Thursday, October 12th, 2023
11am to 3pm
Photography Credit: Courtney Barbour/Cookie Creates Inc.
The Baltimore City Transit Tour took place on Thursday, October 12, 2023. Its purpose was to provide an immersive mobility experience for state lawmakers who have jurisdiction over land use and transportation policy. This tour was conceived by Delegate Robbyn Lewis and organized in close partnership with the Baltimore City Department of Transportation (BCDOT) and the Maryland Transit Administration (MTA). This was the second such tour organized by Delegate Lewis; the first tour took place in October 2021; that report can be viewed here.
L to R: Delegate Boyce; Delegate Lewis; Melanie Pillaca-Gutierrez, Legislative Aide to Delegate Lewis; Lara Mayo, Chief of Staff to Senator Hayes; Delegate Allen
The purpose and objectives of the tour were met: legislators who make transit and mobility policies gained direct experience of the impact of those policies. Legislators learned the fundamental importance of bus service as the cornerstone of the transit network, and why enforcing, or “protecting” Dedicated Bus Lanes (DBLs) can improve not just bus service, but the effectiveness of the entire transit network. Legislators also learned what it feels like to be a pedestrian, and how car-centric policies make streets dangerous for everyone, including people with disabilities. They also learned how Complete Streets efforts can keep people safer.
This transit tour for state legislators is the largest ever completed, as best can be determined. A total of 41 people participated in this event:
- 11 state legislators, representing 11 districts
- 1 Baltimore County councilperson
- 8 legislative staffers
- 1 representative from Governor Moore’s Administration
- 2 transit riders, one of whom is visually impaired
- 2 Transportation Agency Leaders (MTA Administrator and BCDOT Director)
- 10 MTA and BCDOT professional staff
- 6 Advocates and other guests
Given the critical transit-related decisions ahead, it is more important than ever that policymakers are well informed. This tour successfully increased legislators’ knowledge of:
- Demand for transit, also referred to as “ridership” in each participant’s jurisdiction
- Transit rider perspectives, including people with disabilities
- Current efforts to improve bus service through Dedicated Bus Lanes
- New technologies to improve bus service through camera enforcement of Dedicated Bus Lanes
Mobile Tour Itinerary
The mobile tour encompassed a total of 9.1 miles. Please refer to the map below. Part 1 entailed two modes of travel: bus and walking. It began at Mondawmin Metro Center, with a bus ride on the southbound Navy Line down to the Inner Harbor. From there, the group walked along Pratt & President Streets to reach the BCDOT office for the sit-down briefing.
Mobile Tour Map
Part 2 originally entailed riding the Baltimore Metro subway, but unfortunately, service unexpectedly shut down at around 10:30am that morning, just as the tour was beginning. The cause of the shutdown involved safety concerns. Consequently, participants took a second bus ride instead of the subway, riding the Yellow Line northbound from BCDOT to Mondawmin.
Mobile Tour Part 1
Warm Up – Mondawmin Metro Center Briefing
The tour began at the Mondawmin Metro Center, which is the most-used transfer point in the entire MTA system, connecting not only to the Baltimore Metro subway, but also to 11 bus lines.
Liz Gordon, Senior Planner at MTA, briefed participants on the Mondawmin Transit Hub Project, which is funded by a $25 million dollar grant from the US Department of Transportation’s Rebuilding American Infrastructure with Sustainability and Equity (RAISE) program.
Improvements under the Mondawmin Transit Hub Project include: real-time transit information; a rebuilt bus loop and waiting area with better lighting; and ADA compliant infrastructure at all of the intersections and connections to the station. The one-page overview can be found here.
In addition to those improvements, MTA is also repairing the existing elevator at the Mondawmin Metro Center, to bring it into compliance with ADA regulations. This is one of many systemwide “state of good repair” investments recently undertaken by MTA.
Bus – Mondawmin to Pratt & Gay Streets
To pay for their bus rides, participants had to download the MTA CharmPass mobile app. This app allows transit riders to electronically pre-pay their transit fares. The one-way, full fare for BaltimoreLink bus, Metro subway, Light Rail and Mobility is $2.00. After showing their e-ticket to the bus operator, participants boarded a southbound Navy Line bus. For some, this was their first MTA bus ride in a long time! For others who use bus transit in other jurisdictions, such as the Montgomery County Ride-On Transit System, it was just another day on the bus.
Administrator Arnold provided MTA transit demand data for legislators representing Montgomery and Prince George’s counties as well. In both cases, demand is increasing.
Albert Engle, a transportation planner with MTA, provided further updates about MTA’s commitment to improving the quality of bus service by effective use of Dedicated Bus Lanes.
A link to MTA’s PowerPoint can be found here.
Mobile Tour Part 2
Once the sit-down briefing ended, participants said their farewells. A smaller group returned to Mondawmin Metro Center by bus, walking from BCDOT to the nearest bus stop at Fayette & Gay Streets to board the northbound Yellow Line bus.
Delegate Rosenburg, Chair of the Health Occupations Subcommittee of HGO, and Delegate Love, Chair of the Motor Vehicle &Transportation Subcommittee of ENT
As mentioned earlier in this report, the original itinerary for this final segment of the Mobile Tour included a subway ride; this option was precluded by the subway service interruption.
Policymakers with real world experience make better decisions about transit & mobility
Witnessing the tangible link between state policies and real-world outcomes is a valuable experience for legislators. Quality bus service is fundamental to an efficient transit system, while walking served to raise awareness about the essential need for pedestrian safety. Through firsthand observation, the group gained insight into the daily challenges faced by people, especially those with disabilities. Notably, the tour highlighted the significant daily obstacles people encounter due to real-life transit issues.
Bus service improvement is possible with camera enforcement
Improving bus service can be achieved through implementation and enforcement of Dedicated Bus Lanes. The first Dedicated Bus Lane bill was introduced in 2018, and as of 2023, we are still in the process of implementing bus lane protections. Privacy concerns related to automated camera enforcement are a legitimate issue that deserves careful consideration by legislators. Additionally, it is essential to take into account the disparate impact of policing and law enforcement.
Maryland is missing out on federal funding for bus service improvement
Maryland’s missed opportunity to secure federal funding under the Infrastructure Investment & Jobs Act, aimed at improving bus services, is rooted in not passing enabling legislation to authorize the use of Automated Bus Enforcement technology. Decades of underinvestment in transit infrastructure continue to undermine the quality of services, as evidenced by the $2 billion shortfall that led to the subway system breakdown during the tour.
Delegate Lewis plans to reintroduce statewide enabling legislation for Automated Bus Enforcement.
In her role as the Chair of the Transportation Subcommittee within the Baltimore City Delegation, Delegate Lewis is spearheading a city-wide Transit Summit scheduled for Saturday January 27, 2024. This Summit will be hosted at Morgan State University. Details are being finalized and will be shared soon.
MTA remains committed to actively seeking input from the community regarding the future Red Line project. They will be conducting a series of Open House events in November 2023. More information can be found here.
Transit Tour participants cross Fayette St. At Gay St. to enter BCDOT Headquarters