2016 was a very active year for CPHA and our work with transportation advocacy. It was also a successful one. Out of the four bills we championed, three of them passed the legislature and two of them have already become law! Here’s a look at the bills we supported.
The Commuter Tax Credit program allows employers who provide transit passes to their employees to receive a tax credit equal to 50% of the cost for doing so. Prior to this legislation, the tax credit was capped at $50 per employee per month. This law extended the cap to $100 per employee per month.
The larger tax credit will be particularly helpful in encouraging employers in large outer suburban areas with high concentrations of employees such as Aberdeen and the BWI area to participate in the program, since many times 50% of the expenses required for employee transportation exceeded the $50 cap. Increasing transit access in these auto-dominated, high job density areas was a key recommendation of the Opportunity Collaborative’s Regional Plan for Sustainable Development and is discussed in detail in The Last Mile report.
The law will also reduce the minimum vehicle capacity for eligible vehicles from 8 to 6 in order to encourage more van pools.
It passed unanimously in the House and Senate and was signed by the Governor.
Under both Republican and Democratic administrations, the performance of the Maryland Transit Administration (MTA) has left much to be desired. This legislation would establish a board consisting of members appointed by the Governor, the Mayor of Baltimore, local county executives, and members of the General Assembly to provide oversight of the MTA and to advocate for the interests of the agency. It is hoped that such a board will hold the agency accountable for its performance and to assist it in better serving the needs of Baltimore area residents and the state of Maryland. Such boards are standard practice in most other large transit systems across the country.
It also establishes an MTA Citizens Advisory Committee and a Citizens Advisory Committee for Accessible Transportation, and the MARC Riders Advisory Council into law. Though all of these committees currently exist, placing them into law assures their presence into the future and increases their status, allowing them to more effectively serve their missions of providing a voice for MTA riders.
This bill passed the House and Senate. It is awaiting action from the Governor.
Last June, Governor Larry Hogan singlehandedly cancelled the Red Line, which had been in planning for over a decade and announced new spending on road projects in rural and suburban jurisdictions. A Public Information Act request filed by 1000 Friends of Maryland, and CPHA revealed that the choice to cancel this important project was made arbitrarily and without any objective analysis.
This legislation was designed to encourage transparent and intelligent decisions with regards to how Maryland spends its transportation dollars. The Open Transportation Investment and Decision Act requires the Maryland Department of Transportation (MDOT) to develop a scoring system for major transportation projects based on certain criteria. Some of these criteria include safety and security, system preservation, equity, economic development, and cost effectiveness. They must then use this scoring system to rank state transportation projects. If a high ranking project is not funded but a lower ranking project does receive funding, MDOT must provide an explanation for why this decision was made.
This bill passed the House and Senate but was vetoed by the Governor. The General Assembly overrode this veto and it became law.
Currently the MTA is required to recover 35% of its operating costs through fares. Not only has the agency had trouble reaching this goal for most of its modes, farebox recovery is also not a very good metric for evaluating cost-effectiveness or how effectively the agency serves it riders. This legislation would have removed the requirement that the MTA meet a farebox recovery goal.
This bill was introduced in both the House and the Senate, but never made it out of committee.
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