The National Zoo and DC Metro fit together, So could Baltimore’s Zoo and its Metro (but they don’t)

While Washington has a Metro stop with “Zoo” in its name, the Metro subway in Baltimore and its zoo appear to ignore each other.

Underutilized open space between the Mondawmin Metro Station and the (Baltimore) Zoo entrance. Image from Google maps.

Underutilized open space between the Mondawmin Metro Station and the (Baltimore) Zoo entrance. Image from Google maps.

At the nearby Mondawmin Metro stop, there is scant evidence the Maryland Zoo in Baltimore (Baltimore Zoo) even exists. At the zoo, there’s little mention of the subway. Meanwhile, the Washington Metro, the Smithsonian National Zoological Park, and nearby commercial retailers have a symbiotic relationship.

The Woodley Park/Zoo Metro station and the National Zoo are the same distance as the Baltimore zoo entrance and its nearest subway station, 0.4 miles or a 9 minute walk.

metro to zoo

Image from Google maps.

The zoo could be even closer to the Metro

The Baltimore Zoo is tucked away inside a park, Druid Hill Park. Unlike in DC, where the National Zoo’s entrance is right on Connecticut Avenue, the Baltimore Zoo entrance isn’t at the edge of the park. If architects designed a gateway closer to the station, or even across the street on the grounds of the beautifully renovated Parks and People Headquarters, it would create a stronger connection.

The station could reflect the zoo

Renaming the Mondawmin Station the Mondawmin/Zoo Station is an easy fix. Even bolder would be a zoo inspired interior/exterior design competition for the gloomy station. Baltimore’s Red Line light rail planners are currently seeking qualifications from artists for design projects for its stations. The subway’s stations could use some fresh design, too.

Better designed and safer pedestrian crossings would also help integrate the station, the Zoo, and Druid Hill Park. Auchentrolley Terrace is the size of an interstate and should shrink by multiple lanes.

In Baltimore, lots of open space exists between the Mondawmin Station entrance (left) and the hidden (Baltimore) zoo entrance (right). All photos by author.

In Baltimore, lots of open space exists between the Mondawmin Station entrance (left) and the hidden (Baltimore) zoo entrance (right). All photos by author.

In Washington, transit and the zoo integrate into the city.

In Washington, transit and the zoo integrate into the city.

The zoo could boost the Metro brand

The zoo in Baltimore has plenty of parking and most patrons arrive by car. Integrating the subway and the zoo won’t change this. What can change is the perception that the areas around the Baltimore subway stations never change and that the subway has few destinations at its stations.

Taxpayers have invested $1.3 billion in Baltimore’s Metro Subway. One of the valid complaints about the subway is that it does not serve enough places that people want to go. For the subway to attract new ridership and development at its stations, it needs to build its brand. By increasing the destinations it serves and refreshing its stations, Baltimore citizens and investors, may look at the line in a new way.

The new Social Security complex, potentially a State Center transit oriented development, a revitalized west-side, and an enhanced zoo stop would add momentum for the subway.

A connection could help businesses

The Baltimore Zoo draws almost 375,000 people who spend $10.8 million each year, according to a 2011 study. Linking the Baltimore subway with the zoo will not turn Auchentrolley Terrace into Connecticut Avenue overnight. But by integrating the zoo with the station and its neighborhood, there is more economic spin-off potential than with its current isolated location. It is not hard to imagine businesses that benefit from hungry or thirsty zoo visitors opening near the subway and zoo entrances.

Connecticut Avenue

In Washington, Connecticut Avenue has vibrant retail between the zoo and the subway entrance.

According to American Public Transportation Association, forty-nine million vacationers will use public transportation to sight see. Car-less Inner Harbor tourists in Baltimore and downtown residents might be tempted to take the subway from Charles Center to visit the zoo or seek the green space of Druid Hill Park, especially if they could grab a nice lunch near the station.

When the Baltimore Ravens provided Quarterback Joe Flacco a 120 million dollar contract and he was getting regularly sacked, people clamored for the need to protect the investment in the QB by shoring up the offensive line. Baltimore’s can also shore up the investment in its subway with a few strategic projects and destinations at its stations. A better connection to the Zoo warrants a look.

Jeff La Noue

A similar article is cross-posted at Greater Greater Washington


Administrator and writer for Comeback City

4 Responses to The National Zoo and DC Metro fit together, So could Baltimore’s Zoo and its Metro (but they don’t)

  1. Habit is everything when it comes to consumer use. This is why businesses stay open 24/7. This is why Baltimore’s metro must have more destinations so more people are familiar with how the system works and are in a habit of using it.

  2. Ben Groff says:

    Wow! Talk about low-hanging fruit. I use the Metro frequently and often reflect on how many of the stations are located in Baltimore neighborhoods containing some of the best architecture and livable/walkable densities in the city — competitive with any of the best east coast neighborhoods. We often don’t know how good we have it in Baltimore. A few high impact/low cost projects like this one would transform how the city thinks of the Green Line and — great point — pay immediate dividends in terms of bringing tourism out of the Inner Harbor and into the rest of the city. Dramatic and transformaive economic benefit could be created for the neighborhoods and residents around the Mondawmin/Zoo/DHP station. While decidedly more complicated of an undertaking, the proximity of the next station north on the Green line, West Cold Spring, to Pimlico could also be explored. Between Pimlico and West Cold Spring station is the old Avalon retail/entertainment district along main street in Park Heights. The Avalon Theatre actually still exists there to this very day. The same kind of thinking will help us unlock the tremendous potential around the future Red Line stations.

  3. I agree that the Mondawmin Metro Station and the Baltimore Zoo could mutually benefit from stronger wayfinding and urban design connections. As a resident of Auchentoroly Terrace, I also strongly agree that the road should be shrunk by half and traffic significantly slowed with narrow lanes, additional crosswalks and better signage making clear to motorists that pedestrians have the right of way.

  4. The City did add a small entrance of sorts at that intersection with the elephant sculptures. They also did some wayfinding signs and a monumental entrance feature at the entrance closer to the conservatory, but that’s not as straight a shot for the zoo. It would be helpful to somehow calm traffic at the intersection of Liberty Heights Ave and Reisterstown Rd- it’s a bit crazy to cross there. Also, that is one of Baltimore’s true transit hubs. It’s a transfer point to 9 (yes, 9!) bus lines. It would be useful to everyone in the City if this was somehow implemented. However, the zoo leases that land, so I think perhaps the signage should be for the park in general, so people get to know everything good at that park (the lake, zoo, conservatory, bike trails, etc)

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