STATEMENT of the SAVE MARYLAND TRANSIT COALITION on Gov. Hogan’s Last-Minute Veto of the Maryland Transit Safety & Investment Act

For Immediate Release
May 28, 2021

STATEMENT of the SAVE MARYLAND TRANSIT COALITION on Gov. Hogan’s Last-Minute Veto of the Maryland Transit Safety & Investment Act

Late Friday afternoon, Gov. Larry Hogan vetoed bi-partisan legislation designed to improve Maryland’s public transit system and eliminate a $2 billion maintenance backlog that leaves the system prone to constant breakdowns and unsafe for operators and riders.

“By vetoing the Transit Safety & Investment Act, Governor Hogan has signaled he does not support our healthcare workers, port employees, or the hundreds of thousands of Marylanders who depend on transit everyday to get to work,” said bill sponsor Del. Brooke Lierman. “The Maryland Transit Administration (MTA) over which he presides has $2 billion of unmet safety and state-of-good repair needs because of six years of disinvestment by his Administration. He has passed the buck to future administrations. He has done a huge disservice to Maryland businesses, our economy, and the livelihood of our state by vetoing this bipartisan bill. I look forward to overriding this veto and creating a sustainable and equitable transportation system in this state. “

“This is a setback for Maryland’s infrastructure, Maryland’s economy, and, most importantly, for the Marylanders who rely on the MTA to get to school, to work, to the pharmacy, and other places they need to go,” said bill sponsor Sen. Cory McCray. “I look forward to working with my colleagues to override the Governor’s veto, providing critical investments to our public transit system, making it safer and more reliable.“

The Transit Safety & Investment Act  (SB199/HB 114), which passed the 2021 Maryland General Assembly with strong bi-partisan support, would require the state to make investments to maintain and operate Maryland’s public transit system. The new funding is needed to improve service and reliability and to ensure the system’s trains, buses, and facilities are safe. The legislation also contains funding for a feasibility study of expanding MARC commuter trains to Western Maryland — a huge boon for that area’s economy. It also includes $1 million to help small businesses impacted by the prolonged construction of the Purple Line in Montgomery and Prince George’s Counties.

The Hogan Administration opposed the bill despite broad support. In fact, the Senate Budget & Taxation Committee  received over 70 letters supporting the bill from a wide range of Marylanders, including the Maryland Asphalt Association, not generally known for its support of public transit.

Advocates denounced the Governor’s move.

“The Hogan Administration says it wants flexibility, but unfortunately it has used its flexibility to let the MTA’s backlog of maintenance needs pile up for years. This bill says ‘fix it first’; take care of maintenance and safety before you flex funds to other projects you want to pursue. In an ideal world, we wouldn’t need a bill like this, but experience has shown us we do,” said Brian O’Malley, President & CEO, Central Maryland Transportation Alliance.

“This is another poor decision from  ‘Beltway Hogan,’”  said Jed Weeks, Policy Director, Bikemore. “Just two years ago the governor was only too happy to release $97 million in funding to WMATA, the Washington, D.C., transit system, but somehow he draws the line on funding his own state’s system.  Every dollar invested in transit creates not only more jobs than those invested in highway expansion but does so in a way that is sustainable, equitable, and community-driven.”

“The NAACP condemns this short-sighted action. It’s clear that Larry Hogan doesn’t want Maryland to reap the benefits of a world-class transit system. Unfortunately, it’s underserved neighborhoods, and too often Black and brown neighborhoods, that bear the disproportionate brunt of Larry Hogan’s system-—a system that leads the nation in breakdowns. This is first and foremost a social justice issue,” said Staci Hartwell, Co-chair for Environmental and Climate Justice, NAACP Maryland State Conference.

“Gov. Hogan is out of step with what Marylanders in the 21st century need,” said Josh Tulkin, Director, Maryland Sierra Club. “This legislation  would help Marylanders have better access to safe and reliable transit and reduce climate pollution.  We call on the General Assembly to override his veto as soon as they are in session.”

“The Transit Safety & Investment Act truly benefits all of Maryland and especially our most neglected communities,” said Maryland LCV Executive Director Kim Coble. “We are extremely disappointed that the Governor chose to not support  a bi-partisan, win-win initiative that creates jobs, fights climate change and supports communities.”

The Maryland Transit Administration (MTA) has been underinvested for years and riders suffer the consequences every day. Governor Hogan’s decision to withhold investment in the system leaves students, seniors and essential workers out in the cold, forced to rely on multiple connections to go short distances,  making it almost impossible to get where they’re going on time. Since Governor Hogan took office, MTA’s share of the state’s capital transportation program has fallen from 31 percent to just 19 percent. The result is that MTA’s rail systems –  Metro Subway, and Light Rail – break down more frequently than any comparable rail systems in the entire country, MARC Commuter Rail breaks down fourth most, and buses most among peer systems. Paratransit services also malfunction–leaving riders stranded. And MTA has identified over $2 billion in unfunded essential system maintenance and critical enhancements over the next decade.

The Transit Safety & Investment Act also would make funds available for locally operated transit systems across the state. The measure is designed to promote racial equity and strengthen Maryland’s economy by improving service in underserved communities and to help the state address climate change by expanding mass transit ridership.

For more information, visit https://savemdtransit.org/