Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Improving Transit in Baltimore

Some time ago I started a 3 (now 3.5) part series on improving transit in Maryland and D.C. The first part designed improvements to the Washington Metro via targeted extensions to underserved areas--especially jobs centers--and a more complex downtown D.C. network with more routes and increased interlining. Also recommended was the installation of an express track between Rosslyn and East Falls Church (the extent, that is, the Orange and Silver Lines are interlined outside of Central Washington). The second targeted improvements to MARC, firstly by merging it with VRE, and secondly, by greatly increasing commuter rail services around Baltimore. The second-and-a-half took this a little further, discussing natural extensions of the core network proposed and the technical issues inherent in creating an S-Bahn-like network through downtown Baltimore. This third post discusses improvements that can be made in Baltimore.

...Except my work's already done for me. More or less.

What the MTA has proposed is a wide-ranging light rail network that builds on the two existing mass transit lines in Baltimore (the Central Light Rail Line, marked blue, and the Baltimore Metro, marked green, on the map). Even though this proposal dates back to 2002 now, and has not seen much in the way of new work, the plan, the principles behind the plan, and the plan of implementation are all sound. When I argue for more long-range mass transit planning, this is exactly the kind of thing I'm arguing for. The Washington Metro wasn't built in a day; in fact, it took roughly 30-40 years from the start of the planning process to the completion of the first-generation network. The first-generation Baltimore network would take on the same look, but done with more light rail and less heavy rail. See below.
Of course, there are still issues and longstanding mistakes. Extending LRT towards Columbia is nowhere near as effective as extending commuter rail (i.e. a variant on the Orange Line); similarly, the Blue/Yellow Line towards Hunt Valley, following ex-Northern Central Rwy. rights-of-way is nowhere near as effective as an alignment towards Towson, following ex-Maryland and Pennsylvania right-of-way (assuming it still exists) would be--although the northern Yellow Line proposal (along Charles Street) would go quite a long way in rectifying that. And the Red Line proposal that has the most traction has piss-poor interconnection with the existing lines (not so much a network as a motley connection of lines).

Even so--a strong long-range framework for local transit exists, or seems to, in Baltimore--much stronger than what you would find in e.g. Philadelphia. Which, again, is the point of this blog.

In the long run, I would encourage Maryland to consider the MTA and MARC as layered networks in a wider system, and quit trying to (like Dallas) overextend its light rail network.

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