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The MARC expansion and Red Line received a boost today as city officials and civic leaders held an event at Baltimore’s Penn Station calling for approval of financing and citing a major new report on oil savings and other benefits from public transportation across the country. The Maryland PIRG report, A Better Way to Go: Meeting America’s 21st Century Transportation Challenges with Modern Public Transit, examines the challenges faced by America’s transportation system and the benefits of existing rail and bus projects in Maryland and other states.
According to the report, the Maryland Transit Administration alone saves consumers $93 million dollars at the pump and reduces global warming pollution by more than 245 thousand tons. Around the country transit saves 3.4 billion gallons of oil each year, prevents 541 million hours of traffic delay and reduces global warming pollution by 26 million tons. Demand for public transportation is booming nationally, with transit trips far outpacing the growth of auto miles or population since 1995.
“This report shows why we need better transit in Maryland,” said Johanna Neumann, State Director of Maryland PIRG. “It puts clear numbers on how public transit reduces oil dependence, traffic congestion, and global warming pollution. Marylanders need better transportation choices; we need to get projects off the drawing board and into action.
Construction of the Red Line, which would connect Social Security/Woodlawn area to Fells Point, Canton, and ending on the Johns Hopkins Bayview Campus, has long been championed by the Mayor and City Council. It is currently in the planning stage, and federal and state funds have not yet been identified for its full construction. Community groups have supported the project as a way to stimulate growth and limit sprawl while allowing residents to access downtown without getting stuck in traffic.
“The Red Line will not only generate jobs opportunities and economic development, but it will foster community revitalization, improve mobility, and preserve the environment,” said Danyell Diggs, Red Line Coordinator for the City of Baltimore.
The Maryland Transit Administration proposed plans to expand MARC service in September 2007. Under the plan, the Penn Line train alone would go from a daily seating capacity of 16,000 today, to 47,000 by 2020. However, funding for the expansion has not been approved.
“As traffic congestion worsens, people are increasingly looking for choices for how they can get around,” said Calvin Peete, Jr., Community Revitalization Director for the Citizens Planning and Housing Association (CPHA). “More transit service, and communities that offer easy access to that transit, will be increasingly attractive as more and more people look for alternatives to driving.”
National public opinion polls show that 53 percent of commuters would prefer to use more public transportation if it were available near their home and workplace. An overwhelming majority of the public, seventy-five percent, tell pollsters that transit is the best way to fight traffic congestion.
“We have the facts provided in this excellent report. We have the surveys which reflect positive public opinion regarding public transit. Public transit clearly is an investment that, deployed strategically, can be transformative for the region – economically, environmentally, physically, and politically – bringing about true regional equity. It is a catalytic investment unlike any other.” said Otis Rolley, III, President of the Central Maryland Transportation Alliance (CMTA).
“Transit improvements and efficient land use design around stops is critical at this time when we are expecting a large influx as a result of BRAC and about 1.5 million new Marylanders in the next 30 years,” said Dru Schmidt-Perkins, Executive Director of 1000 Friends of Maryland.
“Moving ahead with the Red Line and MARC expansion is a key step toward 21st century transportation in Maryland,” said Neumann. “This report shows that transit saves Marylanders energy, time, and money. With rising gas prices and increasing traffic projected for the future, we can’t afford not to invest in popular projects like this that meet our state’s long-term needs.”
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