Gov. Larry Hogan has a big decision to make for the Baltimore community, and he’s promised to make it by the end of the month — which is creeping closer by the minute. Understandably, many residents in and around the metro area are growing a bit impatient to hear his decision: will Maryland end up funding two new light rail projects, running through some of the poorest urban communities and providing some much-needed affordable transportation, or not?
The rail lines in question are the Purple Line, which would run around Prince George’s County and Montgomery County, and the Red Line, which would run from Hopkins Bayview/Canton on its eastern side to Woodlawn on the western end.
Gov. Hogan, according to WBAL News Radio 1090, has been “reluctant” regarding the construction of either lines, primarily because of the cost. The Purple Line is estimated to cost around $2.45 billion to construct, while the Red Line could cost around $2.6 billion.
Although Gov. Hogan may not be convinced yet that these two light rail lines would benefit the entire Baltimore community, plenty of residents and transportation workers have not been shy about voicing their support.
Ironically, Hogan’s decision is coming at a very critical time. As the Washington Post has reported, the Maryland Transit Administration has been facing a strong backlash after fares for all MTA transit services have been increased.
To be fair, the MTA ended up offering discounted multi-day passes for the MARC train, which provides transportation for countless residents in the Baltimore-Washington metro area. But when riders could end up paying as much as $1 more on each one-way trip, it’s impossible to ignore that these fare hikes aren’t helping the low-income communities in the region.
The light rail lines, however, could be the answer that Baltimore desperately needs. As a recent Fusion article explains, the 14-mile Red Line in particular “would run through some of the city’s poorest neighborhoods, as a powerful tool for making the city a more equitable place.”
Baltimore has a fairly small transit system compared to other major U.S. cities — cities that can make use of transportation options such as motorcoach services, which can ask for incredibly low fares since each bus gets more than 200 passenger miles to the gallon.
Two light rail lines would certainly be more expensive to implement than a motorcoach service would be, but they would provide affordable transportation to the 31% of Baltimore households without a car, and two-thirds of all the jobs in the city would be located within a half-mile of the Red Line track.
It seems that the people of Baltimore have made up their minds — now it’s just up to Gov. Hogan to listen.