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Red Line still the best transit plan

When Rob Ford, Toronto's infamous crack-smoking mayor, entered office in 2010, he did so on a promise to upgrade the city's transit plans.

The previous mayor had planned a comprehensive light rail system that was nearing construction. But Mr. Ford had vowed to scrap the light rail plan in favor of a heavy rail subway system that was faster, flashier and more fitting for Canada's largest city.

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Once safely in City Hall, however, Mr. Ford came clean about his subway plan: It was too expensive. So he scrapped it and Toronto got nothing.

As public opinion about transit becomes ever more favorable, it is increasingly unpopular for politicians to come out as anti-transit. Hence, the Ford strategy: Promise a transit plan that is so fast, so inexpensive and so high capacity that voters couldn't possibly turn it down.

Then, once it's too late to turn back, fall on your sword, admit the idea was too good to be true and get what you wanted all along — no transit.

With the Red Line at the starting gate for construction, Baltimore's anti-transit lobbyists are doubling down on the Ford strategy. They are dusting off old subway, streetcar and Bus Rapid Transit plans that ask whether the Red Line couldn't be faster, cheaper and serve more people.

The reality is that we've already asked these questions, and the answer is no. That is, after all, how the Red Line came to be.

The Federal Transit Administration's funding formula simply asks how one can move the most people most quickly at the lowest cost? When we began that inquiry 12 years ago, everything was on the table — heavy rail subway, light rail, streetcars, BRT and even a do-nothing option.

Through the FTA's narrowly-tailored planning process, we arrived at the solution that moved the most people most quickly at the lowest cost. That solution was the Red Line.

The other alternatives aren't bad plans, they're just not as good as the Red Line. Taking another decade to ask the same questions all over again won't change the answer.

It's time to trust what we've learned over the past 12 years and build the Red Line.

Peter T. Smith, Baltimore

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