The Central Maryland Transportation Alliance, a 3-year-old advocacy group, has named a former head of the Downtown Partnership as its new leader and is charting an agenda with an emphasis on public transit improvements.
The alliance, a privately funded organization of businesses and community groups, announced Wednesday the appointment of Michele L. Whelley, a longtime Baltimore resident who spent the past two years working in Connecticut, as president and chief executive officer.
Whelley, 56, most recently worked as chief executive of the Economic Development Corporation of New Haven. The alliance said she was chosen after a three-month search to replace former president Otis Rolley III, who left to take a job as a consultant.
Under Rolley, the alliance pushed for several Baltimore transportation initiatives, including an effort to make a Towson-to-Columbia rail line known as the Yellow Line the state's next transit priority after the east-west Red Line, which Maryland is seeking federal funding to build.
Whelley said that long-range effort remains at the top of the alliance's agenda, along with advocacy of transit-oriented development projects and the creation of a "report card" on Maryland Transit Administration services.
A former senior vice president with the Colliers Pinkard commercial real estate firm, Whelley served from 2000 to 2004 as president of the Downtown Partnership. In that role, she was active in the effort to increase downtown parking and to establish a shuttle services between downtown workplaces and satellite lots.
Whelley, a Montgomery County native and a longtime Roland Park resident, said she recently wound up a two-year contract in New Haven, during which she commuted on weekends to Baltimore.
At the alliance, Whelley said she will concentrate on a small number of initiatives geared to improving Baltimore's regional transportation system.
"It's dedicated to focusing on a few initiatives as opposed to being all things to all people," she said.
Whelley said the alliance will not ignore auto travel but is concentrating on transit.
"Transit is a priority because of the fact that transit has been so underfunded in terms of capital improvements for so many years," she said.
Whelley comes to the job at a time when one of the leading candidates for governor, former Republican chief executive Robert L. Ehrlich Jr., is talking about scaling back the state's investments in rail transit, including the Red Line. She called the job of developing a long-term vision for transportation through four-year cycles of electoral changes a "daunting task."
"I sold my rose-colored glasses many years ago," she said.