Del. Robbyn Lewis is part of the 28.9 percent of Baltimore City residents who don’t have access to a personal car and now she is using a new vehicle — the #TransitChallenge — to point out inadequacies in Baltimore City’s public transit system.
The challenge was initiated on Twitter by the Action Committee for Transit in Montgomery County. Starting this past Monday and lasting until Sunday, members of the Montgomery County Council and Planning Board are leaving their cars in “park” and using only public transit or active transportation to get around, according to a news release.
“The rules for the game are basically you try not to take your private car — you use the bus, metro, bicycle or walk, and people have been doing it and posting on social media,” ACT President Nick Brand said. “It’s a way for the council members to see firsthand the issues that public transit users face.”
Brand was honored to see Lewis, who has been outspoken about insufficient and unreliable public transit in Baltimore and has been car-free since 2014, take up the challenge on her own.
“Every day of my life is a transit challenge, because I’m car-free by choice in a car dependent town!” the self-proclaimed social media maven tweeted Monday during her morning bus ride.
“I’m car-free, but I still have to depend on fossil-fuel-burning vehicles, not infrequently, because of the lack of investment we have made in this city and in our region,” Lewis said in an interview.
Lewis’ followers are supporting her involvement. One of them, Josh Tulkin, director of the Maryland Sierra Club told her on Twitter: “I’m loving your posts because they are honest. So often transit advocacy is a fight to validate transit as a viable option, which can sometimes mean glossing over the problems. This is real.”
Academics and activists are also involved.
“People depend on transit for so many different reasons!” Samir Paul, computer science teacher at Montgomery County Public Schools, tweeted in response to the challenge. “Too young, too old, differently-abled, can’t afford a car, don’t want a car, etc. Let’s serve them!”
Brand credited social media for increasing awareness of the challenge not only across the country, but also internationally.
“We got a post on Facebook from one of the first Australia transit activists saying, ‘I think this is a great idea we want to go see if we can get our city council to take the challenge,’” Brand said.