By Stephen Janis
Special to the AFRO

The proposed cuts to the bus service across the state are prompting concerns among both riders and city leaders. 

Last week, the Maryland Transit Administration (MTA) announced a comprehensive cut to service. The proposed changes would slash service by roughly 20 percent across the city, leading to longer wait times for residents who rely on the bus system to get to work. 

It would also eliminate nine express bus routes (103, 104, 105, 115, 120, 150, 154, 160, and 164) which run between the city and communities in the county, along with 25 “local links” (21, 34, 38, 51, 52, 53, 57, 59, 70, 71, 73, 81, 82, 91, 92 and 95), and reduced service on 11. 

The plan also calls for cuts to the state’s MARC service, which ferries residents primarily between Baltimore and D.C. 

The MTA blamed the cuts on a loss of ridership since the onset of the pandemic and reduced revenue. 

“The financial impact created by the COVID-19 crisis has created an unparalleled challenge for transit agencies across the US and many are facing difficult decisions,” said Kevin Quinn, MDOT MTA Administrator. “MDOT MTA will continue to strive for a safe, reliable and equitable transit system that provides opportunity to all citizens in the Baltimore region.”

But reaction among riders and city leaders has been swift, noting that the loss in service will hit Baltimore’s low income residents particularly hard. 

“The bus cuts will do nothing but make the transportation woes greater for the people of the city,” Mike Willis, a resident who uses the buses regularly told the AFRO. “I would argue the service is needed now more than ever.”

“Cutting low performing routes just shows the MTA puts profits over people.”

The plan also received pushback from city leadership. City council President and Democratic Mayoral nominee Brandon Scott, Mayor Jack Young and several other local leaders said in a joint statement issued last week that decreasing service would only increase the burden COVID-19 has placed upon low wage workers who rely primarily on public transportation. 

“Make no mistake about it: This decision will disproportionately impact our poor, Black and Brown residents, especially those living in historically-disinvested neighborhoods. Particularly 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.”

Hogan’s public transportation policy has been controversial. Shortly after taking office in 2014 Hogan canceled the Red Line project, a fixed rail line that would have run through West Baltimore and into Canton in Southeast Baltimore and pumped $2.9 billion into the regional economy.

In its place Hogan invested $135 million in the city bus system to mixed reviews, with riders like Willis saying a usually slow service has only gotten worse.  

“I would say it’s gotten much slower,” Willis said. “I think the morale amongst the drivers is as low as I’ve ever seen.”