Mass TransitIn an Oct. 17 story on transit funding...


November 07, 1993

Mass Transit

In an Oct. 17 story on transit funding, reporter Peter Jensen bemoans transit's declining ridership and its growing share of Maryland's Transportation Trust Fund.

The gist of his article is that transit should find its own source of revenue, perhaps through a dedicated sales or property tax, and leave the Transportation Trust Fund to a "worthy cause," i.e., building more highways.

It should be no mystery that transit ridership is going down when hidden subsidies and public policies heavily favor driving instead of transit.

Consider, for example, that employer-provided parking is an untaxed benefit up to $155 a month, while the employer-provided transit benefit (if it is indeed provided at all) is tax exempt only up to $60 a month.

The value of employer-provided parking subsidies for commuters to Washington, D.C., alone is estimated to be $240 million a year, which nearly equals the public subsidy of Washington's Metro system.

Land use planning is a critical public policy arena that favors driving over transit. The suburban sprawl so prevalent in the Washington and Baltimore regions is an automobile-dependent land use pattern.

Sprawl's low-density housing, separation of jobs and housing and suburb-to-suburb commuting preclude effective transit services. As the suburban share of metropolitan job growth rises, a region's share of transit commuting is bound to decline.

As much as the highway contractors' lobby would like to have the public believe otherwise, expanding the highway system does not alleviate congestion in the long run.

A Sept. 30 news story by Peter Jensen supports this. He reported in the story that average highway speeds in the Baltimore area are expected to fall from 50.1 to 42.8 miles per hour by 2020 despite spending $2.4 billion on highway expansions.

Transit deserves to be a high priority for funding and for supportive public policies. In metropolitan areas transit is an important share of total travel.

The Washington Metro system, for example, carries 500,000 riders on an average weekday. Imagine what Washington's roads and air would be like if all of those people traveled by car. For one thing, it would mean a more polluted Chesapeake Bay.

Raising revenues through increased ridership should be part of the solution to meeting transit's costs.

This can be accomplished by changing the policies that handicap transit. Modify public subsidies so that they benefit transit riders at least as equally as drivers. Revise land use plans so that new growth occurs in locations and patterns that accommodate transit.

If we in Maryland have the good sense to invest millions in transit systems, we should have the good sense to shape and coordinate public policies to support the use of those transit systems.

George J. Maurer


The writer is an environmental planner with the Chesapeake Bay Foundation.

Let Voters Decide

Since The Sun designated me "the leading contender" for the Republican gubernatorial nomination (Editorial, Oct. 19), the good folks on The Sun's editorial staff have dubbed me "a Reaganomics true-believer," a "Reaganomics devotee," and "the Newt Gingrich of the minority Republicans in the House of Delegates."

I know that The Sun intended all of those descriptive phrases to be pejorative, but I have no quarrel with them and take no offense. In fact, I do share President Reagan's devotion to lower taxes and less intrusive government and, like the U.S. House minority whip, I have tried to aggressively present the case for Republican policies proposals. But some of your broad-brush swipes deserve to be addressed.

* "Sauerbrey loyalists," you say, "believe in the spoils system." They would demand, you assert, that Governor Sauerbrey fill her administration with Republicans, that no Democrats need apply. In fact, I have stated that, as governor, I would appoint the best and brightest of the Republican farm team to jobs for which they are qualified, enabling them to gain the experience they need to build a true two-party system in Maryland, which I know The Sun advocates.

* I am alleged to have "sharply criticized Mr. Neall," with whom I served eight years in the Maryland House. In fact, Bob Neall and I differ little -- if at all -- on the issues. I make it a point never to even mention my fellow candidates on the campaign trail. I talk about what I will do when I am elected governor of Maryland.

* You have now declared me to be "largely ineffective in the House." In fact, in a recent analysis of the gubernatorial candidates, Barry Rascovar wrote this: Sauerbrey "set forth a budget-cutting scheme last session that was so irresistible the Democratic leadership embraced it."

I did not become minority leader to perpetuate an invisible Republican Caucus languishing in a permanent minority role.

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