Statement by Ramón Palencia-Calvo in Support of the Transit Safety and Investment Act Kickoff

Maryland LCV is a state-wide, nonpartisan organization, and we use political action and education to protect our environment and communities. We are particularly focused on the intersection of climate and environmental equity. That’s why we see this bill as a priority for all of us.

We are experiencing a climate crisis — and carbon emissions are causing this crisis. We are all aware of the effects of climate change in Maryland, including extreme weather events, such as floods and heat waves. With more than 3,000 miles of shoreline and 265,000 acres of land that is less than five feet above sea level, our coasts are extremely vulnerable to sea-level rise. 

The pollution from carbon emissions not only fuels climate change, but also has a devastating effect on our health — and especially the health of our underserved communities.

Simply stated, transportation is inextricably linked both to our climate and to the well-being of our communities. We need to act now.

Unfortunately, the urgency of this issue was ignored last year. Climate policy was a significant area of failure for the 2020 General Assembly. That’s why Maryland LCV gave the General Assembly an “F” for Transportation in our 2020 Environmental Scorecard.

Many of the bills that did not make the cut last year, like the Transit Safety and Investment Act, would have made  Maryland more resilient to future calamities and to the climate change impacts that we are already experiencing.

Why is this bill so important for the climate? Our transportation sector, mainly consisting of single occupancy vehicles, is the largest source of GHG emissions in Maryland, accounting for 40 percent of total emissions.

A well-funded transit system will help reduce the number of cars and trucks on roads and the number of miles travelled by these vehicles, and thereby reduce overall GHG emissions. On average,  a single occupancy vehicle produces more than double the amount of CO2 per passenger mile than public transit.  This is paramount because we cannot fix our climate problems  if we do not address the leading source of GHG emissions.

The Transit Safety and Investment Acts is not only important for the climate. This bill is also an important equity bill because public transit is a crucial factor in helping families  move out of poverty. If we allow our public transit system to fall into continued disrepair, the ability of Marylanders to recover economically now and after the pandemic will be adversely impacted.  We cannot fix equity problems if we don’t address accessibility to jobs.

Finally, this is also a public health bill. The health impacts of pollution from the transportation sector are widely documented.  This pollution contributes to everything from respiratory disease, such as bronchitis and asthma, to cardiovascular disease and cancer.  Reducing pollution from cars will have a direct impact on health, especially those in urban areas and communities located near highways.

A well-funded transit system is essential for our communities, our climate, and our public health. Let’s make sure 2021 is the year of the Transit Safety and Investment Act.