Baltimore’s Red Line connects more than you may think

Baltimore’s Red Line will be much more than a new transit mode for a single city. Beyond making it easier to travel across Baltimore, the Red Line will join MARC and the Purple Line to better integrate Baltimore City and County with Washington DC, Prince Georges County and Montgomery County.  In fact, by combining with the MARC, Baltimore’s Red Line destinations can be accessed by rail from seven Maryland counties.

The Red Line (not to be confused with the Washington Metro’s Red Line) is a light rail line that will run east-west through Baltimore. It will serve popular destinations like the University of Maryland Baltimore, National Aquarium, Camden Yards and M&T Bank Stadium, the Convention Center, historic Little Italy and Fells Point, and new job centers in Harbor Point and Harbor East.

Penn Line MARC riders will be able to easily transfer to the Red Line to reach harbor/stadiums/jobs. All images from Baltimoreredline.com

Penn Line MARC riders will be able to easily transfer to the Red Line to reach harbor/stadiums/jobs. All images from Baltimoreredline.com

Congestion, some narrow streets, and expensive parking make it easier for a lot of people to get to these areas by rail rather than car. Forecasts estimate it will serve 54,520 daily trips, and many will start or end their journey outside of Baltimore City. Four of the stops are in Baltimore County, but that’s only part of the story.

Linking the region by rail

The Purple line and the Red Line would provide “ribs” on the MARC “spine” from DC to Baltimore and beyond. Riders at any of the MARC Penn Line’s 13 stations or along the Purple Line will have better access to Baltimore, while Baltimoreans will be able to travel to the Washington’s Maryland suburbs like never before.

The Red Line will meet the MARC’s Penn Line at two points: the West Baltimore and Bayview stations, both of which are short trips to the jobs, tourism, and entertainment destinations near the harbor.  The area between downtown and Bayview, for example, is one of the fastest growing residential and job centers in the region.

No matter which direction they travel, Penn Line riders looking to travel to harbor-area destinations will be able to knock at least ten minutes off of current ride times by taking the Red Line from West Baltimore or Bayview to downtown. Plus, they won’t have to travel the extra distance to Penn Station in Mount Vernon.  The Red Line’s stations will bring them much closer to their destinations.

Park-and-rides will also make the Red Line accessible to drivers

The Red Line is not just for people connecting among rail transit. Five of its stations will have parking lots near interstates, giving drivers coming from both east and west of the city options for parking outside and taking the train in. Avoiding downtown Baltimore’s congestion and high parking fees is a good way to save travelers money and time.

Bayview- a MARC station and one of five park and rides planned for Baltimore's Red Line

Bayview- a MARC station and one of five park and rides planned for Baltimore’s Red Line

The park-and-ride stations should be particularly important to Governor Hogan because they make the Red Line available to a many of the outer counties and rural districts that voted for him.

Right now, it’s most important to persuade Hogan and new transportation secretary Pete Rahn of just how transformative the Red Line will be. A number of Baltimore officials are currently leading efforts to do so.

The Red Line is an example of why it’s important to think beyond just one city or one mode of transportation. When we consider the networks that multiple modes can build across multiple regions—local rail lines combined with a regional commuter train and park and rides, for example—we can reap the benefits of a more integrated Baltimore and Washington region.

Jeff La Noue

A similar article is cross-posted on Greater Greater Washington and the Sustainable Cities Collective

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America can learn from this French city’s complete streets

Strasbourg, France is a beautiful city that takes its complete streets to heart. The roads through the old (and new) city gracefully mix street trams/lightrail with bicycle paths and friendly traffic calmed streets. Pedestrians move easily. Its central intercity train station is housed in a glamorous historic building, sheathed in a chic modern glass shell.

Gare de Strasbourg

Strasbourg’s central railway station. Photo by Cha Gia Jose on flickr

My family moved to Strasbourg when I was 12.  In French school, I comprehended little, and regularly escaped the gates of Le Lycée International des Pontonniers to explore the city by foot and public transportation.  It was liberating to take my lunch money and spend it in boulangeries around town or even into Germany across the Rhine River.  My parents thought I was in school and I may not have been in the country!

Given the quality of its infrastructure, it would be easy to think the French city is quite large. In fact, Strasbourg is a metro area with a population the size of Albany, Little Rock, Colorado Springs and would rank 73rd in US metro size behind Columbia, SC.

6 tramway lines ply this small city

The Strasbourg metropolitan area of 760,000 people is served by six tram lines, 56km (36 miles) of track, 72 stations, and daily ridership of 300,000 (2010) No US city near this size, has this kind of rail system. During the day, trams run every 6 minutes  (M-F), 7 minutes frequency on Saturday and 12 minutes on Sundays. Yearly passes are 456 euros ($620 dollars) with discounts for those over 65 and under 25. Single fare is 1.60 Euro. ($2.18)

Crossing the L'ILL

Tram gliding through town. Photo by Gerry Balding on flickr

(Strasbourg’s trams function as a hybrid of US Street cars and US Light rail. The rail vehicles are similar to streetcars because they are mostly in the roadbed and integrate into the city’s fabric, but unlike streetcars, operate with their own right of way separate from traffic, in this regard more like light rail.)

Bicycle infrastructure abounds

To complement the tram system, Strasbourg has almost 500km (311 miles) of cycling paths, 18,000 bike racks that serve over 130,000 cyclists. Secure bike parking lots and tire inflation facilities are available at bus and tram stops for transit card holders.

Watch Out For Bikes

Streets are for diners and transport of different varieties. Photo by Brisan on flickr

Baltimore County, Baltimore City, and US  far behind Strasbourg

Many US cities have adopted complete street ordinances and individual streets have been retrofitted.  Close by, Baltimore County has been recognized as a national leader for Complete Streets.  Baltimore County ranked 6th among 83 communities in the US with Complete Streets programs. Despite this recognition, the County’s on road bike network is minimal, members of the Baltimore County Pedestrian and Bicycle Advisory Committee are agitated at the lack of commitment to projects, the county has missed the mark on its pedestrian safety campaign, and now it’s county executive struggles to find a $50 million contribution for the $2.4 billion Red Line his administration says it supports.

Future home of the Towson Bike Beltway in Baltimore County

Future home of the Towson Bike Beltway in Baltimore County

In Baltimore City, Council Bill 09-0433 was adopted in 2010 directing the Departments of Transportation and Planning to apply “Complete Streets” principles to the planning, design, and construction of all new City transportation improvement projects.

Despite the accolades and the policies, “complete streets” in Baltimore County and Baltimore City still feel foreign. On the ground implementation remains the elusive prize. High incidences of tragic pedestrian, bicycle, and vehicle crashes are more associated with user error than engineering design. Complete Street advocates look forward to seeing first rate projects in the city and the suburbs get designed, funded and become reality. In the meantime, please enjoy a few photos of a “complete streets” city that I used to roam.

Similar article crossposted on Greater Greater Washington and Sustainable Cities Collective

Strasbourg urban “complete streets” gallery

(All gallery images from google street view)

This gallery depicts regular infrastructure treatments in the heart of the city that help create a safe and user friendly balance of transportation options.

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Strasbourg suburban “complete streets” gallery

Strasbourg’s outer areas have also built extensive infrastructure to serve multiple types of transportation and keep vehicles at safer speeds.

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Baltimore Better with Red Line

Baltimore Red Line Route Map

Baltimore Red Line route map

By Grant Corley, Chair of Red Line Now PAC

As this year’s General Assembly heads into the home stretch, it’s become clear that one of the most important economic development opportunities Baltimore has seen a generation could soon slip from our grasp.

Baltimore is in dire need of a well-connected, effective public transit system. This is no small matter. Cities around the nation — most notably, our friends down the road in Washington, D.C.  — are capitalizing on good public transportation networks to help attract residents, jobs, and investment.

Certainly, Baltimore does have its share of transit now. But we lack a fast, effective east-west transit route; this fact severely impedes the usefulness and ridership of the overall network.

There is a solid plan to fill this gap. The proposed Red Line would connect downtown with the city’s east and west sides, meeting up with the Metro, the light rail, the MARC, and hundreds of employment centers along the way.

The Red Line is a major investment in Baltimore and its people. It would be a boost for neighborhoods West and East, and it would connect the city in ways we haven’t seen in nearly a century.

But because no funding source has yet been secured, we are in danger of losing the Red Line — this month. This would be a big mistake for our city.

Baltimore’s legislators already have a heavy lift with school construction funding, the death penalty, and dozens of other issues. But I believe they can find the energy to address our transportation revenue issue.

Why should we be standing up and demanding the Red Line?

1. Economic activity and jobs creation. According to a study by the Jacob France Institute at the University of Baltimore, the construction phase of the Red Line is projected to generate more than $2 billion in economic activity, and nearly 10,000 jobs. 83% of those jobs would require less than an associate’s degree. This is relevant, because the Red Line’s community compact makes it a priority to create employment opportunities for city residents.

2. Jobs access for residents. Once completed, the Red Line will open up useful transit access to hundreds of job sites, both along its east-west corridor and via connections to other transit routes. This will provide expanded employment opportunities for the 35% of city residents who lack an automobile. It will also make more areas of the city accessible and desirable for employers to locate.

3. Ability to compete. 10,000 families? Here’s a news flash: young people today are choosing to live in cities with transit. They’re bringing talent and energy, and they’re starting new businesses and families. If Baltimore doesn’t make itself competitive for these up-and-coming urban dwellers, we’ll lose them to a dozen other cities. It’s worth noting that in 2012, the District of Columbia, with its remarkable Metro system and soon-to-be streetcar network, leapfrogged Baltimore in population for the first time in decades.

4. Neighborhood revitalization. Dozens of Baltimore communities need a major shot of investment. The Red Line, and the remarkably useful regional transit network it creates, can become a ribbon of strength weaving them together. Neighborhoods along Edmondson Avenue can build on that strength, attracting homeowners and businesses. The West Baltimore MARC station can become a hub of residential, business, and transit activity. The same goes for Highlandtown and Greektown, where the Red Line has become a cornerstone in those communities’ revitalization plans.

5. Ability to get around. Last but not least, a good transit system makes the city more useful for everyone. Parking-starved neighborhoods such as Fells Point and Canton are never realistically going to have a guaranteed space for every car — but the Red Line would give residents an attractive, convenient alternative to driving, as good transit has done in urban neighborhoods around the nation. Many of us who previously didn’t ride transit have begun to get a taste of its usefulness thanks to the Charm City Circulator. However, the Red Line would be a far more useful and permanent system, with regional economic importance.

March 2013 is make-or-break time for the Red Line and other state transportation projects. Gov. O’Malley and the General Assembly’s Democratic leaders have proposed a revenue package to pay for much-needed transportation and transit improvements in our congested state. But if our legislators from Baltimore don’t step up to secure funding for the Red Line — now — we lose a multi-billion-dollar investment in our communities and our city. If you want this investment, you need to contact your state legislators and tell them.

If Baltimore does somehow fail to build the Red Line, the enormity of the opportunity lost will become apparent over time. D.C. is already eating our lunch, all the while continuing to expand its transit options. Virginia has passed major transportation funding legislation. And Montgomery and Prince George’s Counties do have the political willpower to fund and build the similar Purple Line, which will improve those communities’ economy and quality of life.

If Baltimore fails where our neighbors succeed, the next generation of city residents will have a stark example of what might have been. Let’s hope they won’t look back and wonder why our city squandered the once-in-a-lifetime opportunity we have in front of us now.

Red Line Station

Red Line Station

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