Wednesday, April 11, 2007

Annapolis Transit…Poor Neglected Stepchild? or De Ja Vu All Over Again?

It’s de ja vu all over again as The Capital reports, that once again, due to a change in federal law, our bus system faces a severe cut in operating subsidies. To those in the know, this is not news, nor does it come as a surprise. To make a long story short however, it’s just another example of how lack of leadership and management and intergovernmental cooperation is bringing down this essential service. It’s only partially a federal thing! (As of publication, calls to the MD Transit Adm. and Congressman Sarbanes’ offices for comments have not been returned)

Over five years ago, CP, other Maryland transit operators and the Community Transportation Association of America met with federal lawmakers after which CP personally visited the chief of staff to then Congressman Ben Cardin. CP made it clear that proposed changes were going to severely affect the city’s ability to fully operate its transit system. CP suspects that Transportation Director Danielle Matland and Mayor Moyer may have done something to follow-up, but as was often the case with many issues, Matland worked on her own--or did not work on her own, and little seemed to happen.

Last year, when it became apparent that this huge loss was going to occur, Matland and Moyer suddenly acted as if this was some new and big surprise and held a public meeting at the Loews Hotel, which the Mayor did not attend. Over 50 transit customers angrily pointed fingers at Matland about the lack of concern, awareness or interest on her part for any and all matters related to transit. CP sat in the back, worriedly shaking his head knowing that nothing would ever improve with the arrogant and disinterested Matland at the helm and with little or not oversight from any city official. Fortunately for everyone, it was an election year, and Governor Ehrlich--no friend of public transit, saved the day by bringing state dollars to the table. Annapolis Transit, as it has been configured, survived but this funding monster has raised its head again.

Lest CP be misunderstood, CP shall be very clear. Funding is of course extremely important but it is not the fundamental issue at stake. What is at stake is whether or not we have the will, the resources and commitment to create a really fine, if not world-class and regional bus system, or whether we will be satisfied running a few buses around in circles in our little corner of the world with outdated management and technology. This can only happen when Mayor Moyer and City Council take a good hard look at what works--and what does not at Annapolis Transit. We need oversight, supervision and possibly even an audit or a series of audits of fiscal and personnel management as well as maintenance and procurement and performance. And finally, we cannot do this alone, as CP has been saying for years. We need county and state support and involvement and that begins with talking--something which our Mayor says she loves to do, but it just ain’t happening when it comes to making a regional bus system. Simply turning over routes to the county is just a band-aid, destined for at best, partial success.

We deserve better-- subsidy or no subsidy! CP invites your comments.


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