BALTIMORE (WJZ) — Baltimoreans who rely on public transportation to get around decried proposed cuts to bus and MARC service as community leaders said budget shortfalls due to the coronavirus shouldn’t be balanced “on the backs of the most vulnerable.”
On Tuesday, the Maryland Department of Transportation Maryland Transit Administration announced a number of cuts, citing revenue and ridership drops amid the pandemic. The cuts amount to a roughly 20 percent reduction of local bus service as well as decreased commuter bus and MARC train service.
In total, 25 bus lines would be cut.
At the busy Mondawmin bus terminal Wednesday, the cuts were on riders’ minds.
“I can’t afford a car. If I could, I would have one, trust me. I wouldn’t want to stay with MTA,” Patrice Duckett said.
“I’m 81 years old. How am I gonna get around?” Charles Pope wondered.
Also included in the cuts is the elimination of all express routes linking Baltimore’s suburbs to the city.
“That’s ridiculous, that’s ridiculous,” Tina High said.
“All it does it put an extra burden on people to get around,” Craig Thornton said.
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Executives in the city as well as Anne Arundel, Baltimore and Howard counties issued a joint statement Tuesday evening, saying the cuts hurt the poorest in the region, from students to essential workers who rely on public transit.
“During a public health emergency that continues to have devastating impacts, we should not seek to balance the budget on the backs of the most vulnerable,” the statement read in part.
Baltimore Mayor Bernard C. “Jack” Young stressed that despite the pandemic, people still need to get to work.
MTA did not make anyone available for an on-camera interview Wednesday, but in a press release the agency said the demand just isn’t there. Last month, local bus ridership was down by more than half compared to last year.
“I can understand that, you know, the money’s not coming in, but when they do get the money, how’s it managed?” Thornton wondered.
MTA said the proposed service cuts will affect less than four percent of total riders. Still, Young is asking Gov. Larry Hogan to reconsider.
“I know the pandemic has really crippled a lot of funding for a lot of agencies and federal programming, but MTA is a vital—it’s like life and death that people are able to get to their jobs, that people who don’t have cars can still get to the hospital for their appointments, go get food,” Young said.
If approved, the cuts would go into effect in January.
A number of public hearing will be held to discuss the changes. For full details about proposed route changes and hearing dates, click here.