A view from the right on the MTA
For a view from the right on the Maryland Transit Administration, you need go no farther than the Red Maryland blog, where Brian Griffiths holds forth on the state of the MTA. It came to my attention recently that Griffiths was complaining that because of alleged leftist leanings I wouldn't link to his posts when I was linking to Maryland Politics Watch. In fact he never asked me to do so or even called attention to his work.
This doesn't constitute an endorsement of Griffith views, any more than I endorse those of Maryland Politics Watch. I would note, however, that the MPW article I most recently linked to -- though it had a point of view -- was solidly grounded in hard data.
The Red Maryland article, on the other hand, was almost entirely grounded in ideology. Entitled "Starve the Beast," it contains such gems as: "If I were in charge of the MTA, I would take steps to make the Agency profitable. There are ways to make the system self-sufficient without making the system unsafe or transit fares unaffordable to average riders."
If Griffiths has such unique abilities to do things no transit leaders in the United States have accomplished, one might wonder why the previous Republican administration overlooked those abilities and left mere mortals in charge.
In fact, the people Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr. appointed -- especially Transportation Secretary Robert L. Flanagan -- learned many things about running a transit agency, one of which is that it's one of the toughest tasks in state government.
Suffice it to say, the Ehrlich administration did not bring about a Cultural Revolution at the MTA -- largely because the governor and his aides took what might be called a pragmatic Republican approach. Among other things, they negotiated with unions rather than seek to crush them. They also led the move into hybrid buses and improved mobility services -- worthy efforts but hardly money-savers.
The phrase "starve the beast" is a popular one on the far right, but it does pose a question: "What good is a beast that's been starved to death?" It won't be able to transport many low-income workers to the subsistence-level jobs that keep them off welfare. That's the public service aspect of transit that Griffiths misses: It's not a profit-generating business, nor was it ever intended to be.
I hope to call attention to Red Maryland's future writings on transportation when I think they will interest Getting There readers, but I would challenge Griffiths to back up his arguments with more facts and fewer categorical but unverifiable statements.