Long commutes hurt Md.'s competitiveness

In his December 17th article "Maryland ranks dead last among states in quick commutes," Michael Dresser cites the 2005-2009 U.S. Census American Community Survey, which states that Maryland is second only to New York in length of commute to work. This research underscores the fact that transportation — or lack thereof — is a significant factor that impacts decisions on where people choose to work and live. While the same survey ranks Maryland as the nation's wealthiest state, more and more Maryland residents must sacrifice quality of life in order to access employment opportunities and/or affordable housing, sacrifices that are increasingly placing the state at a competitive disadvantage in attracting the talent needed by our top employers. Additionally, lack of access to employment opportunities via public transportation adds to the hurdles that our state's economically disadvantaged residents must overcome when attempting to improve their lives.

There is near unanimous agreement that the state must find a way to replenish its Transportation Trust Fund in order to aggressively pursue necessary improvements to and expansion of Maryland's transportation system — everything from maintenance and upgrading of existing highway, rail and bridge infrastructure to expansion of public transportation. The Governor's Blue Ribbon Commission on Transportation Funding is charged with developing options to create a stream of revenue into the Transportation Trust Fund for this purpose. However, even with a more robust trust fund, the long-term horizon of most transportation projects will do little to relieve the situation that exists today — increasingly longer commutes and the peculiar yet familiar situation of "you can't get there from here."

It is necessary that state and local governments work with major employment hubs to institute interim measures that will mitigate transportation as a limiting factor in the economic growth of the state, including shuttle bus service from existing rail stations, increasing MARC and Light Rail service, and increasing express bus service that connects employees to major job hubs, among other steps. By taking action now while longer-term solutions are explored, we can continue to outperform the rest of the country in job creation and wealth while also expanding access to employment and housing opportunities for all of our residents.

Michele L. Whelley

The writer is president of the Central Maryland Transportation Alliance.

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