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Transit agency must be held accountable

Riders work through issues on the first day of the BaltimoreLink bus route overhaul. (Barbara Haddock Taylor/Baltimore Sun video)

Hundreds of riders of the BaltimoreLink system complain daily about their great disappointment with the bus service overhaul (“MTA bus service changes in Baltimore represent 2 percent cut, report says,” Nov. 21). “Where is the Bus, Baltimore?” is a leading Facebook page devoted to BaltimoreLink usage. On the buses, at bus stops and in neighborhood conversations, the lack of punctual and fast service is uppermost in any reference to BaltimoreLink. The Baltimore Transit Equity Coalition proposes a community-based process leading to greater engagement by the transit-riding public. We believe that our recommendations will also lead to agency accountability.

First, we would have the Baltimore City Council conduct an official, community-based hearing at a time and place conveniently accessible to transit riders. Scheduled at 2 p.m. on Friday, last month’s MTA forum at City Hall on Nov. 3 guaranteed the absence of transit riders and working people. Instead, we have secured the cooperation of Baltimore’s historic Union Baptist church to host the event at a transit-accessible venue on a Saturday morning with free child care. Riders, community residents and any members of the public will be encouraged to enter their experiences with BaltimoreLink and suggestions for improved service into the official record of the hearing.

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We have found in our outreach that many riders have despaired that their official representatives have not heard their pleas for help. Upon review of the testimonies, riders, the City Council, Mayor Catherine Pugh’s office, the Maryland Transit Administration and community members including our coalition, will identify the two or three highest priority recommendations. MTA will then adopt and publicly announce performance goals to meet rider demand. For example, reduced commute times has been a constant demand by transit system users. In our proposal, MTA might announce a goal of eight minutes average reduced commute time by the end of 2018. Periodic bulletins will apprise the public of MTA’s progress toward the goal. Such accountability and transparency would constitute a sea change in MTA’s relationship with its customers.

Samuel Jordan, Baltimore

The writer is president of the Baltimore Transit Equity Coalition.

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