Montgomery County’s new Vision Zero coordinator has been doing the job for the last two years.
County Executive Marc Elrich announced Monday that Wade Holland — the interim coordinator for the county’s Vision Zero plan — will assume the role full-time. The position has been characterized as vital to meeting Vision Zero targets, which aim to significantly reduce or even eliminate traffic-related deaths and serious injuries by 2030.
Holland’s annual salary is $94,576, according to Barry Hudson, a spokesman for the Elrich administration.
Holland stepped in as interim coordinator in 2017, shortly after the county unveiled its two-year action plan. He balanced the role with his full-time job as a data analyst for the CountyStat team — a branch of the executive office that assesses the effectiveness of county services.
In an earlier interview, Holland said he spent eight to 40 hours a week overseeing the Vision Zero program. But calls for a full-time coordinator continued to grow throughout 2019, as the county experienced 13 pedestrian deaths and one cyclist fatality.
In December, Council Member Evan Glass — a frequent champion of pedestrian safety — questioned why the hiring process was nearly a year behind schedule. Under the original Vision Zero plan, adopted by then-County Executive Ike Leggett, a full-time coordinator was supposed to be hired by January 2018.
Holland said the position had been tied up in bureaucracy. Leggett initially planned for the role to be filled by a contractor, which required executive employees to draft a lengthy request for proposal and research potential contractors.
But when Elrich was elected in November 2018 — on a platform of priorities that included pedestrian safety — his administration questioned why the position was being filled by a contractor.
The executive team sent out the contracting proposal in May 2019, but none of the applications met the county’s criteria. Later that summer, Elrich and the Montgomery County Department of Transportation decided to create a full-time county position within the executive office.
Holland helped draft the job description and posted it in November. At the time, he said, he wasn’t sure if he wanted to apply for the position. It took until the last week of the month-long application window for him to decide to try for the job.
“There’s nothing like a deadline to help you make up your mind,” Holland said in a phone interview on Monday.
Both he and Assistant Chief Administrator Adriana Hochberg, who handles environment and transportation issues for the Elrich administration, said he was recused from the hiring process after he submitted his application.
“At the end of the day, Wade emerged as the most qualified candidate,” Hochberg added in an interview on Monday. The executive team received around 25 applications and interviewed four candidates, she said, including Holland.
Montgomery County is one of several jurisdictions to adopt a Vision Zero plan as pedestrian and cyclist fatalities increase across the country. Hochberg described it as a “nationwide crisis” — one that Holland attributed to multiple factors, including an overall rise in miles traveled by car and the increasing popularity of trucks and SUVs.
Not every jurisdiction has hired a full-time coordinator to oversee the plan.
In a previous interview, Glass said the position was important for communication between the multiple departments responsible for carrying out Vision Zero initiatives — from Montgomery County police to the Maryland State Highway Administration, which oversees many of the county’s most heavily trafficked roads.
After months of advocating that the County Executive appoint a Vision Zero coordinator, I’m pleased by today’s announcement. pic.twitter.com/OXa75ngYE4
— Evan Glass (@EvanMGlass) January 27, 2020
On Monday, the county also unveiled a one-year work plan as a stopgap between the 2017 program and a 10-year plan scheduled for release at the end of 2020.
The short-term strategy sets 32 Vision Zero goals for the county to accomplish within the year. They include installing new pedestrian signals and implementing recommendations from a recent bus stop audit to reduce pedestrian crashes near transit facilities.
But at his announcement on Monday, Elrich called on Holland and partnering departments to develop quick-fix strategies that could enhance pedestrian safety quickly. He cited ongoing efforts in Washington, D.C., to install plastic flex posts near crosswalks — sharpening turns and slowing down drivers — or improving the lighting near intersections and bus stops.
“We’ve gotta find innovative solutions and we’ve gotta find them faster than we’re finding them,” Elrich said. “We spend a lot of time talking about high-tech engineering solutions that would require years and more money than we can put our finger on to solve them.”