ehrenhalt’s analysis in Governing could equally apply to Judge Terrance McGann’s ruling striking down Montgomery County’s Healthy Lawns Act restrictions on cosmetic lawncare pesticide application.