Thursday, October 22, 2015

Hogan picks the hornet's nest to announce he is a friend of transit

Transportation Secretary Rahn explaining the Link transit plans to reporters
in front of a "wrapped" bus
It takes some gumption to pick West Baltimore as the venue to make the announcement, but that is what Governor Hogan picked as the place to announce his new "Link" bus initiative together with Secretary Pete Rahn and MTA Administrator Paul Comfort flanked by some transit advocates and supporters but not the Mayor. (All major mayoral candidates were there, though).

Two wrapped buses were part of the setting for the announcement

A rendering of the new bus branding served as backdrop for the speakers

With Gov Hogan is Senator Pugh, Councilman Young and Jimmy Rouse of Transit Choices. Mayor
Rawlings Blake preferred to remain absent

West Baltimore's MARC station was the backdrop for Governor O'Malley to announce the preferred alternative for the Red Line and where Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake and other officials requested in July that Hogan reconsider his decision to kill the $2.9 billion, 14.1-mile long Red Line that would have linked Johns Hopkins Bayview Medical Center in east Baltimore with Woodlawn in Baltimore County with a station right there at the MARC stop.

O'Malley at the LPA announcement for the Red Line in
August 2009
Hogans announcement will focus on another bus overhaul, this time comprehensive, with high frequency priority lines, shorter overall length of lines emanating from transit hubs. Not known before the event was how well funded the initiative will be, how long will it take to implement first steps and will the troika have the stamina to actually see it through in the time they have in office. Paul Comfort's high energy levels and high aspirations will be thoroughly tested, that is for sure.
MTA Administrator Paul Comfort speaking to reporters

There was some hyperbole at the event starting with words like "blowing up the current system" and rebuilding it". "The current transit is broken", says Pete Rahn. "We will deliver results of this plan "within days".

Governor Hogan appeared at West Baltimore at his first event after his final chemotherapy. "For the first time in history Baltimoreans will be able to travel conveniently and efficient on Baltimore transit" he said. "Baltimore's current transit network is a mess".  $135 million of new funding will be made available to have a direct impact on transit services. "We will have a system of 12 new high frequency link routes". With it, citizens will be able to ride from any point to any other point with a maximum of one transfer. There will be an expanded high frequency east-west service with 10 minute service from Social Security to Charles Center/ City Hall starting this Sunday.

Implementation will start immediately and could be completed in 2017. New transit hubs will be created for improved access. There supposedly will also be signal priority for buses. "The people of Baltimore rely on transit and the State has a responsibility" to provide this service, said Hogan.
"It is unacceptable for Maryland's largest and most important city to have an antiquated and broken transit system," Hogan said. "Perhaps even worse is both city and state leaders have largely ignored these failings of our system for decades. Beginning today, that is going to change."

The unveiled newly branded Link Bus. The new Link buses will be branded but
according to bus coordinator Michael Walk the windows will not stay covered for goo.

Council President Jack Young, the only higher ranking representative from the City (with him was Councilman Stokes) stated: "Hogan's plan is a great step towards a world class bus system". 
Senator Pugh: "we want to be a first class city". Behind Pugh the color codes Link lines
(Red shirt: Stuart Sirota, Assistant Secretary of Planning)
Jimmy Rouse, founder of Transit Choices had received a chart earlier this week in which MTA Administrator Comfort had checked off which of Transit Choices "Quick Hits" list will be met by the new Links initiative. Rouse speaking at the event nad riding in with the Governor on the still veiled bus indicated  that "we share the objective to create an efficient and clean system that connects all modes" and "we applaud the MTA to rethink how the buses can serve the citizens better". "If we can apply Hogan's strength of will to solving Baltimore's problems including transit we will make progress."

Secretary Rahn announced extensive listening sessions starting in two weeks. There will be new bike cars on all weekend MARC trains starting immediately. To make the immediate Link service improvements Rahn pointed to five new bus drivers, 55 additional ones have been approved as well as an order of 87 new buses (not hybrid). It isn't clear how many are really net additional and how many are replacements. 

Klaus Philipsen, FAIA
updated throughout the morning
Baltimore Business Journal article
A board displays the color coded high frequency lines. North Avenue will have one only as far west as
Pennsylvania Avenue 

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