New bus routes launched Monday morning were designed to better connect commuters in suburbs to other suburbs while cutting down on travel time. It's the first new service offered as part of BaltimoreLink, a transit improvement plan introduced by Governor Larry Hogan in October 2015 to redesign the city's transportation network.
The Express BusLink will provide faster connections for some riders, and the bus system has been in need of an overhaul, but when it comes to downtown congestion, some transportation advocates are still calling for a solution that's been shot down by the governor.
Nearly one year ago, Governor Hogan derailed plans for the Red Line, a new subway line that connected West Baltimore with the north east corridor of the City.
He took the most issue with the 14.1 mile rail line’s nearly $3 billion price tag.
Fast forward a few months later, Hogan made a commitment to improving city transit through a $135 million project called BaltimoreLink.
“It links up with the metro, it links up with the light rail, and it'll link up suburb to suburb, so we're really trying to make this a totally integrated system and as Governor Hogan would say, changing Maryland for the better,” said Jim Ports, deputy secretary with the Maryland Department of Transportation.
They've redesigned bus routes and added new ones including three express buses that launched Monday.
Now riders can go from White Marsh to Towson; Towson to Owings Mills, and Owings Mills to BWI Airport. The route cut some two hour commutes down to approximately one hour.
“Prior to this, you would have to take this line all the way down in the city, take a bus, transfer. and come back out to where you wanted to go for your job. This is going to take us across the county sort of like a beltway system,” Ports said.
Red Line advocates say any transportation improvements are a step in the right direction, but it's not a solution to the city's gridlock.
“One hundred thirty five million dollars over six years, is really a drop in the bucket compared to the kind of transit investment the region really needs,” said Eric Norton, director of policy and programs for the Central Maryland Transportation Alliance.
Bus improvement plans were already underway before the Red Line project was killed. BaltimoreLink is not considered a replacement for the Red Line, and advocates believe both are needed to really transform transit in Baltimore.
“Even after BaltimoreLink happens, the need still exists to have a high capacity rapid transit line that connects with the light rail and metro subway and sort of forms a real-integrated transit network. That still needs to happen,” Norton said.
BaltimoreLink is expected to be completed by June 2017.
Meanwhile, two different parties supporting the Red Line have filed complaints with the U.S. Department of Transportation alleging the governor's decision to cancel the transit line was discriminatory.