Ho­gan tran­sit plan is al­ready mak­ing a dif­fer­ence

Baltimore Sun - - NATION & WORLD - Paul Com­fort, Bal­ti­more The writer is ad­min­is­tra­tor and CEO of the Mary­land Tran­sit Ad­min­is­tra­tion.

Con­trary to sev­eral re­cent let­ters to the editor, Gov. Larry Ho­gan’s Bal­ti­moreLink is al­ready mak­ing a dif­fer­ence in cre­at­ing an in­ter­con­nected tran­sit sys­tem (“We can’t waste the chance to fix Bal­ti­more’s buses,” Oct. 10).

The changes have come from redesign­ing the en­tire lo­cal and ex­press bus sys­tems through­out Bal­ti­more and adding 12 new high-fre­quency, color-coded bus routes that im­prove con­nec­tions to jobs and to MARC, Metro Sub­way and Light Rail.

The Mary­land De­part­ment of Trans­porta­tion’s Mary­land Tran­sit Ad­min­is­tra­tion con­tin­ues to launch new ser­vices with: new Ex­press BusLink sub­urb-to­sub­urb ser­vice in June 2016; ex­panded or new Com­muter Bus ser­vice this sum­mer and fall, with more start­ing in spring 2017; and high-fre­quency Ci­tyLink routes that will launch next sum­mer.

With in­creased fre­quency and bet­ter job ac­cess, Bal­ti­moreLink’s am­bi­tious plan will im­prove the re­gion’s eco­nomic vi­tal­ity. And it has ma­jor back­ing. The U.S. De­part­ment of Trans­porta­tion and the White House re­cently ac­knowl­edged Bal­ti­moreLink with a grant for North Av­enue Ris­ing to spur eco­nomic re­vi­tal­iza­tion in Bal­ti­more City.

In a re­cent op-ed on Bal­ti­moreLink, Rep. Eli­jah Cum­mings cited a flawed study of Bal­ti­moreLink by the Cen­tral Mary­land Trans­porta­tion Al­liance. Against the in­dus­try stan­dard, CMTA chose to eval­u­ate a sam­ple of week­end ser­vice when only two of MTA’s three core tran­sit modes were op­er­at­ing, from 7 a.m. to 10 a.m. on Sun­day morn­ings dur­ing Light Rail’s reg­u­lar main­te­nance up­dates. It to­tally ig­nored long-over­due new late Sun­day morn­ing ser­vice added by Bal­ti­moreLink.

Mr. Cum­mings noted the im­por­tance of strate­gic trans­porta­tion in­vest­ment and con­nec­tions to jobs. We agree, and Bal­ti­moreLink does ex­actly that. In ad­di­tion to MTA’s more than $800 mil­lion an­nual op­er­at­ing bud­get, Bal­ti­moreLink har­nesses the value of $795 mil­lion in key cap­i­tal in­vest­ments to up­grade the sys­tem with real-time lo­ca­tion and ar­rival in­for­ma­tion, 172 new buses, new Metro Sub­way ve­hi­cles and sig­nal­ing sys­tem, mid-life over­haul of the en­tire Light Rail fleet and MARC bi-level rail cars.

It also adds key tools to truly in­te­grate all the tran­sit op­tions into one in­ter­con­nected sys­tem with a trans­fer hub net­work, ded­i­cated bus lanes, tran­sit sig­nal pri­or­i­ti­za­tion, new bi­cy­cle ameni­ties, ac­cess to car-shar­ing op­tions and more.

Bal­ti­moreLink will pro­vide 483 more hours of ser­vice on Satur­days and 365 more hours of ser­vice on Sun­days. More hours of ser­vice means more ac­cess to jobs. The Bal­ti­more Metropoli­tan Coun­cil’s re­cent eval­u­a­tion shows Bal­ti­moreLink in­creases the num­ber of jobs ac­ces­si­ble by the av­er­age house­hold within 30 min­utes by 20 per­cent and by an ad­di­tional 12 per­cent within 45 min­utes.

It’s clear we have al­ready started con­nect­ing peo­ple to more jobs. In part­ner­ship with Bal­ti­more City, new, red ded­i­cated bus-only lanes were re­cently painted on Pratt and Lom­bard streets, ex­pe­dit­ing the MTA bus com­mute through down­town con­ges­tion.

In June, new Ex­press BusLink routes cre­ated con­nec­tions be­tween White Marsh, Owings Mills, Tow­son, and BWI Air­port. In Septem­ber, MTA added ad­di­tional trips to our pop­u­lar 310/320 ser­vice be­tween Bal­ti­more and Columbia. And this month MTA be­gan new ser­vice be­tween Bal­ti­more City and Aberdeen Prov­ing Ground, pro­vid­ing greater ac­cess to one of the re­gion’s largest em­ploy­ers.

These are all part of the Bal­ti­moreLink com­mit­ment to cre­ate a new tran­sit sys­tem that bet­ter con­nects peo­ple to jobs.

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