Without the Red Line: what is next for Baltimore transportation?

Most Baltimoreans concerned with the Red Line thought the rail project was finished when the election returns came in last November.  The Red Line was an O’Malley project, and when his Lieutenant Governor was beaten to a highway man, what other conclusion could be drawn?  Surprisingly, the new Governor promised to study the rail project and he kept spending money on it.  The Baltimore business community became more vocal in support of the Red Line and the Governor’s team met with project advocates. False hope creeped in for supporters for the next eight months, before the Governor did what we expected him to do all along and kill the project.

The new question is, does Baltimore get a consolation prize?  If so, the most befitting of Hogan’s rhetoric, would be a pledge to help pave Baltimore’s craterscape of a road network.  This would make many people happy, but would do almost nothing to help people connect to jobs or alleviate congestion.

There are several very-helpful piecemeal projects the Governor should consider, but he would have to be open minded to some transit-oriented solutions. Critics of the Red Line alignment, including the Governor, most often point to the proposed parallel tunnel.  Here are few ideas to contribute to the discussion, none of which include a duplicate tunnel.

Create a Metro Green Line extension to the west

West Baltimore needs jobs and better transportation connections. What better place to focus than a Washington connecting MARC Station with lots of available land for future development.  To make it viable, build a short speedy two mile metro branch from the West Baltimore MARC station that feeds into the green line at Lexington Market. The train can travel above ground with dedicated right-of-way in the former “highway to no-where” before descending into the existing subway right-of-way. This should keep expenses within Hogan’s fiscal sensibilities.  High-frequency buses can feed into the MARC station from all over West Baltimore including social security. This short rail extension would link the center of West Baltimore, MARC and bus riders, with a speedy rail connection into downtown and beyond.

Extending the Metro Green Line west could provide fast transit for West Baltimore and MARC riders into downtown and beyond

Extending the Metro Green Line west could provide fast transit for West Baltimore and MARC riders into downtown and beyond

Extend the Metro Green Line to the north

While closer to jobs in Southeast Baltimore, East Baltimore has a similar economic malaise as West Baltimore.  Extending the existing Metro Green Line just a half mile to the MARC train tracks and building a connecting station would drastically help east Baltimoreans reach jobs in downtown Baltimore as well as those that can be accessed by the MARC Penn Line. This new hub would drastically reduce the isolation of this part of the city.

A short Metro Green Line extension to the north could give East Baltimore a badly needed transportation hub

A short Metro Green Line extension to the north could give East Baltimore a badly needed transportation hub

Extend the Metro Green Line to the east

After the green line is extended north to the MARC train in east Baltimore, it can make an easterly turn above ground along the MARC right of way four miles to a new Bay View MARC Station.  While also serving the hospital, a station here could also create a great park & ride option for drivers on 95 and 895.  This should help ease downtown congestion if drivers can park here and take a swift metro ride into:  downtown, the Johns Hopkins Medical Complex, or other green line or MARC train destinations.

Extending the Green Line Metro along the existing MARC right-of-way east would enable a new hub connecting the subway with MARC, Interstate 95, Bayview Hospital, and a park and ride for many in eastern Baltimore

Extending the Green Line Metro along the existing MARC right-of-way east would enable a new hub connecting the subway with MARC, Interstate 95, Bayview Hospital, and a park and ride for many in eastern Baltimore

Create a high-frequency “jobs” bus line between the Lexington Market Hub and the Bayview Transportation Hub

A new high level of service 6.5 mile bus line linking the jobs, dense neighborhoods, shopping, and entertainment along the bustling southeast harbor coast with endpoints of Lexington Market and Bayview would very helpful.  This line is where a lot of jobs are. With tunneling off the table and no clear right-of way available needed for a practicable streetcar, major bus improvements appear to be the next best option here.

A high-frequency bus line between the Lexington Market Transportation Hub and the proposed Bayview Transportation Hub would provide more reliable connectivity in this growing section of Baltimore

A high-frequency bus line between the Lexington Market Transportation Hub and the proposed Bayview Transportation Hub would provide more reliable connectivity in this growing section of Baltimore

While many more ideas will surface, these four transportation enhancements would bring significant benefits to Baltimore, involve little tunneling, could be phased, and are fiscally restrained. Adding four new station hubs where rail lines would connect, while avoiding the expense of any new underground stations, might appeal to the Hogan administration.   Baltimore needs and deserves major transit improvements. Governor Hogan, does Baltimore get anything?

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