ACTivist Harry Sanders 1946-2010

ACTivist Harry Sanders 1946-2010

On Wednesday, Friends of White Flint member organization Action Committee for Transit lost one of its founders and pioneers in viewing Montgomery County’s future as transit-oriented. Harry Sanders passed away at the Casey Hospice in Rockville at age 63. ACT was founded in his living room in 1986 to support transit between Bethesda and Silver Spring. Sanders’ original vision gradually broadened, as he championed transit throughout the area close to D.C.

Harry Sanders, ACT founder 

(ACT Founder Harry Sanders; picture from ACT) 

Sanders was before his time in thinking about reducing Montgomery County’s suburban focus on automobiles. He was a walker, and at a time when people were mostly thinking about driving to the Metro, he thought about sidewalks and pedestrians as part of a transit system that served everyone. He saw transit as a way to help individuals, not just communities, especially to help lower-income residents participate more fully in their neighborhoods without having to drive. 

Eventually, Montgomery County adopted the Purple Line, a 16-mile light rail system to connect the Metro lines in Montgomery and Prince Georges County. And now Montgomery County is moving to recognize the value of building transit-oriented communities on a New Urbanism model, with density centered on transit stations, the way Arlington County did with the Rosslyn-Ballston corridor.

Sanders, like me, came to the Washington area during the Vietnam War to work with the National Security Agency, the code-breaking and computer research arm of the U.S. Department of Defense. He retired as a computer analyst for the House of Representatives in 1997.  He was quiet and preferred meetings to public speaking, but his self-confidence blazed through in his choice of colorful shirts. 

ACT has a brief statement on its home page: “How you reached the goal was just as important as where you arrived. . . . Through good times and bad, he pursued a vision of people working together on behalf of the community.” The Washington Post obituary is here:

Barnaby Zall

Barnaby Zall


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