Md. governor wraps IT into transit plan

To help achieve his goal of doubling daily public transit ridership by 2020,

Maryland Gov. Parris Glendening is making information technology a key component

of his six-year, $750 million transit program.

The proposal, announced last week, calls for $50 million to install

smart card technology on bus and rail systems across the state so commuters

can switch systems using a universal prepaid fare card.

The money could help some counties coordinate their purchase of new

bus fareboxes with other communities in the Washington, D.C., metropolitan

area. Surrounding jurisdictions have six months to decide whether to piggyback

onto a $20 million contract between the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit

Authority (Metro) and Cubic Transportation Systems. Under the contract,

announced Thursday, Cubic will install fareboxes that accept smart cards

and cash on 1,443 Metro buses.

Glendening's plan will also devote $53 million to Global Positioning

System-based technology to improve communication with passengers, such as:

* "Talking buses" that automatically announce the next stop and route

to those inside and waiting on the street.

* Kiosks with arrival information at major transit centers.

* Internet enhancements to assist with trip planning.

The proposal needs legislative approval because it reallocates money

from the general fund to the state's Transportation Trust Fund, said Jack

Cahalan, a Maryland Department of Transportation spokesman.

The money for the initiative will come from redirecting an additional

cent of Maryland's corporate income tax ($360 million), 100 percent (up

from 45 percent) of the sales tax on rental cars ($132 million) and collections

at projected new highway toll facilities ($258 million) to the trust fund.

"The problem is that nobody wants to take highway dollars, dedicate

those to transit and do fewer highway projects. So the governor is proposing

a dedicated funding source to expand transit in Maryland," Cahalan said.

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