BaltimoreLink transformed bus rides into something worse

“Transformative.” That’s what Governor Hogan promised BaltimoreLink would be. And it is — but not in the way he meant. BaltimoreLink has “transformed” riding a bus in Baltimore into something much worse than it was before. It didn’t have to be this way. Groups like the Central Maryland Transportation Alliance and ATU Local 1300 reached out to the MTA to make recommendations on how to make BaltimoreLink better, despite having just been burned by the destructive cancellation of the Red Line.

Yet the leadership at the MTA and in Annapolis were not people for whom riding a bus was ever indispensable. Because, if that were the case they’d know that for persons with disabilities, seniors, people who don’t drive or can’t afford a car and many others, public transit is not an option — it’s a necessity.

They’d know what it means to take two or three buses, rather than one to get to work or school in the morning. They’d know how hard that makes it to be there on time — particularly for those with small children. They’d know how their back would hurt carrying parcels to a bus stop blocks away from where it was before. They’d know how fearful they’d be if their bus stop was moved to an unsafe area.

No, when Governor Hogan celebrated the launch of this misbegotten system, it was clear that he has never worried that he’d lose his job because the bus made him 15 minutes late. He’s never missed a doctor’s appointment, a church service or a family gathering because he had no way to get there.

If the governor or MTA leadership had ever seriously depended on the bus, they’d know that when you mess with public transit you mess with people’s lives. And it’s not the governor or MTA leadership incurring the angry wrath and abuse of the rightly upset riders, it’s the bus operators shouldering the blame and burden for the problems with the changes to the bus system.

BaltimoreLink is not really transformative. It is simply a sop thrown by the governor in an attempt to gaslight the city into believing that service cuts and fare increases actually improve transit, and that a $135 million rearrangement of resources can do the job that the $2.3 billion Red Line he rejected would do.

Mr. Hogan specifically refused over $800 million in federal Red Line funding and diverted the bulk of the remainder to highways and the suburbs. He essentially doubled down on his decision to rob the city of a major investment with a convoluted scheme called BaltimoreLink that threw the entire system into turmoil. That’s the real reason BaltimoreLink was created. We deserve better.

David McClure

The author is president of Amalgamated Transit Union Local 1300, representing MTA workers.

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