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Restoring Red Line a start toward transit equity in Baltimore | READER COMMENTARY

Cynthia Shaw, president of the Lyndhurst Community Association, worked for 14 years to bring the Red Line light rail transit system to the Baltimore area. Gov. Larry Hogan cancelled the project in 2015. Here, she stands at a bus stop near where the light rail stop would have been, at the intersection of Edmondson and Allendale. (Barbara Haddock Taylor/Baltimore Sun).
Cynthia Shaw, president of the Lyndhurst Community Association, worked for 14 years to bring the Red Line light rail transit system to the Baltimore area. Gov. Larry Hogan cancelled the project in 2015. Here, she stands at a bus stop near where the light rail stop would have been, at the intersection of Edmondson and Allendale. (Barbara Haddock Taylor/Baltimore Sun). (Barbara Haddock Taylor / Baltimore Sun)

The Baltimore Transit Equity Coalition applauds Dan Rodricks’ comments about our mission in his recent column (”With Biden pushing infrastructure, Baltimore should push a Red Line revival,” April 22). He has helped to rekindle and expand the regional discourse on the Red Line project.

Yes, we seek the completion of the Red Line light rail project, but we must make it clear to the region that in addition to improved mobility, transportation drives development. In the transit industry, the mantra, “Development follows rail, buses follow development” conveys the intended economic impact of our mission. Irrefutable evidence of the mantra’s validity can be found within 30 miles to our south.

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Over $12 billion in transit-oriented-development projects has already been committed to the Purple Line’s 15-mile light rail corridor from Bethesda to New Carrollton. Bus Rapid Transit, to which Mr. Rodricks also referred, does not come close. Banks still do not invest in bus stops.

A major concern for our coalition is the inadequacy of the Maryland Transit Administration governance model. Transit equity is still its greatest challenge. Moreover, the agency has not explored in any meaningful way the connections between transportation and affordable housing, education, the environment, public health, food security, employment and the regional economy. In six years, that model has not delivered concrete results in any one of these areas and the BaltimoreLink is broadly derided by the transit reliant.

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There is another unstated challenge in Mr. Rodricks’ column. Unless Baltimore and the region commit to ending race-based transit policy, we cannot have a reliable Central Maryland transportation network anchored by light rail. Fortunately, we can eliminate the structural racism that led to cancellations of the Red Line and the State Center redevelopment project with the structural change available through creation of an anti-racist Baltimore Regional Transportation Authority.

As the initial and highest priority of our proposed Baltimore Regional Transportation Authority, construction of the Red Line will transform the region’s economy and its livability. It will bring 10,000 jobs, dramatically reduce commute times and bring $3 billion-to-$6.5 billion in transit-oriented development TOD. The authority also brings independent transportation policymaking and funding flexibility to the region. There is no other proposal on the horizon with that potential.

The Red Line project needs the requisite “informed, resolute” political will. Anything less means a 10-to-15-year start from scratch. All registered Baltimore voters can contribute to a regional leap forward in transit equity and economic development by signing our electronic petition to put the creation of a Baltimore Regional Transportation Authority on the 2022 ballot.

Samuel Jordan, Baltimore

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The writer is president of the Baltimore Transit Equity Coalition.

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