State of the Red Line Campaign – February 2018

While the Baltimore Transit Equity Coalition (BTEC) seeks additional principled support among legislators for our campaign to complete the Red Line, we have come to a point historically and politically in Maryland at which more specific, intentional strategies must be executed. For example, we are aware of the interest of the Maryland congressional delegation in the project. Cummings, Raskin, Van Hollen, Cardin have expressed support for the project. Nevertheless, they are not close to helping us finance the construction of the Red Line. (There is no Trump money for this project.) Theirs is only the “hope” of the stars aligning in our favor, i.e. a Democratic governor in November and a Democratic president in 2020. That is another way of saying “wait” when recent experience has already taught us that that scenario is not predictable. We have “waited” for Anthony Brown and we have “waited” for Hillary Clinton.

2018 will see BTEC distribute widely our solid evidence that Governor Hogan and Secretary Rahn deliberately misrepresent the costs and scope of the Red Line project to justify its cancellation as a “boondoggle.” In his testimony (Minutes 5:40 to 7:55) before the Maryland Senate on February 7, 2017, Rahn erroneously and knowingly speculated on the cost of the Red Line by comparing it to the cost of the B&P tunnel project. With its two-bore track system, the
$1.0 billion 3.4-mile Red Line downtown tunnel is a fraction of the cost of the $1.68 billion 1.9-mile B&P four-bore tunnel proposal. Rahn even stated falsely that a $200 million MARC Bayview station should have been included in the Red Line estimate. The Red Line project does not include MARC stations. The “boondoggle” claim has never been substantiated by Hogan or Rahn as is required by Title VI of the 1964 Civil Rights Act. In July 2017 the Trump administration accommodated Hogan and Rahn by closing the Title VI complaint and investigation.

In order for the residents of the Baltimore metropolitan region to have more control of our own success in a project whose window of opportunity is steadily narrowing, BTEC has not simply made a demand for the completion of the Red Line, but we have also proposed a solution that meets the urgency, necessity, and suitability of the immediate construction of the project.

Baltimore cannot “wait” and watch 10,000 jobs evaporate while despairing of crime and poverty rates or sit by and let two of three jobs in the region remain 90 minutes or more away in any one-way commute. That’s transit-detention for the transit-dependent. We cannot speak hopefully of reducing unemployment and do nothing but “hope” when the Red Line was designed and approved to bring immediate access to an additional 250,000 jobs in the region
within 45 minutes. The additional $2.5 billion in new investments and 3,000 jobs conservatively estimated for the transit-oriented-development (TOD) projects along the completed Red Line corridor are not to be abandoned while “awaiting” the “best-case” scenario: Dem. governor,Dem. president.

The solution that we have proposed is one that vindicates our resolute dedication to the completion of the Red Line. The creation of a regional transportation authority (RTA) permits us to take a more assertive position in the pursuit of the Red Line, transit equity (social justice), and its transformative contribution to the regional and state economies. The RTA is empowered to raise funds for the completion of the Red Line. We offer another feature of an RTA that can be broadly supported. That is, rather than relying on raising taxes and imposing increased fees, etc., the RTA is also empowered to sell land and properties to generate the revenue needed to finance or pay directly for the completion of the Red Line. This is a common
feature of RTAs nationwide. Seattle, Portland, Denver, Los Angeles are good examples. It is this feature that needs to be considered well and supported in the coming few weeks as our proposed legislative agenda is shared and endorsed by a growing number of legislators. (Senate President, Mike Miller, Jr. supported a similar bill in 2014, SB772.)

In summary, the RTA brings local/regional autonomous control to transportation services and systems in the Baltimore region. In fact, the Board of the RTA can be elected at the polls – giving it immediate accountability to the residents in the region, Baltimore City and Baltimore County. It can be granted its fundraising and operational powers in the same legislative act in the current 2018 or 2019 session in Annapolis. This is as long as we can “wait.” We must act now or lose the project entirely. Let the RTA raise its own money and operate the transportation system according to the legislative bills that we would have informed, motivated lawmakers usher through the legislative process.

Click Here for PDF of this report

Upcoming Event

Join BTEC on February 22, 2018 at Center For Urban Families 2201 N. Monroe St., Baltimore, MD 21217, 6:00 PM for our regular 2nd Thursday coalition leadership meeting.  All are welcome.


Angry bus riders at transit town hall meeting express frustration with BaltimoreLink

crowd of angry bus riders at MTA town hall meeting

Baltimore Transit Equity Coalition president Samuel Jordan participated as a panel member at a town hall meeting on June 26 concerning MTA’s rollout of the new BaltimoreLink bus system. The overwhelming majority of community members who spoke at the town hall meeting were opposed to BaltimoreLink, and demanded that MTA restore Baltimore’s old bus routes and numbering system.

Gov. Larry Hogan announced BaltimoreLink in 2015, claiming it would be a replacement for the east-west Red Line light rail and subway which he canceled.

Read the Baltimore Sun’s coverage of the town hall meeting here.

Guest speaker Del. Robbyn Lewis at April 27 BTEC meeting

Del. Robbyn Lewis

Please join the Baltimore Transit Equity Coalition this Thursday, April 27 as we welcome guest speaker Delegate Robbyn Lewis.

Del. Lewis has been a fierce champion for public transportation, and a long-time frontline organizer and advocate for the construction of the Red Line.  She has agreed to work with BTEC and help coordinate our campaign during the next session in Annapolis. Join us to hear her insights into public transportation in Baltimore and learn what you can do to help build the Red Line!

What: Baltimore Transit Equity Coalition meeting featuring guest speak Del. Robbyn Lewis

When: 6pm

Where: Center for Urban Families (CFUF), 2201 N. Monroe Street, Baltimore

Baltimore Sun: Obama administration announces civil rights review of Maryland transportation

rendering of Red Line

On President Barack Obama’s last full day in office, the U.S. Department of Transportation said it would conduct a sweeping review of Maryland’s transportation policies to determine whether they violate federal civil rights rules.

The department made the decision after investigating complaints about Gov. Larry Hogan’s cancellation of the Baltimore Red Line light-rail project in 2015. It’s unclear whether President Donald Trump’s Transportation Department will continue the probe.

Read the full story here from the Baltimore Sun

See the press release from the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund.

Join us for “Last House Standing” at Arena Players!

advertisement for "Last House Standing"
advertisement for "Last House Standing"
Flyer for “Last House Standing”

Join the Baltimore Transit Equity Coalition (BTEC) this Saturday for “Last House Standing”, a play about West Baltimore’s Highway to Nowhere. Afterwards, please join with members of BTEC for a talkback about how transportation decisions and policies have affected the quality of life in our city.

When: Saturday, November 12 @ 8pm
Where: Arena Players, Inc., 1801 McCullough Street, Baltimore MD 21201
Price: $15 per ticket and please make a donation of $5 to the Transit Equity Coalition.

Purchase tickets online here.

Letter to Paul Comfort, Administrator & CEO, MTA

MTA #23 bus

Greetings, Mr. Comfort:

The Baltimore Transit Equity Coalition has monitored with great interest improvements proposed for the Baltimore Link system. Like many others, we were encouraged by the prospect of “transformative” changes in the existing bus service programs managed and operated by MTA.

We are nevertheless concerned that MTA has perhaps overly promised. We note emphatically for example that your investment in matters of “reliability” may have functioned to divert your focus away from reducing commute times. Through our outreach with transportation system users, particularly the transit-dependent (those without access to automobiles), we have learned that reduced commute times is the transportation parameter that frankly “makes all the difference.” As a result, we have been led by our contact with transportation system riders to view commute times in a larger context.

Due to the importance we ascribe to jobs, economic development, and reduced commute times, features that characterize an efficient, multi-modal regional transit network, the Baltimore Transit Equity Coalition advocates for completion of the Red Line light rail project, which was cancelled by Governor Hogan in June of 2015. As an east-west transit axis, long-needed in Baltimore, a completed Red Line will bring major employment centers closer through reduced commute times, provide over 10,000 jobs, stimulate economic growth and development, and provide a connecting spine for disjointed bus and rail lines that currently dominate Baltimore’s public transportation options.

Reinforcing the urgency of reduced commute times, the Baltimore Neighborhood Indicators Alliance (BNIA) report, “What Happened in Baltimore and What Can We Do?” insists that with commutes over 45 minutes, “chances are high for a worker to not keep a job and become unemployed.” – BNIA (2016). Further, according to a report commissioned by the Baltimore Metropolitan Council (BMC), a source upon which you rely for much of your Baltimore Link system analysis data, the average commute “of citizens in East & West Baltimore to any regions with living wage jobs available such as BWI-Nursery Road, Hunt Valley, or the new Amazon warehouse is 90 minutes one way.” – Transit Choices (2016).

Not only would we urge MTA to build the Red Line and immediately expend its energies more directly in reducing commute times especially for the transit-dependent, but we would also have MTA take cognizance of the intersection that transportation occupies in matters of employment, housing, education, and health care. In other words, most apparent by its absence, has been any hint of recognition by MTA that transportation has a strategic role in the resolution of critical social problems. This is, after all, Freddie Gray’s Baltimore, a transit-inequitable city.


Samuel Jordan,

President and Convener Baltimore Transit Equity Coalition

Transit advocates renew call for Red Line as part of statewide rail network

Grassroots transit advocates from across Maryland gathered Tuesday morning in front of Baltimore’s Penn Station to launch a statewide coalition. Joining them were elected officials from around the state, including State Senator Jim Rosapepe, Delegate Brooke Lierman, and County Council members Hans Riemer and Mel Franklin from Montgomery and Prince George’s counties.

Samuel Jordan and Min. Glenn Smith of BTEC

The coalition’s vision is a “Connected Maryland” — a statewide rail network that stretches from Elkton to Frederick and from Waldorf to Towson. For the price of one recently proposed highway widening — the $8 billion plan to add toll lanes to I-270 and the American Legion Bridge — the state could build:

  • The east-west Red Line which will create a connected Baltimore transit network
  • Southern Maryland Light Rail from Branch Avenue Metro station to Waldorf and White Plains in Charles County
  • The 2007 MARC Growth and Investment Plan, which will run all three MARC lines all day both ways, with trains every 15-20 minutes from Washington through Baltimore Penn Station

“We need to look past today’s squabbles and think about our future,” said coalition chair Ben Ross, who led the grassroots movement that turned the Purple Line, once the dream of a few activists, into a fully funded construction project. “Investing in transit will create a more prosperous and equitable Maryland.”

“Transit is driving economic growth and job creation in Montgomery County,” Riemer pointed out. “It attracts business because it makes our county a good place to live. All-day two-way service on MARC would take us to the next level by meshing with the Purple Line and Metro Red Line to create a county-wide rail network.”

Prince George’s Council member Franklin added, “Creating an expanded rail transit network to connect Maryland citizens with good jobs is the key to building a world-class economy in our State. New light rail service from Branch Avenue to Waldorf will mean a faster commute to Washington for thousands of our citizens, and will ignite new economic growth and prosperity in communities all along the MD 5 corridor to Southern Maryland.”

“The residents of Baltimore City and all of Central Maryland deserve and need access to jobs, activities, and schools on reliable and accessible public transit,” Lierman said. “We could be a truly connected region through a combination of light rail, water travel, bus options, and bikes — but today we are not. Creating one connected region where employers have access to employees, and residents have access to jobs, depends on investments at every level of government. Coalitions like MTOC demonstrate that Marylanders from around the state share a desire and need for better public transportation.”

Affiliated with the new coalition are the Action Committee for Transit (Montgomery County), Baltimore Transit Equity Coalition, Prince George’s Advocates for Community-Based Transit, and the Southern Maryland Alliance for Rapid Transit. MTOC is led by Ross as chair and vice-chairs Samuel Jordan (Baltimore City), Gary V. Hodge (Southern Maryland), Karren Pope-Onwukwe (Prince George’s County), Ronit Aviva Dancis (Montgomery County), and Sharonlee Vogel (Howard County).

Baltimore Sun: Transit advocates renew call for Red Line as part of statewide rail network

Elijah Cummings: “Missing Links” in BaltimoreLink plan

Rep. Elijah Cummings

Rep. Elijah Cummings had the following to say in his Sept. 30 op-ed in the Baltimore Sun:

“For many Baltimore residents, the MTA bus service’s routes and timings determine the patterns — and the very reach — of their lives.

“Many of the Baltimore communities in which opportunity is most limited —and in which access to a private vehicle is lowest — would have been served by the proposed Red Line light rail system.

“This is why the governor’s decision to cancel the Red Line and walk away from as much as $900 million in federal funding that could have been invested in that project was a decision about more than just a rail line. It was a decision that will shape the connections and barriers that will continue to define the geography of our city and its residents’ lives for decades to come.”

See the full op-ed here.