Maryland Matters: Opinion: State’s Economy, Environment and Equity Depend on Transit

By Josh Tulkin & Paul Strum
December 23, 2020

With light at the end of the tunnel now in sight after a year unlike any other, Marylanders can look forward to the return of at least some normalcy during the year ahead. However, whether current and future Maryland transit riders see light at the end of their tunnel during 2021 and beyond depends in large part on the Maryland General Assembly’s response to a critical piece of legislation that will be introduced when the new session begins in January.

Even more importantly, our state’s economic health, sustainability and equity for all Marylanders depend on the legislature and governor allocating the necessary resources to invest in safe, reliable public transportation that serves our entire state.

Here’s why …

Maryland’s Economic Health: Shortly before Gov. Larry Hogan abruptly canceled the Baltimore region’s long-awaited east/west light rail (Red Line) after nearly 15 years of planning, Greater Baltimore Committee President and CEO Donald Fry said, “The Red Line is a jobs line. It’s a critical piece of our economic growth.” This followed a report by Transportation for America, a Washington, D.C., based alliance of business, civic and elected leaders, which projected that over 15,000 new jobs and 7,500 new businesses leading to $2.1 billion in economic activity would result from the Red Line’s construction.

Sadly, the Baltimore region and state of Maryland are not realizing the benefits of this canceled investment – which would have included greater tax revenues and reduced public assistance costs. The entire state suffers when our largest population center and economic engine struggles.

Moreover, Maryland’s lack of comprehensive, reliable public transportation puts us at a disadvantage compared to other East Coast states where major metropolitan regions have long had robust public transit systems as well as states throughout the country where metropolitan areas are investing in major expansions of their current transit systems.

Over the past year, voters in areas including Phoenix, Austin and San Francisco approved measures for increased taxes to support expansion, maintenance and other improvements in their regions’ public transportation.

And on the other side of the Potomac, Fairfax County voters approved a $160 million bond issue to provide annual support for the Washington region’s rail and bus system – Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority. Transit is winning at the ballot box.

Attracting and retaining new Maryland businesses and residents in the 21st century clearly requires greater investment in public transportation.

To read the complete article, visit the Maryland Matters website.

Source: Maryland Matters

Also see: Letter calling on Congress to make fundamental changes to federal transportation program