For decades, Baltimore City neighborhoods have endured policies of disconnection. Redlining, incomplete transit systems, poor broadband access, and sustained disinvestment have plagued our communities, systematically separating us and amplifying existing inequities.
Every resident of Baltimore, regardless of zip code, should have access to the full range of academic, career, and experiential opportunities that exist here. To accomplish this, we must be innovative in our approach to ensure safe and reliable transit, universal internet connectivity and access to technology, and meaningful growth and investment that connects and supports communities.
Innovative Multimodal Transportation Solutions
Baltimore is home to a light rail, bus, commuter rail, water taxi, and subway network. Yet, our existing transit assets are largely disconnected from one another. Outside of Charles Center/Lexington Market, Penn Station, and Camden Yards, there are no true multi-modal connection points in our city.
Our entire transit network and ridership are negatively impacted when systems are inconvenient and disconnected, resulting in a lack of density that further diminishes sustainable economic growth and opportunity. We must rethink how we build, utilize and link light rail, water taxi, and bus stations with micro-transit, bicycle, and pedestrian paths. And we must prioritize the exploration of public/private partnerships, pilot programs, and other solutions for reducing the distance between a traveler’s origin or final destination and transit stations. Ridesharing apps, subsidized Uber and Lyft for transit users or circulator-type shuttles between stations and employment centers must be a part of the solution
If we are successful in rethinking existing infrastructure challenges, we can better connect our communities and our district. For example, in Cherry Hill, the potential for a true multi-modal transit system is achievable if we reimagine our use of existing assets. Cherry Hill’s light rail station connects the neighborhood to important employment centers in Baltimore and at BWI airport. Yet, despite being a 10-minute walk from the Middle Branch Marina, the area currently lacks a water taxi station. Such an asset would connect Cherry Hill and Harbor Hospital with Harbor East and Canton, offering Southeast and South Baltimore residents greater access to employment and regional transit hubs, like those that currently exist at BWI.
As Delegate, I will:
- Create a mode-neutral transit station grant program to spur multimodal connections, encourage innovative first-and-last mile transit solutions, and support transit-orientated development (TOD).
- Require a study by the Maryland Transit Administration to examine innovative micro-transit solutions that better connect Baltimoreans to our various transit and commuter systems.
- Promote the connection of transit stations to accessible, clean, and sustainable bicycle and pedestrian infrastructure.
- Seek to creatively utilize our existing transit infrastructure to overcome barriers like I-95 and the Patapsco River, which have historically separated and segregated our communities.
Bridge the Digital Divide
More than 500,000 households in Maryland lack access to reliable broadband internet – a problem felt even more acutely in Baltimore City. The Abell Foundation identified more than 33% of homes in Baltimore City without a wired internet connection and nearly 25% without a personal computer or laptop. In 2018, approximately 65% of Baltimore City’s youth had access to wired internet, compared to nearly 84% nationally. However, overcoming barriers to access is just one part of the equation. Nearly 15% of all U.S. adults are not digitally literate, impacting everything from job prospects to the utilization of digital finance and bill payment tools, and basic family connections between grandparents and grandchildren.
The COVID-19 pandemic has illuminated the tremendously negative impacts of these issues in Baltimore, which has further amplified existing inequities in access to quality education and employment. As our world becomes increasingly reliant on digital connectivity, we must do more to remove barriers, ensure widespread broadband access, and ensure that all Marylanders have access to the digital tools and training they need to succeed.
As Delegate, I will:
- Focus state efforts and resources on digital inclusion initiatives that expand connectivity and address gaps in affordability of internet devices and service(s).
- Support enabling legislation and funding for municipal wireless internet services.
- Create a digital literacy training pilot program and apply for state and federal grant funds to support the program.
- Work with both state and local legislators to ensure there is broadband competition in Baltimore City, including sustainable internet service subsidies that attract additional service providers and encourage the development of expanded last-mile service.
- Seek public/private partnerships to improve the pipeline of computing devices, internet access, and digital literacy education for low-income families, returning citizens, and immigrant communities.
- Work with the philanthropic community to create a dedicated long-term endowment fund to support the efforts of our city government to achieve digital equity.
- Increase public awareness of affordability programs offered by business and nonprofit entities.
Fix Baltimore’s Aging Infrastructure
Baltimore’s failing infrastructure lacks the prioritization and funding necessary to ensure a stronger and healthier city now and for future generations. Crumbling roads and sinkholes, unreliable and unsafe water distribution and treatment systems, landfills nearing capacity, and outdated floodplain management systems are a few of the many challenges that require immediate action and adequate funding.
Today’s regional transportation planning and state budgeting processes are failing to address these infrastructure crises. In addition, the Maryland Transit Administration has forecasted a $2 billion shortfall in maintenance funding over the next decade. We must act with urgency to implement a thoughtful and comprehensive approach to rejuvenating, modernizing, and repairing our aging foundation and its associated systems.
As Delegate, I will:
- Encourage close collaboration between the Maryland Department of Environment and Baltimore City Department of Public Works to address aging infrastructure sustainably.
- Work with city leaders to prioritize resiliency planning and create more transparent processes for infrastructure contracts.
- Better leverage local, state, and federal infrastructure funding opportunities.
Expand Baltimore’s Transit System
Governor Larry Hogan’s decision in 2015 to cancel the Red Line transit project and walk away from nearly $1 billion in federal funding dealt a significant blow to our city and continued a cycle of systemic underinvestment in Baltimore.
It is unacceptable that neither before nor since then has our state implemented new solutions to better connect east and west Baltimore – such as adding new connection points for MARC, subway, and light rail users – or to address the disconnection between existing transit stations. It is also critical that we work to provide reliable, efficient access to growing job centers in Southeast Baltimore and at the Port of Baltimore. Simply put, we have to get people to work.
We must leverage upcoming funding and grant opportunities to reinvest and improve our neighborhoods, particularly neighborhoods that are all too often left behind when resources are distributed. For example, there will likely be significant state funds granted to projects like Port Covington. We must unite and organize to ensure that these funds expand transit accessibility and achieve transformative connectivity solutions.
Baltimore should also firmly reject transportation projects that threaten our communities while offering little connectivity benefits for residents. In January 2021, Cherry Hill was identified as the location for a potential MAGLEV station in Baltimore. While MAGLEV technology is exciting, this project would require significant retail, medical, and residential property acquisitions in Cherry Hill and Westport, creating adverse impacts that include resident displacement and reduced community cohesion and livability. WIth average MAGLEV trip costs of $50, we must be wary of projects that displace our neighbors and provide no accessibility to the average Baltimorean.
As Delegate, I will:
- Require MDOT-MTA to conduct an equity analysis as a condition of supporting any Port Covington light rail expansion or highway expansion and to designate a certain percentage of grant funding to the improvement of existing light rail stations in South Baltimore and/or funding transit-oriented development or multimodal connections at existing stations.
- Reject funding requests for the MAGLEV project. Instead, repurpose the funding to support and improve accessibility within our existing transit infrastructure.
- Require MDOT-MTA capital project studies to improve east-west connectivity, including extending the existing Baltimore subway system east and/or south; building a MARC commuter rail station in East Baltimore, and deploying Bus Rapid Transit along some of our busiest commuter streets like Eastern Avenue and Boston Street.
- Advocate for a Regional Transportation Authority to implement and execute the Central Maryland Regional Transit Plan (RTP). To be successful, the Authority must include diverse participation, have decision-making authority, and a dedicated funding source.
- Advocate for state and federal funding sources to significantly improve accessibility at bus stops in Baltimore City.