Elected officials join transit workers union's call for changes to Baltimore bus plan

Baltimore’s transit workers push plan for bus overhaul to replace state plan.

Baltimore's transit workers union is asking bus riders to join them in calling for the state to rethink its overhaul of the bus system.

Dels. Cheryl Glenn and Cory McCray, City Councilwoman Mary Pat Clarke and City Councilman-elect John Bullock joined the union Monday to back its alternative to BaltimoreLink, the proposal of the Maryland Transit Administration.

Gov. Larry Hogan has proposed a $135 million project to reduce a bottleneck of bus routes that converge downtown by consolidating them into shorter, higher-frequency lines.

"The People's Alternative to BaltimoreLink," the union proposal, would cost more than twice as much. The $287 million proposal includes a rapid bus system along 14 miles of streets, additional stops along busy routes and a process to enable riders to pay their fares before boarding.

"The state has the responsibility that every citizen in the state of Maryland and the Baltimore region has safe access to fresh food, hospitals, education and jobs," said McCray, a Baltimore Democrat. "And we know it's the state's responsibility to provide transportation to get those places."

Members of Amalgamated Transit Workers Union Local 1300 said they will distribute leaflets at bus stations across the city, knock on doors and attend community meetings to gain support for a petition.

About 2,500 drivers, bus operators, dispatchers, mechanics and maintenance workers belong to the local chapter.

So far, the union has 500 signatures. Officials said they expect to gather more signatures and deliver the petition to the Hogan administration in early December.

MTA spokesman Paul Shepard said the agency continues to accept feedback on the plan. MTA leadership has met with the union to discuss the plan.

"At this point, BaltimoreLink is moving forward, but MTA leaders are not opposed to considering other suggestions," Shepard said in a statement. "Nothing is off the table."

David McClure, the president of Local 1300, said the union's proposal integrates most of the MTA's ideas while calling for additional investment in areas that transit workers see need fixing.

Bullock, who was elected this month to represent the 9th District in West Baltimore, said Hogan's decision to cancel the Red Line "squandered" millions of dollars in investment and thousands of jobs. He said the MTA should work with the union to develop a better plan.

"Right now, we have an opportunity," Bullock said. "Those transit riders and transit workers, they're on the front lines. They understand the issues in a deep and comprehensive way."

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