brta and petition campaign faq’s

Find answers to frequently asked questions





What is a BRTA?

A Baltimore Regional Transportation Authority is a way for people to control the bus and rail systems that serve them. RTAs are really common — the majority of cities with large transit systems run those systems through RTAs.

We have two in Maryland already: one for the Washington Metro and another one in Laurel, MD.


HOw is the BRTA system better than the current mta system?

The state controls our current MTA system and is responsible for the long commute times and unreliable bus and rail service that plagues Baltimore. They allow this bad service to persist because they don’t have a vested stake in our transit systems and they do not represent the interests of most public transit riders in the city. It’s actually really unusual — most other urban transit systems have some form of local/regional control.

A BRTA would be run by commissioners who live and work in the Baltimore Region and who represent the interests of the riders. Our amendment would require them to be knowledgeable about all the issues we care about that intersect with transportation, like racial justice, environmental justice, mobility justice, economic justice, and fair development, among other issues. The state has historically not been interested in approaching transportation projects through any of those lenses. 

If we had a BRTA we would have a much stronger say in the kinds of transit projects that we decide to carry out in the region, and we could center the issues that serve our riders. 


HOw will we form a brta?

Many jurisdictions in the region use the transportation systems that serve Baltimore City. These same jurisdictions have expressed interest in forming a BRTA with us. Over the next few months/years, representatives from these interested jurisdictions will come together to write enabling legislation. The Maryland General Assembly will then need to enact that legislation.

After the legislation passes, the state and the BRTA jurisdictions will negotiate the boundaries of the region, and the transit services provided to the region, and the transit services the BRTA will inherit from our current system. BRTA will be able to raise funds from the state, the federal government, and from any other legitimate source. These funds, along with funds contributed by member jurisdictions, will cover the cost of BRTA staff, operations, maintenance, and capital projects.


why do you say our current system isn’t equitable?

The bus and light rail systems that run through the city are in many ways the legacy of outdated and discriminatory approaches to urban planning and development. Historically, the city has never funded adequate transportation to serve Black and Brown Americans — even though on average Black and Brown Americans use transportation a lot more than white Americans. Starting in the 50s, when white Americans started leaving the cities, the federal government shifted funding priorities to favor highways to serve the suburbs. Public transit systems in the cities were consistently underfunded. When the occasional support was found to develop new rail lines in the city, they were typically located in more white and affluent parts of the city. 

A legacy of this is that today, wealthy and white neighborhoods get the most access to public transit, while many Black neighborhoods in East and West Baltimore barely get any access at all. These neighborhoods, which contain higher proportions of transit-dependent residents, have no rail service, fewer bus stops, and longer wait times for the bus to arrive. On average, people living in these neighborhoods have DOUBLE the commute times as other residents in the city. This makes it twice as hard for these residents to get access to the same goods and services that other city residents take for granted. Trips to work, daycare, school, the grocery store, or the doctor’s office are major ordeals — especially when bus service is spotty. Many folks in these neighborhoods have to leave 3-4 hours before their shift begins in order to be able to get to work on time.

On top of all this, these neighborhoods are disportionately affected by pollution, public health disparities, and little to no economic investment. Continued dependence on automobile-centered systems only exacerbates these inequities, perpetuating unhealthy and stressful living conditions.


I’m a student or parent of a student and have had bad experiences with public transportation. i don’t trust that we can make it better.

It is completely atrocious that so many students end up getting to school late because of our current public transit system! Baltimore City has nothing to do with this problem. The reason it’s like this though is because the state currently controls the system and they aren’t motivated to make things better for the people who are dependent on bus and light rail.

If we had regional control, teachers, parents and students would have much more influence on the transit system. Everyone would be able to get to school on time, even if they don’t have a car.


How Will We Pay For it?

Keep in mind that rail transportation actually MAKES MONEY for the region. For every $1 spent on light rail, a city or region usually sees $4 in return on investment.

A huge portion of public transportation funding comes directly from the federal government. With a BRTA, we’ll be able to apply for funding directly from the federal government. 

Another chunk of public transportation funding comes from gas tax. The Federal Gov is required to give a penny of that tax to public transit projects, like the ones BRTA would manage.

We’d negotiate for the last part of the budget with the state — but this is a pretty routine part of setting up an RTA. State governments across the country do it all the time. There’s good reason to believe that a large portion of the MTA’s current budget could easily become the budget for a BRTA.


can baltimore city really make this happen?

Governor Hogan and his allies often raise skepticism about the city’s ability to make a major project like a BRTA happen. But the fact is that during the process of planning the Red Line, Baltimore City successfully collaborated with Baltimore County, the State of Maryland, and the federal government. Most local advocates agree that those involved in the Red Line project did a great job helping diverse neighborhoods come together to tackle tough issues. The project was transparent and well-organized. It allowed stakeholders from across the city from all kinds of background to have a voice in the process. City and County residents, officials, and activists attended all the necessary hearings. They then applied for and received federal funding for the project, making it “shovel-ready.” Had the Red Line not been cancelled, the project would have taken on its first riders by October 21st of 2021.


electric vehicles are the future, I don’t see a point in funding public transit.

Public transportation systems are way better for the environment because they’re vastly more efficient — even when they run on gasoline. One train car carries thousands of riders to their destination every day, removing thousands of cars from our roads and thereby eliminating all the pollution they would emit into the air. When you take into consideration that public transportation systems involve fleets of green buses and rail cars, there’s just no question that public transportation is a better way to go.

The batteries in electric vehicles have higher manufacturing emissions and often run on electricity that comes from burning fossil fuels. While electric vehicles do produce less greenhouse gases than conventional vehicles, when every household in America has a car or two, those emissions still add up!

Lastly, consider that a large number of people cannot drive — and many cannot afford the far more expensive electric car, or don’t have a way to recharge it.


I’m concerned about how the redline might impact my community. won’t the red line end up displacing many long time residents of neighborhoods around the stations?

The Red Line was designed to avoid or to minimize property impacts to homes and businesses. By State law, there can be no involuntary residential displacements. The majority of the Red Line was planned to be constructed within the public right-of-way. In some cases small strips of property would be acquired so the road can be widened to accommodate both the Red Line and automobile traffic. In all the case where that was planned, the impacted communities came together and agreed on a way to do this that best worked for them.

To bring back the Red Line, the BRTA will have to re-do the environmental impact plan associated with the project. During this assessment, the commission will have the opportunity to ensure the plan does not displace community residents. The BRTA’s approach to the project will center sustainable development practices. Our plan requires that members of the BRTA commission to advocate for transit development that considers fair development practices. 


i heard the state is looking into the redline anyway. can’t we just let them handle it?

The state is doing a study to build a BUS ROUTE along the Red Line’s planned east/west corridor. Bus routes are nowhere near as effective at promoting equity and driving economic growth as light rail. Historically, bus route expansions are the kinds of insufficient transit projects undertaken to serve Black Americans, while white Americans get nice rail systems.

No major city in the country has a public transportation system anchored by buses.


i don’t want to give away my information

This information is just what is required for the city of Baltimore to validate the petition. We aren’t selling anyone’s personal information. For a valid signature, we need you to fill out every section of the petition as it is written in your voter registration record. Please know that volunteers have to put their own information at the bottom of each form, and so we protect this information like it is our own. If it helps you feel more secure, we are happy to seal your form in an envelope until it is verified by Baltimore City’s voter registration office.