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Hogan says he won't curtail Light Rail in Anne Arundel despite calls by politicians

The Hogan Administration said Monday that the Maryland Transit Administration will not cut Light Rail service in northern Anne Arundel County, rejecting calls by politicians and some residents who blame it for what they say is increased crime, despite police data to the contrary.

“The administration has provided additional law enforcement support to the county to help ensure that light rail stations are safe,” Hogan spokeswoman Amelia Chasse wrote in an email, “but we are not planning any service cuts."

Service on the two spurs in north Anne Arundel — from Patapsco to Cromwell and BWI Thurgood Marshall Airport stations — is currently suspended due to track repairs needed following flooding from the July rains. After a delay, the Light Rail service is expected to resume on Aug. 20.

Along with an increased presence of MTA police, Anne Arundel County police began patrolling the county’s section of the system in April. In more than 1,000 train boardings, county officers issued 14 fare violations and made only three arrests, according to police.

Still, some have insisted that the rail service brings crime from Baltimore. In announcing the partnership with MTA police, Anne Arundel County Police Chief Timothy Altomare said the area wasn’t experiencing a “crime wave,” but the department had a responsibility to help assuage community fears.

County Executive Steve Schuh and both candidates for the District 32 senate seat — County Councilman John Grasso, a Glen Ridge Republican, and Del. Pamela Biedle, a Linthicum Democrat — said they support limiting service. They attended a pair of rallies last month in support of service cuts.

Opponents, led by the Baltimore Transit Equity Coalition, held a third rally to oppose the proposed cuts.

The coalition was one of nine business and advocacy groups that sent a letter this weekend to Gov. Larry Hogan opposing recent calls to limit or eliminate service in the county, arguing such cutbacks would harm the region’s economy and riders.

The letter was signed by officials of the Downtown Partnership of Baltimore, the Baltimore Development Corp., Anne Arundel County Branch of the NAACP, 1000 Friends of Maryland, Baltimore Transit Equity Coalition, Bikemore, Clean Water Action, Central Maryland Transportation Alliance and the Greater Washington Partnership.

“Closing stations and reducing service along one of the few high-capacity, rapid transit corridors in the greater Baltimore region would come at a direct cost to the region and have adverse impacts on existing riders, limit transportation choices for residents, and undermine the economic development potential of the region,” the letter said.

Transit Equity Coalition president Samuel Jordan said the proposal to curtail service was an attempt to “build a wall around Baltimore.”

After the Hogan announcement Monday, Jordan said the letter had an impact, and served as an example of how leaders in the region can work together.

But, he added, simply not cutting service isn’t enough.

“We need the governor to do more than say he won’t reduce or shut down service,” Jordan said. “What we need the governor to do is to make unqualified appeal to the residents and political leadership of the region to resolve this issue of equitable access to transit services in good faith.”

Transportation Alliance president Brian O’Malley said he was glad Hogan did not plan to heed the calls for limited service.

“We should continue to look for data and be guided by data when we look for how to allocate resources,” he said. “That’s the right thing to do.”

Anne Arundel isn’t the only jurisdiction citing transit in relation to crime issues.

The MTA also is facing calls from two Baltimore County Council members concerned about “large crowds of youth” at White Marsh Mall on weekend nights to stop bus service in the area after 11 p.m.

County Executive Don Mohler said last week he would urge the MTA to reject that idea, which he called “outrageous.”

“It is 2018. Not 1950,” he said. “We are neighbors with Baltimore City and stand with them. We cannot and should not put a moat around our city partners.”

O’Malley agreed with Mohler’s statement.

“Using transportation to make barriers or cut people off is not the way we’re going to thrive as a region,” O’Malley said. “We talk about regions for a reason. Regions interact with each other. Let’s take a healthy approach and figure out solutions together.”

Reporter Nicholas Bogel-Burroughs contributed to this article.

cmcampbell@baltsun.com

twitter.com/cmcampbell6

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