A petition to get a Regional Transit Authority for Baltimore on the November ballot is gaining traction. If you are a Baltimore voter, sign the petition NOW -- the deadline is July 27 -- and help take control of local transit management and funding for Baltimoreans. Find out more in this article by Jaime Sigaran, a transit activist.
/By Jaime D. Sigaran/ For nearly half a century, Baltimore has been one of the largest cities in America lacking a Regional Transit Authority. Most if not all of the city’s public transit is administered by a sole governing body, the Maryland Transit Administration (MTA). The MTA oversees the State’s network of buses, subway, commuter trains, and light rail.
But budget shortfalls have been one of countless issues with the struggling and vastly underfunded state agency. In recent years, Governor Larry Hogan has proposed drastic cuts to MTA - limiting its ability to keep the system operating optimally. According to the Baltimore Transit Equity Coalition (BTEC), Hogan’s administration failed Baltimore City residents with his decision to cancel the Red Line -- a move some claim was racially and politically motivated towards low-income families and people of color. In 2015, Hogan instead approved the Purple Line, a Washington suburban transit line connecting Bethesda to New Carrollton.
Support for a Regional Transit Authority (RTA) is on the Rise
“Since the Red Line was canceled, we have been strongly advocating for a Regional Transportation Authority (RTA), a supervising entity that would reverse race-based underinvestment in the region,” said Samuel Jordan, president of the Baltimore Transit Equity Coalition. The organization launched a ballot question campaign earlier this year to educate Baltimore City voters on transit equity issues.
In May, the Committee for the Baltimore Regional Transportation Authority Mandate, Inc. requested Hogan’s administration and the State Board of Elections (SBE) grant relief to BTEC in order to collect 10,000 petitions by July 27, 2020. “We are sending emails, making phone calls and using every social media tool at our disposal to connect with Baltimore City voters to reach our goal,” added Jordan. “COVID-19 has severely limited our capacity to engage with constituents, but we are committed to getting our transit ballot question entered this fall.”
Transit dependent riders could support a regional transit authority that puts people first. “The lack of reliable public transit is a key stressor for many of our members, and other
working people who are transit dependent riders,” said Brigette Dumais, a BTEC partner and organizer for 1199SEIU United Healthcare Workers East, Maryland’s largest Healthcare workers union. “A regional transit authority can help break down systemic racial barriers and improve transit equity for the entire region.”
BTEC Aims to Educate and Empower Baltimore City Voters
BTEC’s transit ballot question will allow Baltimore City residents to have an important role in amending the city charter. If enough signatures on the petition are obtained by the July 27 deadline, Baltimore City voters will see it in this year's ballot box in the fall. A ballot initiative is a form of direct democracy enabling constituents to exercise their right to vote on local matters.
The proposed transit ballot measure will:
- Establish a Transportation Authority Mandate Fund (TAMF);
- Ensure the fund is managed by the TAMF Commission; and
- Facilitate an agreement among the TAMF Commission, the City of Baltimore, and other regional jurisdictions to seek legislation for a Baltimore Regional Transit Authority (BRTA).
Here's how to learn more about the petition and signing it https://www.md-petition.com/files/BTEC-petition_instructions.pdf
Voters Decide Baltimore's Future
If the transit ballot question is added to the upcoming general election in the fall, Baltimore City voters could have a significant say in the future of the city's transit infrastructure plans, which could include a proposed 109-mile rail system with 66 new miles added to the existing 43 miles of Metro Subway and Light Rail lines.
"We haven’t built any new high quality, rapid transit since the Light Rail opened in 1992,” said Eric Norton, Director of Policy and Programs for the Central Maryland Transportation Alliance, a nonprofit focused on transportation issues. "Our existing infrastructure is being neglected, and we won’t be able to build for the future on a crumbling foundation," he stated.
Add Your Name to Support a Regional Transit Authority in Baltimore
If you’re a Baltimore City resident and registered voter, please consider adding your name to the petition and sharing it with five friends. Your support will ensure Baltimore City residents have a fair and open opportunity to speak out for job-enabling transit. To learn more about BTEC, visit: www.moretransitequity.com or contact [email protected].
Jaime D. Sigaran is an advocate with the Baltimore Transit Equitable Coalition and member of Progressive Maryland.