9-7-11: Baltimore Election 2011–The Red Line
In June, the Federal Transit Administration gave the go-ahead for Baltimore’s Red Line to begin what’s called the “preliminary engineering” or PE phase. That means the proposed 14.5 mile light rail line would move from the theoretical stages to more detailed planning. However, it does NOT mean that the federal government has agreed to help fund for the project — the MTA says that decision will be made down the road.
The Red Line, like all of Baltimore’s public transit, is being overseen by the Maryland Transit Administration – a state agency. But we want to focus on how Baltimore’s city government affects the process–and how that could change depending on who’s mayor. We sent each of the candidates for mayor, including the incumbent, this question: “If elected, what will be your approach to the project’s execution?”
Jody Landers responded:
I fully support the construction of the Red Line, although I would be more enthusiastic if the Red Line route actually intersected with the current Green Line. Where there are concerns about the impact of the Red Line on neighborhoods, I would work with community leaders and transportation officials to do whatever is feasible to mitigate neighborhood concerns. The fact is, most economic studies have shown that access to public transit is a net plus for neighborhoods, as far as quality of life, neighborhood appeal and property values are concerned.
I am also committed to full implementation of the hiring and training recommendations articulated in the Community Compact agreement with respect to the construction of the Red Line. The Community Compact is a unique agreement that spells out a set of goals and strategies to realize a transit project that offers more than just a new transportation option. The Red Line presents a tremendous opportunity to create jobs for City residents. The Compact cites the following details with respect to job opportunities:
The majority (83%) of the jobs that will be created or supported by the construction of the Red Line are lower skilled jobs, requiring less than an Associate’s Degree; 17% will require a Bachelors, Masters, or Doctoral Degree. One means to achieve the goal of putting Baltimore to work is to actively create opportunities for City residents to be employed in the jobs created by the project’s construction. Based on JFI’s analysis of both the jobs created by the construction of the Red Line (labor demand) and the demographic and workforce-related characteristics of the community residents (labor supply), this goal appears both realistic and attainable.
Just to reiterate, I support the Red Line and will work to make certain that the project can move forward as expeditiously as possible.”
Otis Rolley responded:
“As past president and chief executive officer of the Central Maryland Transportation Alliance, I led a coalition of area business, civic, environmental, and philanthropic leaders dedicated to improving and expanding transit and transportation options for the people of Central Maryland. While at the CMTA, I built support for the Red Line, and I believe still believe in its merits.
Not only will the Red Line make travel in heavily congested corridors easier, faster, and more affordable, it will create Baltimore’s first comprehensive transit system. The Red Line will ease transportation within our city, providing an important incentive for those looking to make Baltimore their home. The Red Line represents one of the most exciting projects Baltimore has had in decades, and we can’t afford to sit on the sidelines while other cities advance past us.
That said, there was a long and thoughtful process that went into the creation of the community compact. If this project is not constructed in a way that is responsive and respectful of the communities serviced by the Red Line, the project will not proceed.
Although I stand behind transportation innovation like the Red Line, I don’t believe Baltimore needs a dramatic overhaul of its public transportation system; instead, I would advocate for modernization of existing systems. We should ease the use of public transportation systems by focusing on customer service and ensuring that our existing systems keep pace with changing times. One simple change I would advocate for would be improvements to the MTA’s Web site. For a visitor or new resident who iis trying to get from Point A to Point B, the MTA Web site is a point of frustration; the maps are unreadable, outdated, or incorrect. As Mayor, I would work with transportation officials to improve the MTA experience to offer better service to Baltimore’s residents, commuters, and visitors.”
Sheilah discusses this with Edward Cohen, a member of the Transit Riders Action Council—or TRAC–of Metropolitan Baltimore. He’s also a member of the Red Line Citizens’ Advisory Council, a group established by the General Assembly to advise the MTA on impacts, opportunities and community concerns about the Red Line. Edward Cohen has worked in transit in both New York and Baltimore, and is a critic of the way public transit has been handled in Baltimore in the past.