Maryland transit cuts are hurting essential workers, low-income communities

images.jpgMaryland's transit systems -- buses, MARC and more -- are about to take a $150 million hit. It is unsurprising but outrageous that "these cuts... would be devastating to many Marylanders that live in low-income  communities, communities of color, and people with disabilities." Sixty-four Maryland activist groups across the political, community and environmental spectrum wrote this letter demanding the cuts be reversed and the Transportation Trust Fund tapped to ease the plight of essential workers, who largely come from the most impacted communities.  



 

AN OPEN LETTER TO GOVERNOR LARRY HOGAN, MARYLAND TRANSPORTATION  SECRETARY GREG SLATER, AND MARYLAND TRANSIT ADMINISTRATOR KEVIN  QUINN: 

Last week, the Maryland Department of Transportation and Maryland Transit Administration  announced major cuts to the MTA system, including cutting bus service by 20%, reducing  MARC, commuter local bus, and paratransit service, and cutting the MTA’s already strained six  year capital budget for critical safety needs by $150 million. We, the undersigned, urge rejection  of these cuts, which would be devastating to many Marylanders that live in low-income  communities, communities of color, and people with disabilities.  

Rather than take steps to relieve the strain of a veritable tsunami of challenges to Maryland’s  most vulnerable communities, MTA’s plan would exacerbate residents’ difficulties and hobble  the state’s recovery. TransitCenter found that 40% of transit commuters in Baltimore City and  35% of transit riders in the state work in essential job sectors, with hospital and health care  workers being the largest share of riders. A large number of essential workers – nurses, grocery  store workers, child care professionals, nursing care staff, and so many more – rely on public  transit to get to their jobs. The proposed cuts would make it harder for these vital workers to get  to their jobs, which would threaten their employment and exacerbate the devastation the  pandemic has wrought to our economy. A shortage of these critical workers will also add strain  to a healthcare system that is already spread too thin. M-PurpleLine-UniversityBlvd3-CHOSEN.jpg

Maryland should be investing in more public transportation, not less. We should be increasing  access to job centers from the communities most in need, not cutting it. We should be prioritizing  cleaner transportation alternatives that reduce pollution and the health conditions that make  marginalized communities especially vulnerable to the impacts of coronavirus and other  respiratory illnesses like asthma. Vehicle emissions also create NOx that ultimately contributes  roughly one-third of the nitrogen pollution to the region’s rivers, streams, and the Chesapeake  Bay.  

Among the problematic cuts to service, the proposed changes eliminate any route from Baltimore  City (the jurisdiction with the highest reliance on public transportation) to Annapolis. Even in its  current state, public transit to Annapolis is extremely limited, but at least it was available and  provided mobility services. With the cuts, Annapolis would become inaccessible by public  transportation, limiting the ability of many Marylanders to participate in our state’s Democracy.  Public participation is always essential to a free and fair government, but never more so than in a  crisis.  

In reference to Maryland’s essential workers, the Maryland Transit Caucus has stated in their  letter to the administration following the proposed cuts: We rely on them. They rely on MTA. We  call on the administration to take immediate action. Funding from the Transportation Trust Fund  should be allocated to public transit that benefits all Marylanders, rather than to highway  expansion and construction projects that benefit only the wealthiest.

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This letter was signed by Progressive Maryland along with 63 other activist groups in Maryland; about one-third are conservation and climate groups along with social justice, political and community groups.

Note also Seventh State's blog post today, which republishes this letter (with all 64 signatory groups) and comments on it, and this account from Maryland Matters.