Monday, August 17, 2015

Based on what analysis was the Red Line canceled?

The 1000 Friends of Maryland a a coalition of transit proponents had asked MDOT to share the analysis on which the cancellation of the Red Line was based. Some 40 days later the answer is still silence.

Here is what the transit friends have to say about that in a press release issued this afternoon:

BALTIMORE, MD –Maryland organizations supporting the Baltimore Red Line asked the Hogan Administration on July 7thto release the “thorough analysis” that informed the Governor’s decision to cancel the Red Line [PIA request letter].  No documents have been received and MDOT is now in violation of the Public Information Act.“The Governor announcing his cancelation of the Red Line on June 25th spoke of the administration’s assessment faulting the project.  We have asked to see that analysis and expected it to be provided right away or at least with in the 30 days the law allows for complicated matters”, said Dru Schmidt-Perkins, President, 1000 Friends of Maryland.  “Either they have this thorough analysis or they don’t.”The Maryland Department of Transportation is required to respond to information requests “immediately” according to Maryland Law.  “An additional reasonable period not to exceed 30 days is available only where the additional period of time is needed to retrieve their record and assess their status under the PIA,” according to the Attorney General’s website.
The 30 day clock ran out on Thursday, August 6th.  A MDOT assistant Attorney General promised some documents on Tuesday, August 11th and none have been provided and MDOT is now asking for more time until August 26th.“The Red Line project was the result of over a decade of assessing the transit needs of Baltimore that resulted in this east-west light rail.  Over the years this went through many levels of tough analysis, finally having to compete against transit projects across the country before winning federal funding.  Maryland taxpayers deserve to know what evidence the administration had that was more compelling than a decade of tough work,” said Richard Hall, Executive Director of Citizens Planning and Housing Association.Secretary of Transportation Pete Rahn repeatedly promised legislative committees that he would conduct comprehensive reviews of both the Red Line and Purple Line projects. On January 28th, Secretary Rahn’s first public mention of these reviews occurred before a Senate Budget & Taxation Committee hearing about the Red and Purple lines. At that hearing he testified that “the Governor has requested a thorough analysis and report to him.” On May 20th Secretary Rahn stated that he has not begun his review of the Red Line.   timeline of Rahn’s statements about the reviews show that the Secretary consistently promised to review the project, but that the Red Line’s review was repeatedly delayed until after the review of the Purple Line was completed.“The simple fact is I can read through reams of technical analysis done for the Red Line that show it was a cost-effective way to serve regional transportation needs while integrating with our existing network,” said Brian O’Malley, President & CEO of the Central Maryland Transportation Alliance.  “Where is the equivalent analysis done by MDOT that helps me understand how the Governor came to the opposite conclusion? Dragging their feet on this request leads me to believe that they didn’t really do their homework.”Next steps for the Baltimore regionMoving forward, a coalition supporting equitable transportation in the Baltimore Region is developing a strategy for next steps.  This coalition led by 1000 Friends of Maryland, Central Maryland Transportation Alliance and Citizens Planning & Housing Association.  
  1. We support efforts of Baltimore’s elected officials to seek ways to save the Red Line as the most effective means to meet urgent transit needs.
  2. If the Red Line is not built then these funds should be redeployed to support other urgently needed transit improvements.
  3. Support legislation that will improve the transparency, accountability and performance of major transportation spending.
  4. Improve the performance of the Maryland Transit Administration and increase the oversite of this agency.
  5. Meet the goals of the regional effort known as the Opportunity Collaborative to increase access to jobs, housing, education and health care. This was the result of three years of work and many stakeholders.  They released their plan this past June. 
  • Create more opportunity for mid-skill workers to commute to family-supporting jobs via public transportation.
  • Shorten commute times and improve transit reliability to reduce the burden on working families.
  • Make the region a more attractive place for employers by expanding transit access to more of the region’s mid-skill labor pool.
  • Increase non-car commuting options to reduce our impact on the Chesapeake Bay and reduce carbon emissions.
These issues will be discussed at a September 15 workshop that Citizens Planning & Housing Association is hosting.   Their website will soon have more details (
A small sample of the studies that were prepared during 12 years of Red Line planning and design.

It seems pretty obvious that the administration simply studied the Purple Line and never got around looking at the Red Line in similar detail. Politically it was clear that they wouldn't fund both transit projects.

Once the Purple Line kind of survived (on $163 million instead of $730 million state funds), and been found politically and budget wise less risky, the death of the Red Line simply followed automatically. To make it plausible the project was called "flawed", a "boondoggle" and the like in what one can only call a preemptive strike. The adjectives are less the result of a transportation analysis and more part of a political strategy.

Klaus Philipsen, FAIA

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