GGW: Should Baltimore have a regional transit authority?

By Alex Holt
April 9, 2020

Out of all the transit systems in the United States, regardless of mode, the vast majority are operated by regional transit authorities (RTAs). These are supervising bodies organized at the local level among neighboring cities, towns, and counties, instead of the state. For almost 50 years, however, Baltimore has been one of the largest cities in the country not to use an RTA for its transit, but is instead controlled by the state of Maryland.

But with frustrations mounting over frequent mechanical breakdowns and lack of funding for future projects, the idea of shifting at least some of the governance for Central Maryland’s transit from the Maryland Transit Administration over to a regional transit authority has been rapidly growing in popularity in recent years.

And with proponents as disparate as transit advocacy groups like the Baltimore Transit Equity Coalition (BTEC), civic/business groups like the Greater Washington Partnership and the Greater Baltimore Committee and even some of Baltimore’s more prominent mayoral candidates supporting the idea, it’s worth taking a closer look at why so many people think an RTA could hold the key to many of Baltimore’s transit troubles.

What’s old is new again

To be clear, the idea of Baltimore controlling its own transit isn’t particularly new. Up until 1970, the bulk of the city’s buses (and until the 1960s, streetcars) had been controlled for several decades by the privately run Baltimore Transit Company.

Since then, however, it’s been a state-level agency, the MTA, that’s run most of Charm City’s public transit. While that’s resulted in some cost savings for Baltimore City, whose Department of Transportation runs the Charm City Circulator buses and Harbor Connector water taxis, and for Baltimore County, which still doesn’t even have its own full Transportation Department (The county’s sole bus system, CountyRide, is run through its Department of Aging), it’s also left them without many options when key projects like the Red Line light rail link between East and West Baltimore are canceled by the Governor of Maryland.

Growing support for RTA

But it’s not just grassroots activist groups like BTEC who are pushing for a Baltimore Regional Transit Authority and not just to try to revive the Red Line or increase transit equity either. The idea of a Regional Transit Authority has also gained traction with several local business and civic groups as well.

Other groups looking at the idea of a Regional Transit Authority for Baltimore include the Greater Baltimore Committee, an extremely influential organization of business and civic leaders in Baltimore City and five other nearby counties, which actually made “What is your position on the creation of a Regional Transit Authority to oversee the transit network?” the final question on its questionnaire for this year’s Baltimore City mayoral candidates and the Baltimore Regional Transportation Board.

To read the full story, visit Greater Greater Washington’s website.

Source: Greater Greater Washington