PRESS RELEASE: Maryland electoral shocker may not be such a shocker for transit

November 5, 2014

Alex Posorske, Managing Director, Coalition for Smarter Growth
(202) 675-0016 ext. 126

MARYLAND — While much of Maryland’s political watchers may still be reeling over Republican Larry Hogan’s historic upset last night of Democrat Anthony Brown, those grappling for new pieces of conventional wisdom may find themselves surprised on at least one key issue.

Despite what many said during the heat of the campaign, long-planned new transit projects like the Purple Line or Baltimore’s Red Line are not dead in the water because of Hogan’s victory. Nor should they be when one looks at the merits of each project as well as Hogan’s key campaign focus – the economy.     

The bottom line is that Hogan is more open-minded about the Purple and Red lines than opponents gave him credit for. While the rhetoric was high on both sides during the last year’s campaign, there were also times where Hogan acknowledged the value of the transit projects. He told WBAL on October 8 that he was “not really opposed to either project” and that both are “worth considering.”[1]

In September, speaking with a reporter for Bethesda Magazine, he said that his opposition to the Purple Line has been overstated.[2]

No one would deny that Hogan is more skeptical about the project than Brown and has expressed that skepticism forcefully at times. But to declare the project terminated before the day-after-the-election is even over is, to say the least, wildly premature. It is important to remember that there is a big difference between campaigning and governing.

That difference will become especially clear as Hogan and his nascent administration begin to look deeper into the facts. Hogan prides himself on his business acumen and his campaign was noted for its discipline in sticking to an economic message above all – a Google search for “Larry Hogan” and “economic issues” came up with 334 hits this morning.

Anyone who’s hoping to make a name for himself or herself on economic issues will take a clear-headed look at these long planned-for transit projects. The fact is that transit is good for economic development, period. In this day and age, economic development happens around transit and smart businesspeople know that.

A 2013 study calculated that the economic value of transit for a jurisdiction could be up to $1.5 to $1.8 billion.[3] A study this year estimated around 50,000 new jobs created for every $1 billion invested in transit.[4]  

This fact is just as pronounced in Maryland. In the Washington region, a recent study found that 84% of current office development is within ¼ mile of Metro stops. [5] Employers in the Washington region – a major portion of Maryland’s GDP – know the benefits of transit and want to be around transit. That desire has led to real value for local governments, with a 2011 WMATA study noting that the real estate located within ½ mile and ¼ mile of Metrorail stations generated approximately $3.1B and $1.8B in property tax revenues, respectively, for the Washington area in 2010. [6]

The bottom line is that transit is a proven winner for economic development. Both the Purple Line and the Red Line will create a big boost for the two economic engines of Maryland. That is something that a candidate-turned-executive who prides himself on sound business sense and has left himself several openings to proceed on transit will not fail to see.

Whether he continues going forward remains to be seen. But saying that the projects are finished is wildly oversimplifying a complex narrative and ignoring the powerful economic development benefits of transit investment.

The Coalition for Smarter Growth is the leading organization in the Washington DC region dedicated to making the case for smart growth. Its mission is to promote walkable, inclusive, and transit-oriented communities, and the land use and transportation policies and investments needed to make those communities flourish.