Why killing the Red Line was a mistake

Without better transit, the ideal of urban life is harder to achieve and maintain.

As a Millennial deciding whether or not to put down roots in Maryland, I am disgusted by Gov. Larry Hogan's dismantling of the plan for regional transit investment in Baltimore City ("Red Line: No Plan B," Aug. 10).

Many like myself would not be in Maryland were it not for Baltimore City and the urbanizing communities on its edges. I still plan to stay in Baltimore, but no doubt some people of my generation will leave the state as a result of Governor Hogan's policies.

That's because without better transit, the resulting overreliance on cars makes ideal urban life difficult to achieve or maintain. Culture and amenities are less accessible. Urban places that anchor the creative, innovation and sharing economies are harder to create and sustain.

Blight is caused when the character of neighborhoods are destroyed by an oversized auto infrastructure. Small businesses dependent on street access see their customers driven away by high-volume, high-speed traffic. Housing costs soar because developers must pay up to $30,000 dollars per space for on-site parking. The whole urban economy is taxed when residents must pay $10,000 a year for a car, an expense that should be optional in a large city.

Worst of all, because low-density development and poor-quality transit reinforced each other, access to jobs for many Baltimore communities gets worse without new investment. The lack of investment in transit erodes the effectiveness of other investments because without better access to jobs, other efforts undertaken to stabilize communities, create opportunity and provide a path out of poverty become less effective.

I joined the advocacy group Red Line Now to support the building out of the regional transit system, because doing so is not only central to ongoing efforts to restore Baltimore as a top destination for privileged mobile Millennials, but more importantly, to creating an equitable place where everyone has access to opportunity and can enjoy the benefits of urban life. That's the kind of place I want to live in.

Around the country, cities are growing and thriving where they are properly valued. Republican and Democratic jurisdictions alike are building out high-capacity transit lines that connect the urban core and the surrounding region.

Baltimore's 2002 regional transit plan identified approximately $16 billion (in 2015 dollars) in improvements to be constructed over decades. Without the Red Line, by 2022, two decades will have passed with no progress made.

Improving the bus system will have a regional impact to some extent. But we will continue to have inadequate transportation and unrealized potential without significant new investment.

Unfortunately, a true assessment of regional transit needs cannot be expected from the Hogan administration, because the resulting report would be full of justifications for the Red Line and other improvements proposed previously. But we must find a way to get back into position to expand transit. At stake is Baltimore's identity as an equitable and thriving urban center for more than 2 million Marylanders in the region.

Ben Groff, Baltimore

Copyright © 2019, The Baltimore Sun, a Baltimore Sun Media Group publication | Place an Ad
70°