It has been a year and a half since the release of our report, Not in Service: Why Public Transit Must Aim to Serve Students. With the new year, the inauguration of a new governor, and a new legislative session kicking off, it’s an opportune time to share the progress made toward transit equity for Baltimore City students, and where it has stalled.
Since the report was released, we have worked with many thoughtful, energized partners – students, education and transit advocates, City and State legislators, student-centered nonprofits and MDOT MTA staff – to ensure the voices of students are heard and their needs addressed. Several of the recommendations outlined in our report are now in progress. Below you can find an update on where these stand:
- Initiative to combat sexual harassment on and around transit: In September 2022, the MTA announced its first campaign in Baltimore and Maryland to address sexual harassment in and around transit spaces. Their sexual harassment campaign is in the 1st phase of roll out, but aims to train operators on safe practices, educate riders around what to do if they witness harassment, and implement reporting tools to collect data on incidents that take place. Councilwoman Ramos was a huge supporter and guide for this effort; thank you to the Councilwoman for organizing a public hearing on transit and working with us afterwards to push MTA on implementation.
- Take student riders into account in the development of general and supplemental transit service & form an MTA Student Advisory Council: The Fund, MTA, and City Schools formed a working group to lay the groundwork for and launch an MTA Student Advisory Council that would elevate the voices of students so that their needs will be considered in service development, capital planning, and other MTA policy and practice. The work of the group has been paused and all parties are trying to figure out the best way forward. but plans are in place to resume the work.
- Allow students to load OneCard to CharmPass: Legislation was passed in the General Assembly’s 2022 session that allowed students the option to transition their physical OneCards to Charmpass, a smartphone app. This legislation also covers the cost of ridership for eligible Baltimore City Public School students during certain hours and/or specific activities, including students who participate in the City’s summer YouthWorks program. The legislation also removed the sunset clause, which covers limited student transit costs in perpetuity.
- More buses, more frequent and reliable transit service: we have not seen progress in increasing the frequency and reliability of service in the past year. There are multiple factors that have prevented real service improvements, the most substantial of which are lack of funding and an operator shortage exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic. With our coalition partners, we are building awareness around these issues and their effects and pushing for salary increases for MDOT MTA transit operators that would bring their starting pay in line with living wages for Baltimore families. We will continue to work with these groups to tackle factors such as operator shortages and funding, as well as advocate for routes that take student commuting patterns into account and increased frequency of service during windows when students are traveling to and from school.
Thank you to the following partner for guiding, supporting, and collaborating with us to move this work forward:
- Baltimoreans for Educational Equity
- Transform Maryland Transit Coalition
- Central Maryland Transportation Alliance
- SOMOS (Students Organization a Multicultural and Open Society)
- Baltimore Transit Equity Coalition
- MDOT MTA
- Baltimore City Public Schools
- Wide Angle Youth Media
- Members of the Baltimore City Council
- Nobody Asked Me Campaign
NOT IN SERVICE Media Coverage and Student Videos
Student Transportation Docuseries:
- Experience Imani’s commute to Western High School on MTA buses in this documentary. Inconsistent public transit limited her ability to participate in extracurricular activities and often caused her to lose valuable in-class learning time because of frequent bus delays.
- Journey with Na’im to Edmondson Westside High School on MTA buses in this documentary. With only one bus route available to him for his commute to and from school, inconsistent and unreliable transportation frequently results in valuable lost learning time.
In the News:
- WYPR’s On The Record with Sheilah Kast: “Students Rely On City Transit – Does It Work?”
- WMAR-2 News: “NOT IN SERVICE: Report highlights issues with public transit for students”
- Baltimore Sun: “Baltimore students travel to and from schools on a transportation system that wasn’t designed for them. A new report documents their struggles.”
- Baltimore Sun: Baltimore kids need a more reliable way to get to school | COMMENTARY
- Baltimore Sun: Maryland’s failure to invest in transit has shortchanged Baltimore students | READER COMMENTARY
- Baltimore Fishbowl: Report: Baltimore City students unsatisfied with public transit services
- Baltimore Business Journal: 8 things you need to know today
- WMAR-2 News: “Baltimore City Council Committee holds meeting to hear student experiences riding MTA buses to school”
- Baltimore Transit Equity Coalition: Baltimore Transit Equity Solidarity Day Event
- WYPR News: “City students face long public transit commutes to school”
- Baltimore Sun: “To close the opportunity gap in Baltimore schools, we must invest in transit”
- NOT IN SERVICE: A Community Convening on Transit Equity
- Teachers’ Democracy Project’s parent power podcast: Transportation: The Problem with Getting to School
- Maryland Gubernatorial Transportation Forum
- Maryland Education Candidate Gubernatorial Forum