The Day You Became a Red Line Convert


Image source: Ekus Manfredi Architects

Traffic is going to create Red Line supporters. You may support the Red Line because you got a job working on the project or like the idea of not having to move your parked car, but your conversion will probably be a day when you and your car (or bus) do not make it through the traffic light cycle on President, Fleet, or Aliceanna Streets.  Baltimoreans will realize the existing streets cannot support the amount of traffic on the way.  If it hasn’t happened to you already, it is coming. It might be at rush hour, or when a festival is happening, or an event, or when there is a game at the ball park that is causing the delay. When it happens, you will be aggravated and you will wonder, “Is there any other way? “

It (traffic) is going to get worse, a lot worse.  Baltimore City as a whole might be treading population water, but the southeast waterfront neighborhoods are booming with development and downtown is adding many residents.  It will mean a lot more people (cars) on the same sclerotic streets we have now.

The impetus for Red Line conversions are going to happen at our clogged intersections. When we put on our “look into the near future glasses” we see:

Thousands more downtown residents (Mechanic site redevelopment pictured below) one of many downtown projects in the works


A full Union Wharf  

Union Wharf

A bustling Marketplace at Fells Point

Market Place at Fells

A built out Canton Crossing


The Hanover Brewers Hill and The Gunther Apartments

Brewers Hill developmentThe-Gunther-at-Brewers-Hill-

And of course, the granddaddy of them all, the 2.9 million square feet Harbor Point traffic Armageddon.


All of the above projects will be finished or in progress before the Red Line even breaks ground.  All these and future projects will increase traffic. When we put on our 2021 glasses, the year the Red Line is expected to be operational; all evidence points to SE Baltimore being a far denser and economically more important than it is 2013.  People are often arguing about the Red Line based on 2013 transportation needs. That is unfortunate. The Red Line is about what we need to do today to be ready for 2021.  Between today and 2021, there will be a lot of aggravated people stuck in intersections who will become Red Line converts. Hopefully, we are wise enough in 2013 to keep the project on track!



Administrator and writer for Comeback City

5 Responses to The Day You Became a Red Line Convert

  1. Patrick says:

    Since the Red Line is a long time coming, it’s important to focus on improving the conditions for bicycling, walking, and taking the bus in Southeast Baltimore now and over the next several years, because there’s no way to fit vehicles for all the people living in and coming to SE Baltimore on the streets (parked or driving). Trying to accommodate all of those cars (existing and potential) would require changing southeast Baltimore from the dense, walkable community that it is to a suburban space full of parking garages and no street level activity. We all need to realize that having a space for our car (on our block or even at all) isn’t a God-given right or something we should count on the City to provide. Embracing bike sharing, car sharing, bus riding, and walking to local destinations is the best way to deal with the way the community is and where it is going. Southeast Baltimore wasn’t built with the car in mind and it isn’t going to be getting any easier to have a car in these neighborhoods. Fighting against bus stops, bike-sharing stations, car-sharing spaces, or the Red Line will just make things worse in the short term and put off the tools that will help improve transportation for Southeast Baltimore residents.

  2. Gerald Neily says:

    The fact that this development is already happening shows it has nothing to do with the Red Line, which has nowhere near the needed $2.6 billion anyway and so can’t be built. The downtown areas with the most and best existing transit around Howard/Eutaw Street (far better than the Red Line) are faring the worst as far as development is concerned. Harbor Point, Canton Crossing, etc. are merely evidence that development is fleeing downtown. What we need is superior integrated transit, not the disconnected Red Line. The traffic problems are a self-inflicted wound caused by excessive parking and bad signal timing and traffic management. Bad traffic creates bad street environments and a bad city, not an excuse to build more bad transit 70 feet underground.

  3. KRA says:

    Anecdotally, it certainly does feel like every year SE Baltimore has more cars per household than the year before. On the one hand this is great, in that it suggests we are seeing more residents in growing neighborhoods, such as Patterson Park, Highlandtown, etc. However, this burgeoning car population will become unsustainable -indeed, in many neighborhoods it arguably already is (Canton, Butchers Hill). If we want this wonderful and enthusiastic population of new and old residents to continue to stay in these neighborhoods, we’ll have to start having options to transition people away from total car dependence. Hopefully the constant bemoaning of parking woes will increasingly include a discussion of alternatives such as the Red Line and bike/ped infrastructure, and how to make them a reality.

  4. Grant Corley says:

    Great article.

    Traffic in Southeast is horrible, especially at rush hour — and getting worse. I’ve been stuck in dead-still traffic more times than I care to remember in my car, on MTA buses, and on the Circulator. Seems like the best option for now is a bicycle.

    Harbor Point and Harbor East are evidence that downtown is expanding and diversifying, which is great. But there’s no way Harbor Point or Harbor East can reach their full potential without the Red Line. And without a smart transit option like the Red Line, traffic and parking woes are gonna drive the rest of Southeast nuts…

  5. CR Balt says:

    The red line is a waste of a tremendous amount of time and money. People that are commuting in and out of Fells Point and Harbor East aren’t going to use the Red line to commute because the Red Line is only one small piece of an undersized incomplete system. It would take Baltimore 100 years to create a proper subway system that could move people to enough places that they would regularly uses the system and thus put aside their cars.
    Instead Baltimore should focus on a streetcar SYSTEM. For probably the same cost as the Red Line Baltimore could build and entire street car system that would connect every neighborhood in the City in about 25 years or less. This system would keep people living in the City rather than encouraging suburban commuting from the west side as the Red Line will do.
    The Red Line investment is not an appropriate solution to the mismanaged traffic design around the Harbor, which is only going to continue to get more dense in the forseable future.

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