If Jesus had tried to leave Baltimore instead of Chicago, apparently He’d have a long wait. Most of this has made news over the summer, but Jim Pelura, Justin Ready, and the Maryland GOP decided it would be a nice subject to keep themselves in the limelight:
According to a recent Baltimore Sun report, the Maryland Transit Administration recalled 200 buses this past July after a series of recent bus fires. These bus recalls along with the news of massive delays in our state’s MARC train service show the failure of Martin O’Malley’s transportation policies, commented Maryland Republican Party Chairman James Pelura.
“Since he took office, Martin O’Malley has used the Maryland Department of Transportation for flashy environmental promises instead of providing core service to Maryland travelers,” Pelura noted. “The state’s MARC train service is breaking down, buses are being recalled, and Maryland drivers are still mired in horrific traffic jams on the state’s highways.” (Emphasis mine – just try driving into Ocean City in the summer or going west on I-70 between Frederick and Hagerstown on a weekend or rush hour.)
Under the Ehrlich administration, the Maryland Department of Transportation was making real progress. The Ehrlich administration reformed the state’s para-transit system for disabled Marylanders, broke ground on the long-delayed Inter-County Connector , and started construction on $1 billion widening of Interstate-95 northeast of Baltimore. It was Governor Ehrlich who started the conversion of the state’s bus fleet to hybrid buses, which now seems to be Martin O’Malley’s limited focus on transportation.
“What we have here is just another O’Malley broken promise. Maryland ’s mass transit systems are breaking down despite the governor’s campaign promise to make mass transit a priority. This comes at a time when Marylanders are turning to MARC trains and MTA buses more and more to get to work. Clearly, this record of failure indicates a need for change in 2010,” Pelura concluded. “ Maryland is in desperate need of competent, effective leadership.”
While it’s effective to point out these shortcomings of the O’Malley Administration, I can already hear the retort of the Annapolis liberals and their allies in the blogosphere that, “well, the reason all of this infrastructure is falling apart is because George W. Bush and his oil company cronies are cutting out federal subsidies to mass transit.” And as we use the issue to show another broken O’Malley promise, their side is likely going to use this same information as further buttressing their argument that Maryland’s gasoline tax needs to be increased, or, perhaps a Virginia-style car tax placed into effect.
Progressives have craved higher gasoline prices for some time as a trigger to finally wean us off what they consider an environmentally-unfriendly dependence on oil, but there’s two unintended consequences which have occurred once their dreams of European-style gas prices came to a pump near us. First of all, the mass transit infrastructure which was already in need of repair (as cited by Pelura and company) is falling apart even faster with increased ridership. Secondly, the decreased consumption of gasoline means fewer gallons sold; in turn, that’s less gasoline tax revenue coming into the coffers of Annapolis. While the federal solution to this is a bid to increase their chunk of the tax bite by a dime, the O’Malley Administration could well decide that taxation based on consumption isn’t working well enough as a revenue source and decide to tax the very auto and truck engines which burn gasoline, regardless of the rate they do so (or even if they don’t, unless they decide to exempt cars running on electricity or natural gas. I’ll bet they do, the left likes to use the tax code to reward/punish behavior.)
Since I’m sitting on the Eastern Shore, the trials of mass transit in the Baltimore and DC metro areas rarely affect me directly but the money I give to the state every time I fill up the tank at my local gas station goes into the pot where a significant share of both the highway construction and repair funding and the mass transit operating budget comes from. Unfortunately, the emphasis placed by Martin O’Malley on mass transit over highway construction means the roads where I live get a little less attention than perhaps they should. (As they work on the ICC project, I believe the state should start planning a new Bay Bridge connecting the Eastern Shore and southern Maryland, along with assisting in building a new interstate which would run along the U.S. 13 corridor through Delaware and the Eastern Shore. That may help to bring industry to our area.)
In all, energy-related issues have placed themselves at the forefront of the 2008 campaign and might also become a key issue for 2010. It would serve the Maryland GOP well to not just affix blame for broken promises and failed policies but to bring together our legislative caucus and think up solutions for consideration by the General Assembly when they meet in January. Obviously most will go nowhere but that will be more proof that true change (not Obama-style platitudes) is needed in Annapolis come November, 2010.
Crossposted (without Pelura’s text) on Red Maryland.