Blasted for a proposal to permanently eliminate 25 MTA bus lines and reduce service on a dozen others, the Hogan administration has canceled the cuts it previously said were necessary because of coronavirus-related revenue losses.
“With the ongoing review of all transit ridership and public feedback, it became clear that preserving core bus service is essential,” Transportation Secretary Gregory Slater said in a release today.
Instead, agency officials said, the revenue shortfall will be covered by operating MARC trains on an enhanced “R” service schedule and placing commuter buses on “S” schedule service, with the exception of Route 301 and Route 320.
Those changes will take effect on November 1.
Hurting Essential Workers
The announcement in September of the drastic bus system cuts drew swift condemnation from transit advocates, business leaders, politicians and others who said the permanent loss of service would disproportionately hurt poor city residents.
“We should not be balancing the state transportation budget on the backs of Brown and Black essential workers,” the Central Maryland Transportation Alliance wrote in a letter to Gov. Larry Hogan.
City school advocates pointed out that Baltimore students are heavily dependent on transit, with more than half of high school students relying on the MTA to get to their schools.
The agency cited ridership data to explain their approach to shifting the burden of cost-cutting to other services. MTA bus ridership has remained relatively high considering the coronavirus stay-at-home order, but MARC train and commuter bus ridership plummeted severely, they said.
“Ridership across all MDOT MTA transit modes was down 60% overall, with MARC down 89%, Commuter Bus down 87% and Core Local Bus down 51%,” according to the Maryland Department of Transportation release.
Baltimore Mayor Bernard C. “Jack” Young and Council President Brandon Scott joined with other local leaders to say they were pleased with the state’s decision to walk back the earlier plan.
“While we understand the significant budget challenges caused by the pandemic, the proposed cuts would have only caused further harm to our residents who are already bearing the brunt of this crisis,” said a joint statement signed by Baltimore County Executive Johnny Olszewski, Jr., Anne Arundel County Executive Steuart Pittman, Jr. and Howard County Executive Calvin Ball III.