Hogan pledges faster more efficient service for residents while mayor stays away
STEPHEN JANIS, TRNN: Baltimore City has a notoriously inefficient bus system, a lack of connectivity, and inefficient routes that some say is a a result of the city’s historical legacy of racial inequity. But today Maryland Governor Larry Hogan said that was about to change, as he rolled into town with a new plan to remake the city’s Byzantine bus system. GOVERNOR LARRY HOGAN: We’re here today to announce an exciting and transformative new master plan to rebuild Baltimore City’s transit system. For the first time ever in history the people of Baltimore and the surrounding jurisdictions will be able to travel conveniently, efficiently, and affordably from where they live to where they work. JANIS: It wasn’t just talk. Hogan pledged $135 million in state money to create a more efficient and accessible mass transit system, particularly for people who need to get to work on time. The plan would include twelve high-frequency color-coded buses aimed at bringing people to their jobs, and more links with existing rail to connect the system, that has been characterized as piecemeal. – I think that when you talk about structural racism, which has been a term that’s been kind of thrown around a lot in the last year or so, especially in wake of law enforcement reform, the death of Michael Brown, Freddie Gray, and all the other names that we can throw out, it talks about just a, a political structure that has no–it has no connection to the people that it serves. I mean, the vast majority of the people, when we’re talking about Baltimore, are black people and poor people. And ultimately it just, it’s like the road–the highway to nowhere. It stands there as this symbol, when it was–I guess it completed in 1979. This symbol of just ineptitude, one, but just a kind of broken, empty promise to a neighborhood saying oh, it’s going to bring thousands of jobs. It’s going to do this, it’s going to do that. JANIS: Even new technology was in the offing. They would keep lights green when buses approach. But notably absent from the event was a key component of making the plan work: Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake. So we asked the governor why she was a no-show. HOGAN: I sat down with the mayor for an hour and a half and talked about our commitment to the city, talked about this transportation plan, along with a number of other priorities. And I assured the mayor that I’m going to do everything in my power to work with her as closely as we possibly can during the remainder of her term, to do things together for the city of Baltimore. JANIS: Does she support this plan? HOGAN: She really hasn’t had a chance–she didn’t comment [one way or the other] and wasn’t able to make it here today. But it seems like most of the city, the state leaders, do support the plan. JANIS: However, former mayor Sheila Dixon did decide to attend, saying the plan was an important step in the right direction. She thinks overhauling the bus system will add equity and vision to a system that has for a long time been lacking both. SHEILA DIXON: This is really moving in the right direction. And it’s moving in the right direction because one of the complaints that people have had is they’ve had to take three, four buses to get to a job. And so to have this connection, to get this kind of time enhancement, is going to be phenomenal. And of course you know I’m very partial to biking, and so incorporating that whole piece within this, it’s going to be great. So it’s a good start. JANIS: Reporting for the Real News Network in Baltimore, this is Stephen Janis and Taya Graham.
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