Ehrlich light rail opposition a mistake

I was disappointed to read in The Baltimore Sun that former Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr. has come out in strong opposition to the proposed Red Line and Purple Line light rail projects ("Ehrlich's stance opposing light rail could backfire," June 17). I was a public transportation official for more than 40 years and directly involved in mass transit projects in Baltimore, Boston, Stockholm and Washington.

I believe that the Red Line, which I am more familiar with, is an urgently needed transportation improvement for the Baltimore Metropolitan Area. It will provide rapid transit type service to the west and east corridors and supplement the existing central light rail and Baltimore Metro lines, thus helping to achieve a regional rapid transit system for the Baltimore area, much like the Washington Metro does today.

The alternative proposal of bus rapid transit recommended by Mr. Ehrlich will not provide the type of service needed to encourage people to use public transportation rather than their automobiles for trips to work and other purposes. In the downtown area buses would have to travel on existing congested streets, or use a subway for buses which would be more costly to build than a light rail subway because of the need to construct ventilation structures to remove bus fumes. Also, a bus subway would have much smaller capacity than a rail tunnel. The operating cost for buses would be greater because three buses each with one driver would be required to carry the same number of passengers as one two-car light rail train with one operator.

I strongly believe that Gov. Martin O'Malley made the right decision to select light rail as the preferred alternative for the Red Line, and I am optimistic that federal funds will become available for this important transportation project.

Gunther M. Gottfeld, Columbia

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