Accelerating the Electrification of the RideOn Fleet and Seniors Ride Free

MEMORANDUM

To: Council President Hucker and Councilmember Glass
From: Hans Riemer
Date: April 22, 2021
Re: Accelerating the Electrification of the RideOn Fleet and Seniors Ride Free

When the Transportation and Environment Committee takes up the RideOn operating and capital budgets on April 30, I request your thoughtful consideration of the following two proposals I will offer at the worksession.

First, I propose that we include funding in the FY23 Ride On Bus Fleet (P500821) to purchase an additional 10 electric buses instead of diesel buses. Importantly, these new electric buses would be earmarked for the mid and upcounty and stationed at the Gaithersburg Depot. To that end, I ask that the Department of General Services and RideOn begin work to build out charging and electrical capacity at the Gaithersburg Depot. Based on cost estimates provided by MCDOT, the fiscal impact would be approximately $3,860,000.

Combined with a proposed microgrid and other electrical upgrades at the Brookeville Depot, the County Executive recently proposed a schedule of 50 new electric buses over the next 4 years. These are smart investments, but they are geographically-bounded to the down county. My proposal would bring the benefits of electric buses to our mid and upcounty residents.

Second, I’d like to propose that we make RideOn and Metrobus free 24/7 for seniors and people with disabilities. Notwithstanding the current—and temporary—pause on all fare collection for RideOn, seniors and people with disabilities would normally ride free on RideOn and MetroBus Monday-Friday, between the hours of 9am – 3pm, Saturday, between the hours of 8:30am – 4pm, and half fares the rest of the time. Building on previous Council actions to make the bus access more equitable and affordable, I believe now is the time to make RideOn and Metrobus free for our residents most in need. MCDOT has estimated that this targeted expansion would require an additional $949,720 in funding for FY22: $705,620 in RideOn revenue loss and $244,100 in WMATA reimbursement.

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Police reform is my priority

Dear Resident,

You may have seen the news and footage about a 5 year old boy who was handcuffed and traumatized by police officers in Silver Spring, while MCPS staff did not intervene.

A tragedy like this should have never happened. It is absolutely unacceptable.

It is also a symptom of decades of leaning too heavily on our criminal justice system to solve problems in society. We need major changes to police work as well as a big shift in how we respond to youth in schools and people with social service or mental health needs.

Does that mean “defund” or “abolish” police? No — it means prioritizing police reform and charting a new vision for improved social services. Our police officers should be focused on solving serious crimes and keeping us safe.

To get there, your elected officials need to make reform their priority — and take on the defenders of the status quo.

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Doing the math on vaccination doses

Dear resident,

The pandemic’s peak is in our rear view mirror, but like a beast in a horror movie it is also chasing us. We have to keep our foot on the gas. That means continuing to mask and social distance while getting vaccinated.

If you are wondering when you’ll likely get a dose — or how far we are from having a high share of the County vaccinated — you might find the following information helpful.

Here’s the bottom line: By summer we could finally be ready to roll credits on this terrible movie. This is how the math works.

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Purple Line — why this matters so much

Dear resident:

The recipe for our future success as a community is not only progressive policy making but also having a strong economic foundation that provides higher paying jobs for our residents and tax revenues to support public services.

As a region with many companies that are turning scientific breakthroughs into commerce, our County government should recognize that strength and do everything possible to build on it.

One key initiative that I have been focusing on a lot: better connecting our economy to UMD and College Park.

UMD is one of the largest higher ed computer science institutions in the US. Although it is in a neighboring County, it is still one of Montgomery County’s key power centers to generate economic progress.

To build on UMD’s potential, we need a high quality Purple Line. The Purple Line runs right through campus with multiple stops there and then continues to downtown Silver Spring and Bethesda while connecting to the Red Line Corridors.

Degrading the Purple Line — as the County Executive is now proposing to do by “single tracking” trains into Bethesda and foreclosing future improvements in the frequency of trains — will really limit our County’s economic potential.

Consider this exceptionally pertinent example.

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Doses for Montgomery County

Dear resident:

I hope you can enjoy the weather this week. I take it as a sign of better days ahead — I truly believe we are about to cross over to a much better place in this pandemic. Nearly 200,000 residents have received a first dose!

That said, there are a lot of tough issues that we must continue working to resolve. And we must stay vigilant about facial coverings and distancing.

We need more doses — or we need a “MD Mass Vax Site”
In the early stages of the roll-out, there were fewer doses per person available in Montgomery County than in some other parts of the state. The County seemed to catch up more recently, but now I am concerned that the state is allocating new doses to “mass vaccination sites” rather than County sites.

The obvious problem is there is no mass vaccination site in Montgomery County, despite being the biggest county in the state! As a result, a lot of state doses are only available to people who are able to drive to Six Flags or Baltimore or other distant locations.

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