Advocating for More Equitable and Inclusive Transit-Oriented Development in Maryland

CareFirst BlueCross BlueShield recently had the opportunity to provide a written testimony in favor of more equitable and inclusive transit-oriented development in the state of Maryland. Tricia Swanson shared a testimony in support of House Bill 12 (HB 12), Equitable and Inclusive Transit-Oriented Development Enhancement Act, as it would establish a capital grant and revolving loan fund to promote equitable and inclusive development around State-designated Transit-Oriented Development (TOD) sites to bring more TODs benefits to communities around Maryland.

Robust public transit systems are one of the foundational elements of leading cities across the nation, providing access to everyday life essentials like jobs, schools, or recreational activities while enabling sustainable mobility options. Unfortunately, 45% of Americans have limited access to transit. According to research published by the American Public Health Association, a lack of transit options can negatively impact access to vital services, employment, and social connections. Perhaps most importantly, the lack of public transit options harms both access and outcomes regarding healthcare.

The State of Maryland has a long history of recognizing TOD as a preferred approach to development because of its many significant benefits, including increased transit ridership, reduced congestion, increased safety and convenience, adjacent economic development opportunities, environmental conservation, and better access to jobs, housing, and services. However, public incentives, and often direct support, are typically needed for such projects due to the complexities of TOD, including higher land costs, environmental conditions, and especially the need for critical supporting infrastructure, such as sidewalks and parking. To date, the state government has not adequately facilitated equitable and smart development around its transit stations, reducing the state’s economic competitiveness.

As the largest not-for-profit health plan in the Mid-Atlantic region, we have visibility into how regional barriers to transportation lead to missed or delayed doctor's or clinic appointments, fewer prescription refills, and overall poorer health outcomes. All of which contribute to an increased economic burden on the healthcare system and overall community health, directly affecting people's access to much-needed healthcare services.

CareFirst understands that adequate investments in Maryland’s transportation system are critical to the economic competitiveness and vibrancy of our state and region. CareFirst appreciates that more development around our transit stations will enhance the lives of not only of our employees, but of the patients, healthcare workers, and institutions that rely on the transit system to access work, healthcare, or attract talented staff. This bill will also enhance Maryland’s ability to invest in its transportation system over the long term by expanding development opportunities, and tax revenues, around transit.

A 2021 report by the Baltimore Transit Equity Coalition indicated that 100% of jobs in the Baltimore region can be reached in one hour by car. Only 9% of jobs can be reached by public transit in that same amount of time. Enhancing public transit can minimize existing disparities by increasing mobility for populations that have historically experienced racial and economic segregation.

Transportation is a social determinant of health, and the lack of reliable transit systems drives inequities. That is why CareFirst is a member of both the Greater Baltimore Committee and the Greater Washington Partnership, and an avid supporter of their efforts to advance Baltimore’s Transit Future. Equitable development at transit and rail stations is one of the six priorities outlined in Baltimore's Transit Future campaign that is addressed and supported by HB 12.

CareFirst is a supporter and signatory of Baltimore’s Transit Future campaign’s efforts to advance a world-class public transit system for the Baltimore region that creates shared economic prosperity and catalyzes inclusive growth. Better transit addresses access and affordability barriers and will lead to better health outcomes for everyone. 

Supporting Materials

Better transit is critical to health equity solutions for Baltimore region