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Sizing Up Baltimore’s “Consolation Prize”: Hogan’s $135 Million Bus Link Plan

In June, newly elected Maryland Governor Larry Hogan decided to kill plans for the Red Line light rail project planned for Baltimore, calling it a "wasteful boondoggle."

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Image via WBAL
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Baltimore had already spent $230 million planning the 14-mile line. The city also had secured a $900 million in competitive federal funding for the $2.9 billion project and was almost ready to begin construction. But Hogan shift state money to highway projects in more rural parts of the state instead of prioritizing transit in Maryland's largest city.

Yesterday, however, Hogan unveiled a $135 million plan called BaltimoreLink that will expand and reorganize bus service for the region. Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake said Hogan's plan is no substitute for the Red Line and represents a minimal commitment from the state to Baltimore transit. Be that as it may, the advocates at Bikemore say the proposal has a lot going for it:

The majority of the announcement focused on improvements to bus service, the creation of Baltimore Link -- something that is desperately needed and long overdue for thousands of Baltimore City workers and students that rely on MTA buses to get them to their destination. We are hopeful that these changes will improve transportation equity and economic vitality in the Baltimore region.

We were particularly pleased with the level of investment in first and last mile solutions. The plan includes:

  • 83 new bike rack locations throughout MTA stations
  • Partnering with the city to fund the installation of bike share stations at key MTA stations within Baltimore City
  • Increasing MARC train Bike Car service to all trains on Saturday and Sunday
  • Improved bicycle and pedestrian access to all MTA stations

Every speaker including Governor Hogan who took the podium today mentioned bicycles in their remarks. The level at which bikes were included and acknowledged both at today’s announcement and within the plan marks a huge paradigm shift for the state of Maryland. This past summer, Bikemore conducted a bike transit tour with Baltimore City DOT and MTA staff. We were pleased to see that what we discussed in terms of improved access, secure bike parking, and state level investment in bike share to ensure first and last mile solutions became part of Baltimore Link. The true test comes over the next two years, when as advocates we hold our leaders accountable to their promises.

At the same time, Bikemore writes, Hogan's high-minded talk on urban mobility rings hollow, given his history:

While it inspires some hope that our leadership at the state level is looking at innovative planning solutions to create truly livable streets, we must acknowledge the hard truth that this $135 million investment is merely a consolation prize to the $736 million in state transportation funding that was lost when Governor Hogan cancelled the Red Line. Those funds instead went to support fiscally irresponsible highway expansion in some of the least populated counties in the state. These incongruences -- holding a flashy presser touting the importance of mobility and livable streets but investing significantly more of the State’s transportation budget to road widening projects that undermine those same philosophies --will have to be answered for in the coming years of Hogan’s administration.

Elsewhere on the Network today: Transportation for America tracks how 10 key amendments to the House transportation bill fared in mark-up yesterday. Green City Blue Lake writes that Cleveland is considering a form-based zoning code that would make the city more walkable. The Urbanist explains Seattle Mayor Ed Murray's new plan to fill gaps in the city's sidewalk system. And Move Arkansas evaluates the state's plan to widen I-30 through the heart of Little Rock -- which would require tearing up part of the city's decade-old streetcar.

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