I support a comprehensive transit and road infrastructure plan that reduces traffic congestion, pollution, and provides greater security, accessibility and connectivity for residents all around our state. This will also connect people to jobs (thus fostering greater economic security) and connect businesses to their employees (thus helping our local economy).
A comprehensive plan requires an understanding of the varying needs of our residents — those in rural regions and coastlines (areas that are not accessible by mass transit and wholly dependent on over-congested roads), and our downtown cities (which often have unreliable transit options). These communities face different transportation issues, thus requiring different solutions. We must also commit to partnering with local officials and conducting community impact analysis before any action (something that Governor Hogan did not make a priority).
Here is what my Relief, Recovery, and Reform platform will accomplish:
One of our investment priorities should be the Metro, as many families rely on public transportation each day. They don’t live a walkable distance away from their jobs, or have difficulty getting to other essential services. We cannot cut these investments. You shouldn’t need to own a car (and be willing to drive an hour + in traffic every day) in order to provide for your family and pay your bills.
In the Montgomery and Prince George’s County regions, we should prioritize investing in the Purple line, and in the Baltimore County region, the Red line. In addition to expanding funding for Purple line, we should ensure that it extends to Largo Town Center / Branch Avenue, so as not to separate or exclude communities predominantly of Marylanders of color.
But what’s most important in these infrastructure projects is ensuring proper accounting of the funds used by public-private partnerships, transparency in timeline and costs, and a specific plan in place to assist residents who would be negatively impacted by construction in the short-term.
Investing further in MTA Mobility vehicles would assist those in wheelchairs, those with disabilities, those going to/from dialysis appointments, etc, who are forced to wait hours in insecure and unshaded locations. This investment would provide for more drivers and vehicles to take care of this population that has limited transit options. Furthermore, we should incentivize this option by making every 5th ride free.
Reform the MTA
MTA should always consider local concerns, perspectives, and needs to create a truly cohesive regional vision for transit, given that at the moment, it is accountable only to the Governor.
Other possible policies that could be beneficial are creating a new Greater Baltimore Transit Authority as a regional transit agency to ensure accountability and regional buy-in, and authorizing transit oversight boards made up of local representatives to oversee projects.
Additionally, creating a new board of directors to govern the MTA, including the powers of budgetary authority and general oversight, would streamline the direction of transportation policies.
Traffic and affordable housing are deeply connected.
When people can’t afford to live near employment centers, they move somewhere cheaper and drive to work — thus increasing traffic. And when low-income people are pushed out of job centers, traffic can still worsen within that job area because high-income people drive a lot, even when they live near transit.
Similar to the development in Montgomery County, we should build new housing on Metro Station properties by extending Metro’s existing property tax abatement to new high rise development. Housing closer to Metro encourages more transit (better for the environment), expands affordable housing, and spurs economic growth.
Smart growth is essential to the future of Maryland’s transportation. We should strive to create inclusive and walkable communities, building off of the transportation framework that is already in place.
Current plans to privatize and widen I-270 and create toll lanes in each direction are flawed. There has not been enough to address specific costs and timelines, which shifts the financial risk from the private contractors to the state. Furthermore, there is no specific information on how exactly this will reduce traffic, as congestion will still continue on the “free” lanes. There is also little information provided to ensure these new lanes would not disproportionately impact communities where low-income residents and people of color are in the majority. It’s like Governor Hogan wanted to find a solution based on a private company he wanted to help, instead of focusing on what’s really good for the residents.
These plans also reduce the state’s capacity to invest in transit options, as construction costs are incomplete, and future toll revenues are unknown. Instead, we should look at maximizing existing lanes and modes of transportation.
The existing MARC train service can be improved upon by expanding the Brunswick MARC, adding a third rail and all day/weekend service.
Synchronized Traffic Lights
We should synchronize traffic lights, as most traffic signals are not designed to connect to a city’s traffic management system. Instead, they run on timers alone and require the public to call 311 to report outages.
So instead of relying solely on daily peak patterns, we should adapt to “real-time traffic”, which will include smart growth options (pedestrian, bicycle and transit traffic). In other words, each traffic light should run independently instead of being tied to a larger timer.
As we have seen recently, Marylanders have seen a dramatic reduction in traffic due to many of us having opportunities to work from home. While this may not be a feasible option for all of us, I believe instituting a telework tax credit post-COVID, to establish telework policies, is achievable and would not require billions of dollars in new infrastructure investment.
Our transportation priorities should serve to protect the Agriculture Reserves/green space, save taxpayer dollars, provide for the success of Marylanders, and encourage more use of public transit.
Chesapeake Bay Bridge
Right now, the only connection between the Eastern and Western Shore is the Chesapeake Bay Bridge. There are discussions about expanding the bridge or creating an additional bridge. The rural Eastern Shore is already suffering under development pressure, as wetlands and other critical habitat are lost to condos and waterfront construction. Meanwhile, the region is especially vulnerable to sea level rise. So a new bridge (especially one built in the Pasadena or Mayo peninsulas) may not help. Instead, we must invest in low-impact alternatives like ferries and designated bus lanes to quicker connect Eastern and Western Shore residents.