Hogan transit plan is already making a difference
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.