CPHA is working on four important state transportation bills that we think will significantly improve both how Maryland makes funding decisions about and operates transportation.
The first bill is the Maryland Open Transportation Decision Act of 2016. Last spring, after the state spent over a decade of planning and $200 million preparing for the Baltimore Red Line, Governor Hogan canceled this important project and spent the money that would have been spent for the Red Line on rural and suburban road projects. A Public Information Act request filed by CPHA, 1000 Friends of Maryland, and the Central Maryland Transportation Alliance showed there was very little explanation from the administration about why the decision was made to cancel the line.
The Maryland Open Transportation Decision Act would require the Maryland Department of Transportation to score transportation projects based on certain goals and measures that include:
- Safety and Security
- System Preservation
- Quality of Service
- Environmental Stewardship
- Community Vitality
- Economic Prosperity
- Equitable Access to Transportation
- Cost Effectiveness and Return on Investment
The idea is to ensure accountability and transparency with regards to how we fund transportation in our state. By requiring the state to look at the above goals and measures, transportation decisions will be made based on what best serves the interest of Maryland residents and not politics. States as diverse as Virginia, Louisiana, and Massachusetts have similar systems in place.
The next bill would repeal the requirement that Maryland Transit Administration (MTA) operations maintain a set farebox recovery rate. The farebox recovery rate is the percentage of operations covered by transit fares. It is a very poor measure of accountability as it does nothing to show the cost-efficiency of transit operations or how effective the agency is serving its customers.
This requirement also serves as a disincentive for the agency to improve service as any additional funds spent on operation would lead to a reduction in the farebox recovery rate. Furthermore, roads are not subject to any such onerous metrics.
The third bill, involves establishing an Oversight and Planning Board for the MTA. From waiting years for a real-time arrival system to buses that never arrive on time, the MTA’s performance leaves much to be desired.
The oversight and planning board would consist of citizens from jurisdictions served by the MTA appointed by local elected officials, the governor, and the state legislature. Almost every single transit agency in America is governed by a Board of Directors that has far more power than the one being proposed in this legislation.
Currently the MTA is only overseen by the legislature that meets 120 days out of the year and must deal with many other issues besides transit. An oversight and planning board dedicated to the MTA would serve to hold the agency accountable and advocate for it.
The fourth and final bill would expand the tax credit for companies that provide transit benefits to their employees. Such a bill could encourage more employers to take advantage of this credit and lead to more transit ridership.
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