BOYDS — Some people found leisure and enjoyment in what they did without their car Saturday.
County residents who otherwise would not ride the bus took advantage of a free ride, provided by the County for international Car-Free Day, on Saturday.
On Saturday, Montgomery County Department of Transportation provided free buses for people to travel between four locations, in honor of the occasion. Bus drivers who drove the special buses estimated that 75 to 100 passengers took free bus trips on Saturday.
Montgomery County buses traveled between Shady Grove Metro Station, Germantown Transit Center, the Clarksburg Outlets, and Black Hill Regional Park, starting at 10 a.m. The County does not have established bus routes to either Black Hill Regional Park or the Clarksburg Outlets.
Gary Erenrich, Special Assistant to the Director at Montgomery County Department of Transportation, said Monday he was pleased with the turnout of Car-Free Day.
“It was an overwhelming success…because there were families and individuals who rode, let’s just say, the Ride On Extra/Ride On for the first time,” Erenrich said. “And that was part of our goal. Our goal was to have people experience riding the bus and seeing it’s clean, it’s efficient, it’s nice, it’s comfortable, and hopefully they’ll ride more frequently.”
One local resident who took advantage of the free bus rides Saturday, David Yount, age 63 from North Potomac, said he had not ridden on a bus for public transportation for 30 years. His wife, Naomi Yount, 45, said the last time she rode the bus for public transportation was when she was a teenager.
The Younts had planned to take their 5-year-old daughter Ashley, a kindergartener at Jonas Lane Elementary School, to Black Hill Regional Park to spend time with her friend Naomi Beka, also 5, and Naomi’s 6-year-old brother Nathan Beka, who attend Wilson Wims Elementary School in kindergarten and first grade respectively.
Naomi Yount said she read about Car-Free Day on Facebook on Friday and decided to try it because her daughter had never been on a public bus before.
The Younts parked their car at the Clarksburg Outlets to board the bus to the park.
Naomi Yount said another reason her family opted to take the bus was that it would put less pollution into the environment than if they had driven themselves.
“Since it’s going to be driving here whether we’re on it or not, we figured we’d might as well be on it,” said Naomi Yount on a Ride On bus traveling from the park to the Clarksburg Outlets.
Naomi Yount said her daughter and Naomi became friends during preschool, but as they now attend kindergarten at different schools, the Younts and Naomi and Nathan’s mother, Tsigereda Ayano, wanted the girls to remain friends despite the separation.
When Ashley told Nathan and Naomi about the bus with “TV screens,” the two children said they wanted to ride on the bus, too, Naomi Yount said.
Joshua Mitchell, 42, of Gaithersburg, said he found out about Car-Free Day on Friday as well, when he was visiting the Ride On website. It has been a few months since the last time he rode a bus. He usually travels by car.
Mitchell, who drives for Uber, said he planned to go to the outlets to sit and watch people who were there. He said riding a comfortable bus without the stress of driving was a relief to him, and he chose to “people-watch,” because it had been awhile since he “did something for [him]self” that he enjoyed.
Mitchell said he enjoys people-watching “because people are interesting.”
“I guess I never think of it conceptually,” said Mitchell. “I just do it. I enjoy it.”
Some other passengers had planned to ride the bus regardless of whether it was Car-Free Day or not. They took advantage of not having to pay $2 for a bus trip in either Rockville or Germantown.
Rockville resident Emmanuel Suum, 35, said he takes the RideOn bus to work during the week. He was not working that day and was about to take his second bus for his trip home after visiting a friend when he learned about the free bus, so he rode that instead.
On the bus picking up riders from Shady Grove station at 11 a.m., nine riders boarded the bus, and eight exited at the first stop, Germantown Transit Center.
David Yount said Car-Free Day made a get-together with a friend into an adventure. He said he would like to see the County transportation department plan more car-free outings to different locations in the County.
“Everybody loves an adventure, right?” David Yount said. “If you had an adventure once a month… save fuel and incorporate it with parks and famous landmarks… [it would] encourage people to get out and breathe the fresh air.”