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.
President and Convener Baltimore Transit Equity Coalition