CityLink Is Pathetic

So Larry Hogan unveiled his “transformative” new transit plan for Baltimore. Here’s the dance steps:

1. Call the Red Line a “boondoggle,” then kill it.

2. Spend the $2 billion previously allocated to the Red Line on highway projects all over the state (but not even a dollar in the City).

3. Have your transportation secretary stand up and without apparent irony declaim that “transit in Baltimore is broken.”

4. Announce a 12 line MTA bus plan that will cost $135 million (wait, I thought there wasn’t any money left?).

Even better, says the Sun: most of the suburban locations that will be served by the new bus routes were also places that would have been part of the Red Line.

Among the suburban locations to receive what were described as enhanced bus connections are some of those that would have been served by the Red Line — Security Square, Woodlawn and Bayview. Other sites include White Marsh, Essex, Halethorpe and Catonsville.

While the governor touted the plan as a major investment in Baltimore transit, Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake, a staunch supporter of the scuttled Red Line, declined an invitation to appear at the announcement.

Several Baltimore elected officials did show up for the announcement, including City Council President Bernard “Jack” Young and three candidates for mayor.

Red Line: $2.9 billion. CityLink: $135 million. Unclear from media reports if this will be a solely state funded program (ha ha, I’m sure the answer is “of course not”), but a surface only BRT plan has previously been evaluated to be vastly inferior to the LRT Red Line plan in terms of travel times snd ridership estimates.

Larry Hogan has a new slogan: “bringing you shitty transit alternatives to previously existing plans since 2015.” Way to go there, big guy.

Hogan Can’t Do Math Gud

For those who’ve been around for a while, we’ve long since established that Larry Hogan doesn’t understand the Maryland budget process very well at all. Today we learn that he’s not very good at math, either. And he’s still got some anger management issues, too - but not because he has cancer, Barry Rascovar.

The Baltimore Sun has the mathy details. But first, a little background without the numbers.

When Hogan cancelled the Red Line and slashed the state contribution to the Purple Line, he also announced a bunch of transportation projects that he was funding instead. But the numbers didn’t add up. Wanting to know if there was any money left over - since Baltimore got precisely none of it, a Baltimore delegate, Sandy Rosenberg, asked the Department of Legislative Services (DLS) to calculate if there was money left over, and if so, how much.

Long story short, DLS - a respected nonpartisan agency on number crunching, among other things, calculated that there was $223 million unaccounted for. So Baltimore elected officials said, reasonably, well, let’s develop a Baltimore transportation plan with that money.

“If there is money that is not dedicated, there are possibilities for projects in Baltimore,” said Del. Maggie McIntosh, a Baltimore Democrat and the budget chief in the House of Delegates. “We want to have a transportation map that doesn’t leave any jurisdiction off, including Baltimore. We need to get back on the Hogan map,” she said.

Back to the editorial.

All of this should really have been a simple matter to clear up. If DLS’ math was wrong, the Hogan administration could simply have explained how. Indeed, a spokeswoman for MDOT sought to do that on Wednesday. She provided a few more clues as to what’s going on — it turns out the $1.35 billion in new projects includes $90 million in federal funds, making the new state funding equal the savings from the Red and Purple lines. But she still doesn’t explain precisely how you get from the $1.04 billion in projects the administration has listed to the $1.35 billion he promised.

Instead, Hogan did what he does best - he went on the attack. From the news story.

Doug Mayer, a spokesman for the governor, accused analysts in the Department of Legislative Services of misleading the public with phony numbers at the behest of Democrats, especially House Speaker Michael Busch.

“It’s deeply concerning that during a very important discussion about the future of Baltimore’s transit system, the speaker’s analysts were busy concocting totally bogus numbers only intended to drive a known political agenda,” Mayer said. “This is the second time in as many weeks that these analysts have gone out of their way to muddy the waters by purposefully misleading the press, the public, and both Democratic and Republican legislators. It’s not productive and it needs to stop.”

The editorial this afternoon gets right to the heart of the matter.

The next iteration of the state’s Consolidated Transportation Plan — a six-year forecast of revenues and spending — is due on Sept. 1, and there’s no doubt that every penny will be accounted for once it’s released. If all those decisions have already been made, the Hogan administration should say what they are. If not, it would be worth knowing so Baltimore officials can lobby for some of the funds.

That’s all this was about. There was no reason for the Hogan administration to use the occasion to impugn an agency that has for decades been treated by Democrats and Republicans alike as an honest broker in researching the fiscal and policy implications of legislation. DLS has its idiosyncrasies, but we doubt that during all the years that its analysts were poking holes in the O’Malley administration’s claims of fiscal restraint that many in his party thought partisanship toward Democrats was one of them. This week, a legislator asked DLS a question, as lawmakers from both parties routinely do. Analysts answered it to the best of their ability based on the information that was available. That wasn’t spin; it was just math, and trying to blame the messenger is just another way of avoiding addressing the substance of what he said. If the Hogan administration is going to accuse people of purposely attempting to “muddy the waters,” as a spokesman accused DLS of doing Wednesday, it should look in the mirror.

These guys really don’t know what they’re doing. Budgets, math, politics, doesn’t matter. They’re bad at all of it. 

Watch when the transportation plan comes out, and there’s a whole bunch of projects that nobody has ever heard about on the list. Then we’ll hear “gosh, you should have given us some ideas if you wanted some of the money.” The mendacity and hypocrisy and obfuscation is stunning, and I’ve been around the block a time or two. Somebody pass the popcorn.

More On Charm City Transit Woes

Larry Hogan’s decision to kill the Baltimore Red Line transit proposal, and to then spend all the money elsewhere within a month, will have long term major repercussions. It’s also shortsighted and petty and vindictive. But then again, consider the source. Hogan doesn’t have much of a clue about governing, but he’s already demonstrated a great deal of savvy at political payback. Barry Rascovar has more:

Road projects are what Rahn and Hogan care about. Money talks and in this case, Maryland’s governor is stating in a loud and clear voice his overriding objective is to throw more and more dollars into asphalt and concrete highways and bridges.

That’s a 20th century response that fails to address 21st century problems.
Rahn was brought in by Hogan to build roads, not mass transit. Hogan wants to live up to his campaign promise to kill the Red Line and the Purple Line. Rahn delivered.
He not only wiped out the Red Line but he’s come up with a delayed, bare-bones Purple Line option for the Washington suburbs. Hogan’s dramatic slashing of the state’s contribution could lead to the line’s demise for any number of reasons.
That would be fine with the Republican governor, allowing him to pour even more transportation dollars into rural and exurban road-building – where his most fervent supporters live — and once again snub mass transit.

It’s all about the politics. Whatever the norms of governing have been historically, Hogan is ignoring them in favor of nakedly political objectives.

Politics, Hogan-style, has trumped long-range policy considerations.

Under Hogan, mass transit improvements in Baltimore appear remote in our lifetime. His supporters in rural and suburban Maryland are cheering, which is what counts for this governor.
It’s more than ironic that when the governor announced the death of the Red Line, his aides produced a map of the state showing all the rural and suburban road and bridge improvements going forward, thanks to the death of Baltimore’s Red Line.
Lo and behold, Baltimore had disappeared from the state map. It had sunk into the Chesapeake Bay.
This is increasingly what we are seeing from Hogan and Rahn. They couch it in gentler terms so it appears they really do care.
But when it comes to taking action, and putting state money on the table, the only thing that matters to this pair is turning away from urban transit and pouring every last dollar into more and better roadways far from Maryland’s most densely populated areas.

This is all part of an undeclared yet clearly real war between Hogan and the General Assembly. While transit is but one front in that war, it is the highest profile battle thus far. Expect more skirmishes to turn lethal over the next six months, and by January, the war will be on in earnest.

No Transportation Funding For Baltimore

Quel surprise! The Hogan Administration just has no gosh-darned money left over for Baltimore transit needs. Less than a month after canceling the $3 billion Red Line, they’ve already spent all the money elsewhere around the state - except for Baltimore. Who could have guessed?

Gov. Larry Hogan’s transportation chief told state lawmakers Tuesday that there’s nothing left from the money saved by canceling Baltimore’s Red Line for major initiatives to improve transit services in Baltimore.

Under questioning at a hearing in Annapolis, Transportation Secretary Pete Rahn pledged to work with legislators and other Baltimore leaders to improve transit services he conceded were unacceptable, but he said those efforts would have to rely largely on existing resources.
Rahn said the $736 million the state will save over the next six years by canceling the Baltimore light rail line, as well as hundreds of millions of dollars shaved from the Washington area’s Purple Line project, are going toward achieving the Republican governor’s “vision” for Maryland’s transportation future.
“Will there be any money left?” asked Sen. Nathaniel McFadden, a Baltimore Democrat.
“The savings from the Purple Line and Red Line have been committed to roads,” Rahn said.

The one thing Rahn promised - more talk. But no money.

The transportation chief struck a generally conciliatory tone, pledging to meet with Baltimore leaders Aug. 10 to discuss transit alternatives. But he offered no specific proposals to replace the $3 billion Red Line, which took a dozen years to plan and had the support of City Hall and Baltimore business leaders.

Whatever happens, Hogan’s June decision to cancel the Red Line will set back any transit projects in Baltimore for years.

Steven D. McCulloch, a transportation analyst with the nonpartisan Department of Legislative Services, told lawmakers the decision to cancel the Red Line means that any large-scale Baltimore transit project receiving federal assistance has been put back “years, if not decades.”

“Essentially we’d be starting back on square one of the process,” McCulloch said.

Payback’s a bitch, elections have consequences, and Larry Hogan has no interest in Baltimore transit. If there was really any question.

Follow The Road Money

As a bookend to the earlier Post article about the Purple Line, Michael Dresser of the Sun has an in-depth analysis of where all the new road construction money is going in Maryland, shifted over from the now-cancelled Red Line. Hint: none to Baltimore City and less than 1% to Baltimore County. It’s too simplistic to say that rural counties did well (although some did), and Prince George’s and Montgomery both got substantial projects as well. But Baltimore clearly gets shafted.

Dresser notes the irony that much of the money for Hogan’s transportation largesse comes from the new gas tax, which he opposed and Baltimore area legislators supported - in large part to help fund the Red Line, which Hogan canceled and is now using that money elsewhere.

While some of the $2 billion will be spent for the next installments of projects already in the pipeline or stepped-up maintenance of roads and bridges, $845 million is for new projects that Hogan put in the state’s transportation plan.

Some of that money will come from canceling the Red Line and cutting the state’s contribution to the Washington-area Purple Line. But the new highway spending also is possible because the state’s Transportation Trust Fund is now flush with money from Maryland’s 2013 gas tax increase — a measure opposed by Hogan and rural legislators.
Transit-minded Baltimore lawmakers provided critical votes to pass that bill, but now they can only watch as the money goes to other jurisdictions.

Elections have consequences, etc.