On Monday, a newly elected county council was sworn in in Montgomery County. This council includes three new at-large members—Evan Glass, Will Jawando, and Gabe Albornoz—as well a new member for District 1 Andrew Friedson and returning members Hans Riemer, Tom Hucker, Nancy Navarro, Sidney Katz, and Craig Rice.
On Tuesday, members of the council headed to work for their first day in session. Evan Glass, who promised he would take the bus if elected, followed through. He recorded and posted his journey here.
Glass lives in Silver Spring inside the beltway off Colesville Road (US-29), just over a mile outside of downtown Silver Spring. He starts his commute by crossing six-lane Colesville Road at a marked but unsignalised intersection to access a stop for southbound buses at the other side of the street. This early part of the video could come with a content warning: narrow sidewalks, high speed traffic, failure to yield to pedestrians. At these speeds, a walker or cyclist has a good chance of dying if hit.
Glass makes it safely across the street, and catches a Ride-On bus 22 to the Silver Spring transit center, then a connection on a WMATA bus Q2 to the county office building in Rockville. He’s upbeat about the trip. He meets a fellow county employee, and takes advantage of the time to catch up on his council orientation packet.
On Twitter, Glass admitted the journey took 80 minutes, which is about as expected according to Google Maps. By car, this trip might have taken as little as 20 minutes using I-495 and I-270. Even with heavy rush hour traffic, Glass would likely have gotten to his destination much faster if he’d driven.
During his campaigns for county council, Glass emphasized to his urbanist allies that he takes the bus and only bought a second car for his household when he began a county-wide campaign.
I applaud his commitment to taking the bus even when it’s slower. I take the bus most days to my own day job, too, even though most people in my office wouldn’t consider it. I know that for most people, the speed of driving a personal vehicle versus the unreliability, poor pedestrian safety infrastructure, and inefficiency of transit makes their transportation decision easy. If they have a car, if they can afford to own a car, and if there’s easy subsidized parking at their workplace—they drive.
Given our growing population and the impending threat of climate change, driving alone is not sustainable for the future of our county and region. We need to find a way to get people out of cars. The new Bus Rapid Transit line on US-29, which runs right near Glass’ home, is a good start (though it won’t help Glass get to Rockville). Ride-On and WMATA buses need to run more frequently and reliably as well. We need safer car-free routes to bus stops and workplaces. We need to commit to Vision Zero.
I’m thrilled that we have a councilmember who has experienced, and is continuing to experience, our transit system firsthand. This is a rarity, even in a large metro area like ours with a relatively large carfree population and transit modeshare. This makes Evan Glass our Urbanist Hero of the Week!
In the new council term, Glass, along with Tom Hucker and Hans Riemer, will serve on the Transportation and Environment Committee. I count on him, and the rest of the council, to push hard for safer and more effective alternatives to driving.
I do hope that Glass continues to ride the bus to work. And maybe one day, when the bus is late, he’ll be in the right place to make some noise about it.