The lives of car-free single black mothers who had to get children to school and themselves to work were made incredibly difficult by an insanely slow MTA bus system in which a 20-minute car ride would stretch to 90 minutes on the bus. With the cancellation of the red line, they lost the chance to nearly halve their travel time, for an expected 10,000 new jobs in Baltimore that black residents could apply for, and to encourage innovation and throughput development in chronically divested black neighborhoods. Also lost was the ability to reduce air pollution for the city with the worst air quality and the highest rates of child asthma in the state.
The Obama Administration’s Department of Transportation has opened an investigation into the allegations made in the Legal Defense Fund’s complaint and a similar complaint lodged by Baltimore transit activists. But the Trump administration closed the investigation without doing it each findings. Rather than investigating the pooled complaints, it said it would conduct a comprehensive review of Maryland’s transportation programs to comply with Title VI.
The Georgetown Law Civil Rights Clinic investigated whether the Transport department had continued with that investigation. In January of this year, the clinic made legal requests for freedom of information to both the Maryland Department of Transportation and the Federal Transportation Department. The Trump administration has not yet released any material in response to the request for a Freedom of Information Act, citing Covid-19’s pandemic for the delay, but this spring, MDOT unveiled a wealth of documents and emails that my dedicated research assistant and I recently read.
Most telling was email communications between US and Maryland officials in 2018. Federal officials had initiated a “corrective action” and told MDOT to conduct a comprehensive Title VI analysis of its transportation expenditures. They rejected MDOT’s first reply, saying that it had “simply concluded that there were no disparate effects,” which was insufficient evidence of Title VI compliance. MDOT tried again; in a subsequent email, it claimed that there was no disparate impact violation because “large amounts of both state and federal government-funded investment in transit and other modes of transport were closely correlated with the Census censuses with a larger minority population.”
In its response, MDOT did not quantify what these “large sums” were, for which projects or which minority communities would have benefited. It referred to financing formulas and cards provided in the previous, rejected and offered statement a link to a previously published 565-page consolidated report that cataloged where vehicles were allocated in certain years. In those reports, race is not mentioned at all. They were not intended to be judged and they were not racial justice.
Perhaps it is true, as MDOT claimed in his emails, that “minority” counts were located near road projects in remote areas and apparently benefited from those road investments and that the Washington and Baltimore regions, which are home to many “minorities” , “large sums” of transport funds. It is also possible that the alleged “large sums” may not make the difference with the cancellation of the red line. But we don’t know, because the officials of the Trump administration answer MDOT to at first sight and closed the corrective action without any explanation of its reasoning.
In other words, the Trump and Hogan administrations have never made an informed response to the core claim of Title VI submitters: that Hogan and Maryland preferred to cancel the red line and reassign their money to other projects white areas to the detriment of black citizens. The citizens and communities who labored for more than a decade in planning the Red Line, building trust and a multiracial coalition for renewal deserved a published, reasoned answer that could be reviewed by a federal court to determine whether the logic of the service was arbitrary or the requirements of Title VI. In short, there was no opportunity for any public accountability.
Two years after the withdrawal of the Red Line, Hogan offered Baltimore a consolation project, $ 135 million for BaltimoreLink, an apparently redesigned bus system. However, it was hardly a replacement for the unified $ 2.9 billion rail system first envisioned in 1965. Although Hogan claimed the new bus system would be “transformative,” angry riders complained that commuter traffic deteriorated as bus lines were discontinued.