You have seen the news articles. Our roads are congested and will be made worse by continued growth due to BRAC and other development. Marylanders want more transportation options. They are riding transit in record numbers. But transit services are being cut. The public is vocal in their support for increased transit but is not being heard.
Part of the problem is a state transit decision process that needs fixing. The Maryland Transit Administration is the state agency which operates the MARC commuter rail service and many bus lines. Under current rules, MTA is able to cut transit service without adequate notice to affected communities and before the public hearing process is even completed. This happened in 2003, 2005 and in 2008.
Another part of the problem is how we fund transit. The MTA's budget is funded mainly by gas tax revenue and car titling fees. Paradoxically, when people drive less, transit service must be cut. In late 2008 and early 2009, the MTA cut MARC train service in order to help balance their budget. I have proposed three bills that will help address these problems and build a strong foundation for greater investment in Transit:
- HB199: Maryland Transit Authority - Public Hearings - Requires the MTA to improve the transparency of their public hearing process when reducing rail or bus service. Each affected community would have to be notified. Proposed cuts could not be implemented until the conclusion of the public comment period. (cross-filed as SB506 by Senator Lisa Gladden)
- HB492: Commission on Governance and Funding for Commuter Rail - Under the current system, MARC Commuter Rail is funded by gas tax and car titling revenues. When people drive less and mass transit ridership is booming, the state must paradoxically cut service. Establishes a state commission to review and recommend options for better ways to fund and operate MARC train service.
- HB206: New West Silver Spring MARC station - Asks the MTA to study the creation of a new MARC commuter rail station in West in Silver Spring to serve the Linden neighborhood as well as growth at the Forest Glen Seminary, and the Forest Glen Annex due to BRAC growth (cross-filed as SB444 by Senator Rich Madaleno).
President Obama and the Congress are debating how a stimulus package will be best directed. Governor O'Malley has promoted an ambitious long-term road map called the MARC Growth and Investment Plan. Under his plan MARC commuter rail will be greatly expanded and will better connect with DC and Virginia. My proposed legislation dovetails with the stimulus discussions and the Governor's plan. They will will help keep us on track toward a balanced transportation vision.
Another transportation-related bill I am sponsoring is HB 458: Searchable State Web Site for Roadway Crash Data. The State Highway Administration currently maintains a database of all crash statistics but it is only available to elected officials and on paper. This bill would make SHA's roadway safety statistics database accessible to the public via a searchable web site. The database does not contain any names or personal information.
These bills will be heard in the House Environmental Matters Committee at 1pm on Tuesday, February 17th in Annapolis. If you are interested in supporting these bills, please contact legislative aide Kristin Fulkerson in my Annapolis Office: 301 858-3110 or firstname.lastname@example.org. You can testify in person, submit written testimony and/or ask your legislators to vote in favor of the bills.