There’s a plan for more rail options in Baltimore, and it doesn’t involve the Red Line

The Red Line might not be happening, but that doesn’t mean Baltimore’s transportation needs have gone anywhere. A plan from 2007 recommends new stations on the MARC’s Penn Line and make it easier to travel to and from Baltimore as well as within the city itself.

Baltimore's existing heavy rail lines, along with potential MARC stops and the now cancelled Red Line route. The 2007 Plan also discusses possibilities for expanding the Camden Line. Base image from Google Maps.

Baltimore’s existing heavy rail lines, along with potential MARC stops and the now cancelled Red Line route. The 2007 Plan also discusses possibilities for expanding the Camden Line. Base image from Google Maps.

Assembled by the Maryland Transit Administration, the 2007 MARC Growth & Investment Plan featured a number of rail projects, many of which would invest heavily in Baltimore. Adding more MARC stations to Baltimore would also amount to intracity service, removing some of the sting of losing the Red Line investment.

2013 draft update omits stations and improvements planned for the city. There isn’t an explanation for why.

Moving forward with the Penn Line stations identified in the 2007 plan would provide many more places to access or depart Baltimore on the MARC regional rail line. (The 2007 plan also calls for major Camden Line investments, but they are less shovel ready)

The plan includes three new stations on the Penn Line, which runs from DC Washington’s Union to Station to Perryville, Maryland, near the Delaware border.

1.The first is Bayview, near the Baltimore City/County line. Bayview would be a strong choice for a transportation investment because has easy access to Interstates 95 and 895 and park & ride opportunities, a major hospital, and dense neighborhoods nearby. Bayview is also easy drive from large suburbs in Baltimore County such as Essex and Middle River.

Bayview was meant to have a connection to the Red Line and has considerable station planning work was completed on the $60 million project. Of all the proposed new stations, this one is the most shovel ready.

2. The second is Madison Square, in the center of East Baltimore. The 2007 plan specifically calls for proposes a connection to the Metro Green Line and Johns Hopkins Hospital, which is one of the region’s largest job centers. A stop here would provide regional rail access to Northeast Baltimore, an area currently unconnected to any passenger rail network.

3.Finally, the plan proposes a station at Upton in West Baltimore, with a proposed connection to the Metro Green Line. This proposed stop is near the epicenter of the 2015 riots. Completing this connection would require making a station that links connection between the subway and the train tunnels that pass over each other.  Work on the B&P Tunnel is being planned now.

Riders leaving the MARC at Baltimore's Penn Stations. Would more stations on the Penn Line help transit in the city? Photo by Elvert Barnes on Flickr.

Riders leaving the MARC at Baltimore’s Penn Stations. Would more stations on the Penn Line help transit in the city? Photo by Elvert Barnes on Flickr.

The MARC lines are regional in scope, but by adding stations in dense populated neighborhoods outside of downtown on both sides of the city, Baltimoreans would have more access to the line. Those coming into Baltimore, will also have much greater choice of places to get off that might be closer to their destinations.

More MARC stations in Baltimore could attract jobs

When it was still on the table, a lot of people called the Red Line the “jobs line” because it would have connected so many of Baltimore’s densest employment clusters, especially near the harbor and in Baltimore County. The MARC Penn Line runs about three miles north of the Red Line alignment, and while the proposed stations are in places with fewer jobs, they’re still close to large residential populations.

That means new Penn Line stations could very well attract new jobs in the future. Like the Red Line, the MARC lines cross from west to east (although the Red Line was to go much further west into Baltimore County). Adding stations on the Penn Line at Bayview and Madison Square in particular, appear to be feasible. With multiple new stations within Baltimore and more frequency, it could create “transit-like” service through Baltimore. If that were to happen, it would be an economic jolt for neighborhoods in the city’s interior.

As the state and city discuss transportation improvements for Baltimore, the 2007 MARC Investment Plan for Baltimore should be on the table. Adding MARC service and stations in Baltimore is not a substitute for the Red Line, but it would do a lot of good in different areas of the city.

A similar article has been posted at Greater Greater Washington

Jeff La Noue

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?

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

The Day You Became a Red Line Convert

harbor-point-renderingoriginal_600

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

Mechanic-Rendering-A10

A full Union Wharf  

Union Wharf

A bustling Marketplace at Fells Point

Market Place at Fells

A built out Canton Crossing

Canton-Crossing-rendering

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.

new-size-of-harbor-point

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!

JL

Red Line: An Opportunity for West Baltimore

The western side of Baltimore has a golden opportunity.  An opportunity of a generation.  An opportunity that if missed, will likely not come again in a long time.  This opportunity is the Red Line.

The author grew up on the west side of Baltimore and wants it to flourish. The area is home to tight-knit neighborhoods, a great variety of historic architecture, and the city’s biggest park; Gwynns Falls Leakin Park.  That has not been enough. Unfortunately, West Baltimore (city) has few large employers and is not seeing enough private investment flow in its direction.  This has an impact on quality of life.  The west side has a dearth of sit down restaurants, no movie-plexes, no hotels, and few thriving retail districts.  Despite the city’s overall uptick in population, the west side continues to hemorrhage residents, which results in too much crumbling housing and falling employment opportunities.

If the west side remains isolated and it does not try something new, it is hard to envision change.  The opportunity is right in front of us.  In the short run, the Red Line will put thousands to work. When it opens, the west side neighborhoods will be connected within minutes to over 113,000 downtown jobs and thousands more in southeast Baltimore. The Red Line will make easy transfers to MARC trains at West Baltimore and Camden Station, opening up the Washington region in ways never before realized. The Red Line also will make it convenient to visit restaurants, shopping, and events. Most importantly, the Red Line greatly improves the prospects for attracting new employers, restaurants, retail, and potential residents that have been spurning the west side for other parts of the region. Rail transit does not guaranty new investment as those of us in Baltimore are all too aware. However, transit-oriented-development is happening in traffic clogged cities all over the world, especially right down the tracks in Washington.  Thirty-four MARC minutes from the West Baltimore Station, New Carrollton envisions 5500 new apartment units and 6.1 million square feet of office and retail around its station.  Development at transit stations will eventually catch on here in Baltimore too, hopefully sooner than later.

Transit Oriented Development opportunity at the W. Baltimore MARC Station

Transit Oriented Development opportunity at the W. Baltimore MARC Station

Development at this West Baltimore Station is a lot more likely with these train connection combinations: 45 minutes to Washington Union Station, 34 minutes to New Carrollton and the Purple Line, 10 minutes to downtown Baltimore, and 10 minutes to Baltimore Penn Station. Image Source: West Baltimore MARC Station Master Plan

Improved transit could make development in West Baltimore more likely

Improved transit could make development in West Baltimore more likely

For households and businesses that need easy connections to Baltimore and Washington, development at the West Baltimore MARC would be ideal. Image source: West Baltimore MARC Station Master Plan

The residents and business owners of: Dickeyville, Franklintown, Rosemont, Allendale, Ten Hills, Hunting Ridge, Poppleton, Franklin Square, Union Square, Edmondson Village, Harlem Park, and other nearby neighborhoods will be the biggest beneficiaries. As it is often said “location, location, location….”  The Red Line  will again give West Baltimore a location advantage and the chance for new development that otherwise would not occur.

Maryland’s General Assembly is debating funding and the Red Line.  There are only so many times that your districts can be part of a $2.5 billion shot in the arm and the chance to transform the economic outlook for dozens of neighborhoods. It is time to seize the opportunity.

JL

Red Line: an Alternative to Scarce Parking

State transportation funding is coming down to the wire and Baltimore’s Red Line is at stake. Losing out on this $2.5 billion injection into Baltimore’s economy is one of the many reasons outlined nicely in this commentary. However, it’s also worth talking about the many ways the Red Line will help your parking situation especially if you live in or visit Southeast (SE) Baltimore.

Premium street parking in SE Baltimore

Everyone who has driven to downtown, Harbor East, Little Italy, Fells Point, Canton, and Greektown knows street parking is beyond a precious commodity and garage parking is expensive.  When there is an event like the Fells Point Fun Festival, parking is a nightmare. Everyday parking is no piece of cake either and has created regular tension between residents, businesses, restaurants, and retailers. The Red Line will help in a major way.

If a meager four percent of the Red Line’s projected 50,000 daily users who would otherwise be parking on downtown/Southeast neighborhood streets are riding the Red Line instead of driving, it would free up 2,000 street spaces.  That translates to over thirteen acres of parking.  To build the equivalent amount of spaces in new parking garages would cost in the ballpark of $40,000,000 and would likely cost far more than a transit ticket for users to park. As an added bonus, Red Line users will generally bypass another Baltimore problem, traffic congestion, by speeding under the most congested intersections.

For many in SE Baltimore, parking is their number one headache. Of note, much of the Red Line opposition in SE Baltimore comes from those with their own parking spaces. The Red Line is not going to solve parking scarcity in SE Baltimore, but it will be darn nice to have an another way to get around and an alternative to giving up a space that you may have worked very hard to find.

Canton Parking Baltimore Sun

Increasingly scarce parking in Canton                Image source: Barbara H. Taylor, Baltimore Sun

Fells Point Fun Festival

Where do people park at events like the Fells Point Fun Festival? Red Line will help.  Image source: City Data

baltimore-md traffic

The Red Line would go underneath this congestion         Image source: Business Insider

tight-parking-space funny

The future of street parking without the Red Line         Image source: signature 9

Savings from not owning a car

According to Consumer Expenditures in 2006, released in February of 2008 by the US Department of Labor’s US Bureau of Labor Statistics, the average vehicle costs $8,003 per year to own and operate. Meanwhile, an annual MTA pass costs $768. Zipcars also provide an alternative to car ownership.

Let’s presume 20% of the 50,000 Red Line daily riders decide they don’t need a car (or a second  or third vehicle in their household). Assuming they all purchase a monthly MTA pass, that 20% of riders would collectively save more than $72 million per year.

Of course, if you don’t own a car you don’t have to park it.

Summary

If you don’t like:

  • searching for scarce parking
  • paying for parking
  • the cost of owning and maintaining one or more vehicles
  • having a landscape devoted to surface parking or garages
  • traffic congestion at intersections
  • having federal infrastructure dollars being spent outside of Baltimore

then the Red Line might be exactly what you need!

JL

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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