Larry Hogan’s “BaltimoreLink” Fails to Deliver for Transit Riders

A new analysis finds Larry Hogan's bus initiative won't make transit much more useful for Baltimore residents. Photo: Elvert Barnes via Flickr
A new analysis finds Larry Hogan's bus initiative won't make transit much more useful for Baltimore residents. Photo: Elvert Barnes via Flickr

When Maryland Governor Larry Hogan unilaterally killed plans for Baltimore’s 14-mile Red Line light rail, shifting the funds to road projects in whiter parts of the state, local advocates filed a civil rights complaint. Hogan, meanwhile, said he would make it up to the city with a set of bus improvements called BaltimoreLink.

After getting a good long look at the details of BaltimoreLink, advocates are not impressed. Stephen Lee Davis at Transportation for America reports on a recent analysis that concluded Hogan’s initiative won’t do much to improve local transit service:

Back in the fall, T4America helped the Central Maryland Transportation Alliance (Transportation Alliance), a coalition that supports improving and expanding transportation options in the Baltimore region, perform a quantitative analysis on the plan to see if the numbers would bear out on the benefits the state was claiming. Would the plan improve access to jobs, schools, and healthy food?

After all, in principle, a major reworking of the bus system map to improve service was a goal long-sought by the advocates in Baltimore. Once the MTA launched the BaltimoreLink effort it became the goal of advocates to challenge the MTA to produce measurable improvements on key indicators.

On behalf of the Transportation Alliance, we performed an analysis of the change in accessibility under the new plan. Using Citilabs’ Sugar Access tool, we measured the change in access at the individual block level, looking at access to all jobs, as well as access to high-opportunity jobs and access from low-opportunity neighborhoods. We also looked at access to public middle and high schools and grocery stores.

So would it be truly transformative? Would it increase the number of jobs that are accessible to everyday Baltimore residents? Would it provide increased connections to opportunity for a wider range of people?

The short answer is no.

The long answer is that the plan “represents a missed opportunity to address regional goals in connecting households to jobs, schools, and essential services through transit,” according to the Transportation Alliance’s terrific summary of the findings. The bottom line is that BaltimoreLink does not deliver the promised transformational improvements and in contrast to MTA’s claims, we found a sharp decrease in accessibility on weekends (Sunday morning peak) and a marginal increase on weekdays. Read more about the detailed findings in the Transportation Alliance’s executive summary. (pdf)

Making matters worse, the whole BaltimoreLink initiative will be under the control of the state, giving city agencies little opportunity to influence it, Davis reports.

What we’re also reading: Human Transit forcefully refutes the notion that Uber will make transit obsolete. And Reconnect Rochester explores how long transit commutes to the suburbs burden low-income city residents.

  • J

    In case you missed it, the local Amalgamated Transit Union has proposed an BRT-based alternative to Baltimore Link, called “A People’s Plan for Baltimore Transit”. It was designed by transit experts, and would link to more neighborhoods and more people than even the Red Line.

    http://www.baltimoresun.com/news/maryland/baltimore-city/bs-md-ci-bus-plan-petition-20161213-story.html
    http://www.baltimoresun.com/news/maryland/baltimore-city/bs-md-transit-union-20161114-story.html

  • bolwerk

    Worthy or not, none of that comes close to replacing the Red Line. Decades of thought and planning and community input went into the Red Line, and it was pissed away by one incompetent, whimsical prick’s ego trip as a fuck you to a Democratic city that rightly didn’t vote for him.

  • richardlayman

    Well, there are problems with the Red Line as it was proposed. It adds yet one other type of vehicle to an un-integrated-discoordinated set of transit lines without transforming them into the beginnings of a true fixed rail transit network.

    http://urbanplacesandspaces.blogspot.com/2012/05/from-files-transit-planning-in.html
    http://urbanplacesandspaces.blogspot.com/2015/06/maryland-governor-hogan-makes-decision.html

    But the BRT proposal sounds interesting, and could lay the groundwork for keeping the concept of the Red Line alive.

    http://urbanplacesandspaces.blogspot.com/2015/07/what-to-do-transit-wise-in-baltimore.html

    FWIW, the Purple Line light rail project in Suburban Washington has had similar setbacks. It was scuttled basically by the creation of the Inter County Connector toll road in Upper Montgomery and Prince George’s Counties. But activists kept the concept alive, and with the onset of the O’Malley Administration, it was revived. It still has some problems going forward, but it will happen.

    http://urbanplacesandspaces.blogspot.com/2015/05/to-build-purple-line-perhaps-montgomery.html

    Anyway, wrt Ehrlich vs. O’Malley or Trump vs. Clinton, or Hogan vs. the alternative, yes progressives it does make a difference who gets elected, especially as it relates to urban issues.

  • bolwerk

    I’d guess the only thing likely to keep the Red Line alive in the near term is a discrimination case.

    Yes, it definitely had problems. And for all rail (and even many BRT) projects slowness is a much bigger problem than cost, too. It makes projects vulnerable to the likes of Larry Hogan and Chris Christie. They run on

  • AndreL

    Transit Union (its various local offshoots) are the enemy of good transit (as in transit that is aimed at changing mobility patterns long-terms, focused on first-world first-class solutions (e.g. railways, subways). Transit Union, instead, wants cheap buses as a way to provide crappy but dirty-cheap transportation aimed at serving only the poorest third of the population (meanwhile, creating tons of bus driving jobs).

    I absolutely despise them after their anti-rail campaign in Los Angeles.

  • bolwerk

    If that’s really their motivation, it’s funny seeing a union on the same page as neoliberal types like ITDP.

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