On Thursday, December 16th the Baltimore City Council held a virtual, public hearing about City Schools student transportation on MDOT MTA transit featuring testimony from Baltimore students. Participating in the hearing were representatives from Baltimore City Public Schools and MDOT MTA; educators from Baltimoreans for Educational Equity sharing their perspectives; and the Fund for Educational Excellence presenting analysis, findings, and recommendations from our recent report Not In Service: Why Public Transit Must Aim to Serve Students.
While students make up an estimated 18% of MTA ridership in Baltimore, their needs have not been adequately taken into account. Students, family members, and educators testified about how personal safety concerns on transportation and unreliable service negatively impact their educational opportunities. Here is some of what they had to say:
“I am consistently late because the buses are packed and pass my stop. The buses regularly come late. And because they are packed, I’m worried about getting sick.”
– Tristan, 9th-grade student at Digital Harbor High School
“Because I don’t trust I will be safe on the bus after dark, I don’t participate in after-school activities. Sometimes when I get home so late due to unreliable transit, I have not completed my school assignments. It would be better if the MTA ran more buses more frequently.”
– Ashley, student at Baltimore City College
“My first day teaching, I had 35 students on my roster and I was expecting that many. When the first bell rang, I had three students. Most are late due to transit issues. We must invest in transit if we want to close the opportunity gap for students.”
– Matthew Rodriguez, Computer Science Teacher at Digital Harbor High School
The testimony aligned with what students told us in our recent report, Not In Service: buses are frequently late or don’t arrive at all, commutes can take up to two hours on multiple routes, and students miss out on learning time and extracurricular activities because of transportation challenges.
Improvements must be made, and they must be made now. In the hearing, we joined with students, their family members and educators in calling for state, city, and MTA leadership to make meaningful changes — from more routes and free, unlimited access for students to safety improvements and increased bus frequency.
Thankfully, progress has already been made. During the hearing, MTA Administrator Holly Arnold committed to developing and rolling out an anti-harassment campaign in and around transit in 2022 — a key recommendation from our report. Additionally, MTA will establish an MTA Student Advisory Council next year to ensure that student voice and perspective are incorporated into MTA’s service and planning.
For an overview of the public hearing, be sure to check out:
- WYPR coverage: City students face long public transit commutes to school
- WMAR-2 News coverage: Baltimore City Council committee holds meeting to hear student experiences riding MTA buses to school
- Twitter coverage from the Fund, Baltimoreans for Educational Equity, and Melissa Schober.