The Red Line cure for gas price blues

As Baltimoreans watch gas prices soar above $4, it's worth asking: why don't we have a better public transportation system? Do we lack the imagination?

In decades past, we had the imagination to fund and build our port, our tunnels and bridges, and what is now BWI Thurgood Marshall airport. They're vital everyday elements of life in Maryland now, but they took conviction at the time to build.

Today, our legislators need a similar conviction to fund and build the east-west Red Line transit project. Years from now, it will be difficult to imagine how we survived without it.

Today, the 100,000-plus area households that can't afford to own a car (a $7,000 yearly cost) struggle daily to get to work and to school. Meanwhile, Maryland drivers with no other options sit in the most congested traffic in the nation and watch helplessly as gas prices and parking fees continue to climb.

And we suffer a brain drain. Spend some time with a Hopkins, Morgan or MICA graduate: our would-be future leaders and entrepreneurs. They love Baltimore, but they're not staying. Too hard to get around without a car, they say as they tick off their wish list of greener transit-rich pastures: Washington, Portland, San Francisco.

Naysayers love to claim that Baltimoreans will never leave their cars. But the facts speak for themselves: ridership on the new Charm City Circulator is far above projections, and our transit-friendly downtown is suddenly the fastest-growing neighborhood in the city.

Simply put, we need to find the will, and the revenue, to build the Red Line — the simplest, most cost-effective investment we can make in our city and our neighborhoods over the coming decades. It will attract residents and businesses, it will increase our access to jobs, and it will make our downtown and our neighborhoods more vibrant. This is the kind of city we imagine and the kind of city that residents need to demand from their legislators.

Robbyn Lewis, Baltimore

The writer is chair of the Red Line Now PAC.

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