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BALTIMORE – In the wake of Governor O’Malley’s announcement to spend nearly 40 percent of the first wave of infrastructure funds from the economic recovery package on transit projects, Maryland PIRG released today a report at Baltimore’s historic Penn Station to lay out the next steps in moving forward transportation projects that will help Marylanders spend less on gas, reduce traffic congestion, and curb our addiction to oil.
“Governor O’Malley has made a good down payment by investing almost 40 percent of the first wave of stimulus funds in public transit,” said Kristi Horvath, policy associate at Maryland PIRG. “Continued investment in public transit projects will be crucial for Maryland to succeed in the 21st Century.”
Maryland PIRG’s report, Making Tracks: The Case for Building a 21st Century Public Transportation Network in Maryland, lays out a comprehensive plan for public transit projects in Maryland that will create jobs, reduce traffic, and cut our dependence on oil. The report warned about the dangers of relying on new road construction to address traffic problems and named the following projects as crucial in moving Maryland’s transportation future forward:
- Creating a true regional rail system for Baltimore
- Building the Washington Metro Purple Line
- Improving MARC commuter rail options and commuter bus services.
- Building transit to link urban centers with quickly growing areas, such the Corridor Cities Transitway
- Helping counties, smaller cities and towns provide bus, carpool and bike-friendly services
"Maryland is facing a transportation crisis as our roads get more crowded every day” said Otis Rolley, III, President of the Central Maryland Transportation Alliance. “By investing in public transit projects that connect to and enhance one another, Maryland will boast a 21st century transportation system that offers citizens efficient, affordable, and reliable transportation options.”
Marylanders have the second longest average commute time in the country, second only to New York State. The average Maryland employee spends 30.2 minutes commuting to work each day.
“I am fortunate to have an alternative to driving to D.C. from Baltimore every day,” said Ben Larson, a MARC Penn Line commuter. “But I know lots of people who waste hours every day stuck in traffic. That’s time they could be spending reading, working or playing with their kids.”
Marylanders are ready for more public transit. Despite limited transit options and falling gas prices, the number of miles that passengers traveled on the state’s public transportation services increased by 50 percent between 1991 and 2007. Last year alone, transit ridership in Maryland was up 10.3 percent from October 2007 to October 2008 according to the MTA.
“We saw a huge spike in transit ridership while gas prices were high last summer, but ridership has continued to remain at high levels as prices have dropped,” said Henry Kay, MTA Deputy Administrator. “Marylanders may have turned to transit hesitantly in the beginning, but they have realized its many benefits and have stayed on board.”
Public transportation saves commuters time and money. In 2005, Baltimore’s public transit network alone averted nearly 10 million hours of traffic delays and saved consumers $200 million.
To build support for a 21st century transportation network, Maryland PIRG has been working with Maryland state delegates, senators, mayors, and planning organizations to add their names in support of the organization’s “21st Century Transportation Principles”, calling for more and better public transit, for using a fix-it-first approach to highway and bridge construction, and for investing in transportation projects that reduce oil dependence and global warming pollution. So far, 30 elected officials across the state have signed on to show their support.
The Maryland PIRG report recommends that Maryland elected officials should:
- Lay out a clear plan and timeline for more and better public transit in Maryland. The state needs a compelling vision for change. Unifying a variety of projects under a single plan will additionally help capture the efficiencies of integrated planning and design.
- Allocate funds to make the vision a reality. Maryland continues to spend large sums on expanding highways. While crumbling roads and bridges should be repaired, the focus of Maryland’s transportation spending should be providing an investment for the future, not repeating past mistakes. The state should adjust its priorities for distributing money from the Transportation Trust Fund to provide dedicated and sustained funding for good transit investments.
- Urge Congress to enact a new federal transportation funding law. The new law should prioritize investing new capital in public transit; fixing existing roads and bridges rather than building more highways; and spending taxpayers’ money more wisely by using federal dollars to invest in high-priority transportation solutions.
- Integrate transit into the state’s long-term development plan. Focusing BRAC-related development projects and other new development around principles of smart growth and transit-oriented development is an excellent strategy for building healthy communities statewide.
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