Today the Baltimore City Department of Transportation announced proposed changes to the Charm City Circulator, including elimination of the Banner Route, elimination of the Green Route, and elimination of the Purple Route Northern Extension from Penn Station to 33rd Street.
There is insufficient revenue to fund current operations, partially because the Banner Route was continued after its funding source—a grant tied to the Star Spangled 200—ran dry.
The Charm City Circulator is incredibly popular, with ridership in excess of many streetcars in other cities. It is a testament to the fact that Baltimoreans overwhelmingly desire access to high quality, frequent transit services. The challenge is getting our residents and elected officials to understand the costs of running these transit services, and the options to pay those costs.
Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake proposed in this year’s budget a 4% increase in the parking tax at public garages to fund the Circulator, but the City Council balked at this idea. Instead, some on Council proposed an ill-advised $1 fare for the service, which when factoring in purchase, installation, and operation of fare equipment, would net no profit while likely reducing the ridership of those most desperately in need of this transit service.
Funding mechanisms such as the proposed parking tax increase recognize that parking lots downtown promote car travel to downtown, causing a negative impact to congestion and to quality of life in our city. Paying a fee to fund alternatives to personal car travel is a common mechanism used in cities across the country and world to offset that negative impact.
Instead of scrapping routes that provide important mobility along corridors that are not well served by the MTA and have some of our highest rates of houses unable to afford cars, Baltimore City Department of Transportation should look at how to best improve efficiencies of existing routes while elected officials aggressively work to pass parking tax increases and investigate new parking revenue sources, such as monthly fees for Residential Permit Parking, that could allow us to further expand city funded transit service to other underserved neighborhoods.
As seen by the State’s cancellation of the Red Line, a sustainable funding source for public transit under local Baltimore City control is much needed, and will allow the City to address specific mobility needs as identified by city residents, instead of by political winds in Annapolis.
$ Monthly Parking Costs $
Baltimore's parking rates are already significantly less than neighboring cities. We cannot continue to subsidize the true cost of single occupancy vehicle use at the expense of congestion reduction, improved air quality, and transportation options for our residents.
We believe the Circulator fills a critical transportation gap, and strategies should be employed to increase and improve service--not eliminate it. That will require all of us and our elected officials to get real about what it truly costs to park cars. The time has come to bring our revenue from downtown parking in line with neighboring cities, and ensure that revenue is used to improve active and public transportation options for all Baltimore residents.
Simply put, we cut transit to keep parking cheap.
You can help support Bikemore's efforts to demand our city put people before cars: