Issue Paper 2022 – Transportation

After the many complications that Covid 19 has brought, we continue to find more emphasis being placed on transportation for essential workers, ways to get to health care, and staying safe. If we think of some key transportation elements, there’s equity, environment, and safety. They all have bearing on our democracy and LWV is concerned about all of them. We should be concerned that workers can safely and efficiently get to jobs via transit. Health care, education and voting should be accessible by everyone. Our environment should be cared for as we preserve natural resources. Our government should coordinate on multiple levels so populations can be equitably served.

Transportation issues are woven throughout the action of LWVMD. Of course, transportation is about cars and highways; how people and goods are moved by bus, truck, train, air and ship; how safe it is to bike and walk in a neighborhood; how money is raised, spent, and kept at various levels; where houses are built. Transportation issues affect everyone and LWVMD advocates analyze bills and promote those that support equity, our environment and safety through good transportation policy.

Equity in Transportation Sector– Guidelines and Analyses has been pre-filed in both the House and Senate. A similar bill was introduced last year, too late to be acted upon by both sides. It establishes a commission on transportation equity and requires bills to be examined through an equity lens before any changes can be made as well as added analyses to bills.

Maryland Transit Administration – Conversion to Zero-Emission Buses, Zero-Emission Bus Transition Act Revisions has also been pre-filed in both the House and Senate. Last year, the parent bill was passed laying out the method that the state should use in converting its buses to electric. Since transportation is the largest emitter of greenhouse gases in our state and country, many efforts to tackle the immense challenge in reducing transportation emissions focus on electrification of a vehicle fleet.. Here, as in many bills, costs of implementation are a key challenge. Some components that were omitted in the parent bill are now addressed and include workforce training and annual reports.

Safety is always a concern for transportation and another bill is anticipated to address this issue. We are expecting it to be called the SAFE Roads Act and it requires the State Highway Association to review high pedestrian and bike injury corridors and implement improvements. It also requires increased spending for pedestrian and bike safety measures in all improvement projects. 

Last year there were a number of bills addressing Public Private Partnership (P3) reforms. These all failed to pass and we expect to see one or more that include relevant reforms. These reforms are not anticipated to affect the expansion of I-495/I-270 or the American Legion Bridge because of timing. Bills are aimed to impact other future P3 agreements with elements that may include transparency, accountability, community impacts, and governments. 

MARC (Maryland Area Regional Commuter) rail extension bill passed last year and a veto by Governor Hogan was overridden allowing some trains to potentially deviate from the normal Maryland route through D.C. and into Virginia. Also, there were  last-minute amendments in the bill calling for the MTA to look at extending Penn Line service from Perryville in Cecil County to link up with Philadelphia’s SEPTA commuter rail at Newark and connecting the Penn and Camden Lines in downtown Baltimore. By having a longer rail route, savings of time, money and impact on the environment could be affected. This year, we may see more bills that involve MARC service.

Both the House and Senate will see environmental bills that may involve transportation as well. Solutions may include investing in better transit services, encouraging smart roadway pricing, and better syncing transportation with land use. Some of the biggest challenges in transportation can be solved through better land use. Bringing essential trips closer to where people live is a vital part of transportation. Environmental justice may see more bills that help us to implement a more environmental and just transportation system. 

Covid 19 has brought many changes to all our lives. With a better transportation system we expect a faster economic recovery, more equitable access, safety, and enhancement to our environment. Monitoring bills and advocating for good transportation affects everyone. 

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