Making Tracks

The Case for Building a 21st Century Transportation Network in Maryland

Transportation is an urgent problem for Maryland. Heavy automobile traffic is stealing time from Maryland families and businesses, and forcing consumers to burn more money at the gas pump. Traffic is also making our air less healthy, deepening our oil dependency, and creating more global warming pollution.



Transportation is an urgent problem for Maryland. Heavy automobile traffic is stealing time from Maryland families and businesses, and forcing consumers to burn more money at the gas pump. Traffic is also making our air less healthy, deepening our oil dependency, and creating more global warming pollution.

Clean, efficient public transportation already helps millions of Marylanders get where they need to go – saving consumers time and money, cutting air pollution, reducing our dependence on oil, and helping to drive economic growth.

To fix its transportation troubles and help ensure a healthier, safer and more prosperous future, Maryland must invest in public transportation for the 21st century. Officials must prioritize a set of important and connected transit projects, as well as provide the funding to make the vision of a brighter transportation future a reality.

Maryland’s car-based transportation system is in trouble. It is leading the state to more traffic, greater oil dependency, more money spent on gas, and more global warming pollution.

  • More Marylanders are driving farther in automobiles than ever before. Since the 1980s, the number of per-capita miles driven in Maryland has jumped nearly 50 percent.
  • Marylanders have the second longest average commute time in the country, second only to New York. The average Maryland employee, for example, spends 30.2 minutes commuting to work each day. This problem has worsened drastically in recent decades: in 2005, drivers in the Baltimore area were wasting 700 percent more time in traffic than they did in 1982.
  • Between 2002 and 2006, gasoline expenditures rose 81 percent in the state, causing Marylanders to spend over $3 billion more to fuel their cars. While gasoline prices have fallen recently, Maryland’s dependence on oil leaves us vulnerable to volatile world markets and dependent on foreign sources of energy.
  • Transportation-based global warming pollution increased 37 percent between 1990 and 2005 statewide, jeopardizing Maryland’s efforts to cut global warming emissions.

Despite limited transit options and falling gas prices, more Marylanders are using public transportation. By doing so, they are delivering important economic and environmental benefits.

  • The number of miles that passengers traveled on the state’s public transportation services increased by 50 percent between 1991 and 2007. Ridership per capita increased 30 percent between 1991 and 2007. Between January and August 2008 alone, ridership rose 3.7 percent compared to the same period in 2007.
  • Ridership has continued to grow even after gasoline prices began to fall: in October 2008, the number of passengers on Maryland’s MARC system rose 7.5 percent compared to October of the previous year.
  • In 2005, use of Baltimore’s public transit network alone averted nearly 10 million hours of traffic delays, saved consumers $200 million, avoided burning over 30 million gallons of gasoline, and kept close to a million metric tons of global warming pollution out of Maryland’s air.

Maryland can reduce traffic, shrink its oil dependency, help clean up its air, cut global warming pollution, and grow healthier communities by investing in public transit. Good transit investments for Maryland include the following (not in order of priority):

  • Creating a true regional rail system for Baltimore by building the proposed Red Line light rail, extending existing light rail and subway service, and improving connections among various transit lines and with other transportation facilities.
  • Building the Washington Metro Purple Line to help commuters who travel suburb-to-suburb inside the Capital Beltway to avoid taking the Metro all the way into the District in order to get to work or home.
  • Improving MARC commuter rail options and commuter bus services.
  • Building transit to link urban centers with quickly growing areas, such as construction of the Corridor Cities Transitway connecting Montgomery and Frederick counties and a light rail line connecting southern Maryland with the Metro’s Green Line.
  • Taking advantage of transit statewide by helping counties, smaller cities and towns provide bus, carpool and bike-friendly services, such as the TransIT program operating in Frederick County.

To fix its transportation problems for the long-haul, Maryland needs a clear vision for 21st century transit and a plan to back up transit projects with dedicated and sustained funding. Maryland officials should:

  • Lay out a clear plan and timeline for more and better public transit in Maryland. The state needs a compelling vision for change. Unifying a variety of projects under a single plan will additionally help capture the efficiencies of integrated planning and design.
  • Allocate funds to make the vision a reality. Maryland continues to spend large sums on expanding highways. While crumbling roads and bridges should be repaired, the focus of Maryland’s transportation spending should be providing an investment for the future, not repeating past mistakes. The state should adjust its priorities for distributing money from the Transportation Trust Fund to provide dedicated and sustained funding for good transit investments.
  • Urge Congress to enact a new federal transportation funding law. The new law should prioritize investing new capital in public transit; fixing existing roads and bridges rather than building more highways; and spending taxpayers’ money more wisely by using federal dollars to invest in high-priority transportation solutions.
  • Integrate transit into the state’s long-term development plan. Focusing BRAC-related development projects and other new development around principles of smart growth and transit-oriented development is an excellent strategy for building healthy communities statewide.

Click here to see a map of Maryland PIRG’s public transportation vision.