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How the Red Line and streetcars can live well and affordably together

A former city transportation planner lays out a plan to integrate rail transit in Baltimore – and save the Red Line from itself.

NEILY map

Recommended routes for an integrated system (double lines indicate the existing Metro subway and light-rail Howard Street line).

Photo by: Gerald Neily, Google maps

Baltimore can have a rail transit system that accommodates light-rail and streetcar vehicles on the same lines, if not always in the same places, to take advantage of the best of both.

Modern streetcars and light-rail vehicles have evolved to become practically one and the same. The conflicts and confusion between them arise only because of their design flexibility.

State transportation planners has abused that flexibility in an effort to cram the Red Line into places where it just doesn’t belong and can’t work well. But the same flexibility could be used to integrate light-rail and streetcar systems to work well and affordably together, tailoring them to their specific environments.

Why the Red Line Fails

The proposed Red Line fails because the three-mile-long tunnel from West Baltimore to Boston Street through downtown will consume so much money – $1.2 billion and rising – that it puts the whole project out of reach.

To deal with the extraordinary cost of the tunnel, Maryland Transit Administration planners have shrunk the station platforms to handle only two-car trains. This despite higher projected ridership than the Baltimore Metro carries on its six-car subway trains.

The Red Line route – from Woodlawn in Baltimore County to the Johns Hopkins Bayview Campus – is far too slow for a regional system. Regardless of how prospective riders react to its less than 20-mph average speed, the lengthy 45 minute end-to-end travel time with only two-car trains would result in very poor productivity. Feeding bus routes into the line would have very limited benefit.

As presently designed, the Red Line is an expensive, slow, low-capacity “money pit” that is also facing citizen opposition in Canton and elsewhere.

The downtown tunnel isolates the line from the existing Metro subway, requiring a dysfunctional two-block-long pedestrian tunnel for transfers. It also isolates the line from street activity and major destinations it purports to serve, like the Inner Harbor, Harbor East and Fells Point.

Harbor East developer John Paterakis has gone on record as opposing a station at Central Avenue, which would serve his development and Harbor Point, the adjoining office-apartment complex set to receive $107 million in city TIF financing bonds.

Across town, the two stations that were going to serve the University of Maryland’s downtown campus and Medical Center – at Lombard and Greene streets and Martin Luther King Blvd. at Lexington – have had to be eliminated due to cost and engineering problems with the tunnel.

Adding Streetcars to the Mix

Streetcars are the solution. Not only are they far less expensive and more convenient than light rail, but because using surface streetcars for a portion of the Red Line corridor can enable the rest of the line to be built in a far more effective and integrated way – and at a far more reasonable price.

The Red Line’s route is not the major issue here. Much of the planning and design work already done can be salvaged. The main question is which segment of the Red Line should be designed to accommodate high-capacity light-rail trains and which should be designed to handle only single-unit streetcars.

These segments can overlap for greater connectivity and flexibility, since streetcars can be accommodated virtually anywhere (with some adjustments to its overhead electrical system and car-body design).

Integrated rail lines that could bring Baltimore transportation into the 21st century. (Gerald Neily)

Integrated rail lines that could bring Baltimore transportation into the 21st century. (Gerald Neily)

The potential for streetcars in the Red Line corridor should have been clearly suggested when the Draft Environmental Impact Statement/Alternatives Analysis by the MTA concluded that the all-surface option had by far the highest cost effectiveness.

Streetcars were not studied but would cost even less than the all-surface option, since they don’t need the kind of dedicated right-of-way which has worked so poorly on Howard Street. Inexplicably, the MTA rejected the surface option despite its numerical superiority in favor of the tunnel option.

Here’s how a combined light rail/streetcar Red Line could work: The west leg of the Red Line from downtown to Woodlawn, serving the Social Security complex and the Security Square shopping mall, should be designed to accommodate the longest light-rail trains possible, at least three cars, rather than the two-car trains currently proposed.

This west leg constitutes the longest portion of the line, where peak capacity and economies of scale are critical. Accommodating three-car trains (or perhaps four shorter cars) should pose no problem as long as they don’t need to go into the currently proposed downtown tunnel with its expensive underground stations.

Surface streetcars should be used through downtown and the southeast waterfront from the Inner Harbor to Harbor East, Fells Point and Canton.

That will enable the line to fit in well with the existing 19th century streetscape environments of the waterfront and allow stations to be located as close to the most active areas as possible without unseemly disruption. John Paterakis should be far more pleased if his station is nestled along an existing sidewalk near the heart of Harbor East.

Providing additional stations would also become feasible. Harbor East and Central Avenue (the gateway to Harbor Point) should each have separate stations. The Inner Harbor could easily have separate stations adjacent to Harborplace, the Aquarium, and Piers 5 and 6 – rather than just one station hidden 70 feet underneath Lombard Street.

The Greene Street station serving the University of Maryland Medical Center could then be restored.

Let the Metro Prevail

The next question is where multi-car light-rail service should end and single-car streetcar service should begin.

Streetcar service could go as far west as operationally viable, but a logical terminus would be the West Baltimore MARC station, which has long been touted as an important destination for downtown Red Line trips. Streetcar and light-rail service would thus overlap between there and downtown.

As for how best to terminate west leg light-rail service, many options and factors should be weighed, but here is one very clearly beneficial way to go:

A short light-rail spur can be built along Saratoga Street from MLK Blvd. directly into the Lexington Market Metro station mezzanine, terminating with a two-block tunnel from Greene to Eutaw Street.

Saratoga is very wide and has a nice hill just west of Greene Street where a tunnel portal can be tucked in. The MTA says that running a new transit line into the Metro itself is infeasible, despite being proposed since the 1960s. But adding a Red Line “west wing” to the Lexington Market station is the next best thing – and far better than the proposed two-block long pedestrian passageway.

Another surface Red Line station on Saratoga for UMB and the redeveloped Metro West complex could also easily be provided near Pine Street.

The Lexington Market station could be enhanced to transform it into the comprehensive downtown transit hub the visionaries have been dreaming about for decades.

A short escalator connection from the mezzanine could lead directly up to the Howard Street light-rail line, and the adjacent existing MTA employee parking lot on Eutaw Street could be converted into a bus transfer hub.

The biggest advantage of this set-up, however, is that it would maximize use of the underutilized Metro, which is by far Baltimore’s fastest, most efficient, and highest capacity transit mode, and provide a far more efficient eastward backbone connection for the Red Line than the proposed expensive Red Line tunnel.

Trolleys congregate at the War Memorial Plaza near City Hall in 1959, part of the city's once extensive surface streetcar system. (E.E. Reutter Collection)

Trolleys congregate at the War Memorial Plaza near City Hall in 1959, part of the city’s once extensive surface streetcar system. (E.E. Reutter Collection)

Extending the Metro East

Accordingly, building a short eastward Metro extension from Johns Hopkins Hospital to Hopkins Bayview along the Amtrak right of way (there’s plenty of room on the south side) would be the ideal complement to this plan.

The route should include a comprehensive bus/rail/streetcar transit hub, with a MARC commuter rail station at Edison Highway near Monument Street. This is a far better location for a MARC-Red Line connection than the present isolated site  inside the Norfolk Southern freight rail yard at Bayview.

Even more importantly, the Edison Highway site would have a far larger rider “catchment area” encompassing most of east and northeast Baltimore and Baltimore County, enabling a far more efficient feeder bus network.

Another huge advantage of a Metro extension is that it could easily accommodate future branches to White Marsh, Dundalk, Middle River and other places.

The extended Metro would instantly become the “Hopkins Corridor,” with a six-minute ride reinforcing the strong synergy between the two health campuses, and stations for East Baltimore Development’s Biotech Park and the MARC station to Washington in between.

Goal: Service Flexibility

An integrated light rail/streetcar/Metro system would provide far superior transit for less than the $2.6 billion pricetag of the MTA Red Line.

It could be built in as many phases as the funding flow allows, unlike the Red Line that can only be built in one unaffordable $2.6 billion chunk in order to conform to its cost effectiveness claim.

This system would provide tremendous service flexibility, such as:

• Red Line A from Woodlawn to Lexington Market Metro Station.
• Red Line B from Woodlawn to Inner Harbor via surface streetcar route.
• Streetcar A from the West Baltimore MARC station via Inner Harbor to Canton.
• Streetcar B from Lexington Market Metro station via Inner Harbor and Canton to East MARC station.
• Metro from Owings Mills via downtown and East MARC station to Bayview.

(And not to mention a Lexington Market connection to the Howard Street light-rail line for north-south travel, and potential streetcar lines along Charles Street, the southwest Mount Clare corridor and other places.)

By adopting an integrated approach, Baltimore could have the true rail transit system it has wanted for decades and would follow the innovative systems now being built in places like Los Angeles, Portland, San Francisco and neighboring Washington, D.C.
______________
Gerald Neily, a transportation planner for the Baltimore City Department of Planning from 1977 to 1996, is a consultant. He has performed pro-bono work for Right Rail Coalition that is seeking alternatives to the Red Line’s route through Canton.

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  • Jed Weeks

    Does the Right Rail Coalition support surface street cars on Boston Street, as you’ve outlined above?

    • Aaron Mirenzi

      Jed, taking this from an earlier post of yours. The Portland bike system costs 60 million to build right? I would easily trade one Red line station for a function Bike network in Baltimore. To me it seems like a no brainier. Yet again Im a biker so I’m biased.

      • Wally Pinkard

        I agree that improving bike lanes in the seriously low hanging fruit here. I also think that people generally do not like transferring – especially if it is a transfer to go in the same direction. I could see people being ok with taking a line across town then jumping on the light rail to head north or south, but I really can’t imagine people taking the red line across town to then jump on another train to continue the journey across town.

        I think street cars are great, I just don’t think they will fit well in South East Baltimore above ground. I think you might be able to get away with putting one on Fayette street or Central Ave but most of the streets other than those and Boston street are just to narrow.

        • bob

          most every transit engineer and planner knows that a transfer (no matter how convienent) will cost a line about 50% of it’s potential ridership, so if you lose 50% of the potential thru riders for each transfer you soon will have diminishing returns on the line.
          a single line for example from A-B would have say 100,000 daily riders
          if a transfer is needed to get from A-B that reduces to 50,000.
          and two transfers become 25,000

          and so on. it unfortunately is the “captive” rider that has no choice on riding that is stuck with this system.

          having transfers is a fact of transit life, but you shouldn’t add them unnecessarly. (Gerry feels differently about this but ridership bears me out, and I ran a transit system or two and have first hand experience in this area)

      • Jed Weeks

        We should be able to have both, since the bike and transit money mostly come from different pots. When we’re talking spending millions on new highway projects, that’s when bike $ is really threatened.

    • the right rail

      The Right Rail Coalition supports exploring better transit options that would be less costly and less disruptive. Streetcars along Boston Street might be an alternative to consider or streetcars along Eastern Avenue (see The Case for Eastern Avenue on http://www.bmoremobile.org). Circulators or rapid bus might also provide efficient transportation.

      • artc12

        After all Canton is bordered both by Boston Street on the south and Eastern Avenue on the
        north.

      • Jed Weeks

        Re: the case for Eastern Ave, Art Cohen is well respected but makes the mistake of placing the transit vehicles on park land, which can’t be done.

        What are your specific plans to improve transit choices ON Boston Street?

        If you’re going to try to derail a decade-old project, I’d like to see your specific recommendations for better service.

  • Wally Pinkard

    I have a few questions. I fail to understand how streetcar would be faster. Also streetcar is subject to traffic which is a huge disadvantage. What would be the benefit of this over a bus through SE Baltimore? Having the red line in tunnels allows it to avoid traffic which is huge for reliability and speed. Also I am not sure that the small streets of fells point could really accommodate 2 lanes of rail traffic with all the other traffic they currently have. Anyone who drives down Fleet or Aliceanna at rush hour knows what I am talking about.

    I agree that having larger stations would be nice and should be explored but I don’t think that having them underground is a bad thing at all. Many cities do this and it works quite well.

    • Gerald Neily

      It’s the REGIONAL system speed which would significantly increase, by getting riders off the slow Red Line at Lexington Market and onto the fast Metro. The regional system would work far better.

      The big advantage of streetcars is not speed, of course, but far more convenient and active stations without seven-story escalator and elevator shafts. And since the Red Line is projected to be so slow, streetcars wouldn’t be much slower if they were operated in an efficient way (not like Howard Street).

      The advantages of streetcars over buses pertain to design and ergonomics.

      • Aaron Mirenzi

        Gerry. I see where your going with this. Essentially use metro to supplement the Red Line on the east side. Along with a streetcar to support the waterfront. I like the idea.

        But Riddle me this: I understand how the Metro is faster then the RedLine, but wont the act of transferring from one train to another negate any gains of riding on the faster train?

        I’m also in agreeance with Wally. Traffic on Aliceanna and Fleet will only get worse with more development in the Southeast. Wont a streetcar just be sitting in traffic with the rest of the cars?

        Keep up the good work. Thanks Gerry!

        • Gerald Neily

          Transfers are a fact of life. Every system has them, and the better the system, the more transfers they have. Transfers grow travel opportunities exponentially. This plan makes the State Center and Mondawmin Metro stations very accessible to the west Red Line, for instance.

          Also, the system itself is the greatest beneficiary of such connectivity. Transfer time doesn’t count against the system in determining vehicle and operator requirements. The MTA Red Line taking 45 minutes to go 14 miles with only two-car trains is a killer for productivity. Better that some of that time be spent by Red Line riders transferring to the more efficient Metro than stuck in slow cramped unproductive trains that drain the MTA’s operating budget.

          As for traffic, great cities don’t let traffic beat them. The fashionable thing to say nowadays is that congestion is good – a sign of vitality – but not if you’re going to let the congestion kill the vitality. We just need to make it work by using an intelligent routing, such as putting the line through Piers 5 and 6 instead of the clogged intersections on President Street, and better traffic signal timing. And let’s quit building monster parking garages with subsidized employee parking.

          Finally, streetcars reflect the kinds of trips people really want to take along the waterfront. How many trips are really going to be made from Harbor East to Allendale and Harlem Park? Hardly anyone is going to bother to take two seven story escalator rides to ride a mile from Central Avenue to Charles Street, but hopping on a streetcar that you see coming as you walk along the sidewalk is much more plausible. On the other hand, many Red Line riders from Harlem Park and Allendale would love to be able to transfer to eight different bus lines at a Lexington Market hub.

          • MC2012

            Gerry, I don’t understand your perspective on transfers? Who would wish for a transfer? Who would ever choose to spend an hour in Charlotte if a direct flight is available? If your job is on the Blue Line, then all things being equal, you look for a house on the blue line. Having a network full of transfers is nice so you can get to the airport or the ballpark once a month, but not as a regular commute. But even then, add a transfer to an occasional trip, and we can just drive, or bike, or stomach the cab fare. It’s why you have a button for “nonstop flights only”

          • Aaron Mirenzi

            I’m still stuck on the idea that a street car is going to get tied up in traffic no matter what in the SE, though bypassing president street is a great idea and would save time. I’m not disagreeing just to disagree. It just seems really difficult to see how all this will play out.

            Personally I think the design should put street cars in lanes all to themselves if at all possible. What about making fleet and eastern opposing one way streets with one lane each way being a street car route only. In my mind, this would make the lights easier to time. Also people would be motivated to take the street car if it could bypass traffic. I’m sure there are reasons against this idea, I’m just not seeing them.

          • Gerald Neily

            Good ideas, Aaron, worth pursuing. One-way streets don’t have such a bad name in many other cities where they aren’t timed for a zillion miles per hour, like Philadelphia and Portland. In the Brew article of Red Line head planner Henry Kay’s ideas, he said that a surface line would require turning the streets into “traffic sewers”. Wrong! That would only be true if you took away parking to create dedicated rail rights of way and timed the signals for high speed, which if you are planning a 14 mile “regional rail” line, there is indeed pressure to do. But local streetcars in mixed traffic can actually become a calming element. There is no pressure to time the signals for high speeds to move them. The lanes don’t even need to be shared with through traffic, just turns and parking activity. Through traffic can be kept out. Dedicated rail lanes certainly are no guarantee of high speed anyway. Just look at Howard Street.

          • Aaron Mirenzi

            I think I understand your ideas on traffic calming. With streetcars in the mix, people will drive more cautiously. Whitch is good. I dont think anybody wants to to turn fleet and aliceanna into high volume streets like lombard and pratt. That would ruin the neighborhood feel of Fells.

            So I feel confident that streetcars would prevent eastern and fleet from having too high of traffic volume. However, during rush hour, often it takes several light cycles to get through an intersection. During this time of day, we dont need calming, we need the opposite, right? More flow. If possible it would seem that most time of the day, street cars could be mixed with traffic, except during rush hour when the street car gets its own lane. But this seems difficult to do.

          • Gerald Neily

            They can do anything if they’re willing to enforce it. Sooner or later, the city might even get the camera enforcement right. Also BTW, traffic capacity is maximized at 25-30 mph. Any faster flow than that actually reduces both capacity and calming.

          • Aaron Mirenzi

            Your right, transfers are a fact of life. Ideally a a good system can get you anywhere with one transfer. Seems like the DC system is built well for this. They create a web where every line basically intersects every line.

            It just seems like a fact of your plan. It would be better going east-west without a transfer all things being equal, but at least your plan gives more options at the transfer point. I.E. two east west routes on the east side.

      • bob

        or as I proposed years ago, feed the light rail cars into the subway and use the existing tunnels (Cleveland runs heavy and light rail on the same tracks)
        totally eliminates the transfers, and the long tunnel, and digging a parallel tunnel under downtown Baltimore.

        but the MTA is unwilling to even consider it, so we get the Red line as it is.

  • Nacho Belvedere

    Been saying this forever…the per mile cost of streetcars is a far better deal than the Red Line; electrified buses (run on overhead lines like streetcars) are a better deal still. And the buses that used to serve those lines can be deployed elsewhere for even more mass transit coverage.

    The Red Line is nothing more than a massive kickback to big contractors for their political support.

    • bob

      like the massive 1.5billion+ HOT lanes on I-95 North of the city ???

  • jmathewallen

    Unfortunately, this makes too much sense.

  • Antero Pietila

    I am confused. Please define what the plan means by streetcar? If it is not fixed rail, how is it different from bus or trolley? I think this story requires a definitional glossary, and I am not kidding.

    • Gerald Neily

      Streetcars are fixed rail. It’s pretty much like light rail, except less likely to be multiple cars and have overhead wires, although those distinctions are disappearing too. The key is to NOT think in terms of various constraints, or you’ll be boxed in just like the MTA.

    • bob

      streetcars and trams and trolleys and light rail are a continum of similar and in many cases the same vehicles running in different enviorenments. light rail tends not to share right of way with other vehicles while streetcars and trams and trolleys (essentially the same thing) often share the roadway with other vehicles. light rail can share the road like on howard street but it works best on it’s own line like to Cromwell and Hunt Valley. streetcars can have these same exclusive rights of way but are more able to share roads with autos etc. they tend to be smaller and more nimble.

  • RickinBmore

    Congrat

  • Richard Chambers

    This is just getting ridiculous. Gerry, you have been harping on the Red Line for 13 YEARS!!! Come on. I wonder what you could have accomplished in that time. Look, the Red Line will be built. I remember when the naysayers said that the Federal Government would never support the Red Line. Then the Obama Administration fast tracked it through environmental review. And then the same people said that the state would never really plan for the project. Then MTA began actual design planning. Then the naysayers claimed – with the utmost certainty – that the state would never support a funding mechanism to move the project forward. Then the gas tax passed. Look, the Right Rail Coalition is a clever attempt to be a NIMBY without being seen as “obstructionist”. They just want the “right kind” of transit, not “no transit”. Yeah, right. I assume you know that having your vision for transit become a reality would take another 15 years and innumerable public meetings and in essence a re-do of the process that has been ongoing since the Glendening administration. And lets face it – for every person against the Red Line there will be another one against your plan. So, 15 years from now we’ll be right where we started. But that’s ok, because you are right and everyone who has fought to get the Red Line this far is wrong, right Gerry?

  • Antero Pietila

    Gerald, thanks for the clarification. Would the route be single- or double-tracked? That’s one key.
    Another crucial factor, in terms or single- or double-car streetcars, is frequency of service. If frequent, dependable service is provided, streetcars may be part of the solution. Just google streetcars and Helsinki, my hometown, which is still in the process of expanding its streetcar network. During a four-night visit in May, we used streetcars exclusively to get around.
    Knowing what I know about mass transit in Baltimore frequent, dependable service will NOT be provided, or will be the first to slash if funding difficulties arise.
    Another real question is usage. Except for the Metro subway, most other mode is cumbersome and time-consuming, also considering that you have to begin your trip from a certain point and end it at another. Meanwhile you still need to get to each point and then to the ultimate downtown location, possibly an office.
    I think of my late friend, Ed Kane. He resisted pressure for the Water Taxi to operate a daily commuting service from Fells Point to the Inner Harbor. He said numbers would not justify the cost. People would use a water taxi on a couple of nice days but not for commuting.
    We all like our cars.

  • cbroome

    Looks like the original map from Right Rail has been tweaked yet again. Previous versions floated on this site showed no street cars through Canton whatsoever. I wish I could say this is an improvement.

    Now the trip from West Baltimore to East will take three (three!) different rail lines. That means if a commuter wanted to travel from the Social Security Administration to Johns Hopkins Bayview, they’d need to first board the Red Line MARC, leave the terminal, wait for the next street car, board the street car, wait for the Green Line MARC and finally make the last leg of the trip. I can’t believe that’d be quick and making even a single switch would be enough to dissuade a number of people from using this option at all.

    But really I can’t see this as anything other than a bait and switch. The Red Line is a good plan with only one portion of a community actively opposing it. Mark my words, if Right Rail succeeds in jettisoning the Red Line, there will be another community group that will manage to prevent that fancy Orange Street Car line with all the same tactics and arguments used now. We’re never going to get a comprehensive transportation system if small community groups continue to obstruct progress.

    It’s clear where the Baltimore Brew stands on this issue, this is at least the third time space on this site’s catered to Right Rail’s views. I applaud them for at least inviting the Red Line’s “architect” to explain the decision making process on one occasion, but that’s becoming too little to mask their biases.

    • Gerald Neily

      Cbroome, the map you are referring to that lacked a Boston street line was produced by Kittelson Associates for the Charles Street trolley folks and had nothing to do with RightRail, as they clearly stated.

      Your example, Social Security to Bayview would require one transfer from the Red Line to the Metro at the Lexington Market Metro station, not three lines as you state.

      The plan here provides the flexibility for any specific pair of RedLine/streetcar stations to have direct one-seat service if ridership warrants. The streetcar service could start at, say, Edmondson Village instead of the West Baltimore MARC Station if that is where the demand is to go to the waterfront stations, rather than the Lexington Market Metro terminus. MTA has never published a station-to-station trip matrix in all its kajillion pages of the Environmental Impact report, so I can only guess.

      If transfers are onerous, what about the Red Line’s two-block long underground pedestrian walkway to transfer from the Red Line to the Metro? That’s not only onerous, but isolated and expensive to build too.

      This is not bait and switch. It is my continuing quest for functioning plans that can actually be built, unlike the fantasy Red Line which is careening toward $3 billion that nobody has.

  • bob

    Gerry and I have been going around on this for iyears, I advocated and still think it made more sense to convert the subway system to light rail (light Metro) and run the red line into the existing tunnel under Baltimore, and also feed the current light rail into the tunnel near State Center and build a small extension south to Camden yards. two additional stations would have been helpfull but it would have put all light rail lines into a single tunnel under the city THAT IS ALREADY THERE then use the surface tracks on Howard street and into Penn station as the starting point for a streetcar system.

    But the MTA and the powers that be did not want Baltimore to lose the prestige of a subway so it was rejected for a number of easily remedied reasons.

    In any case the Red Line is so far along at this point that it probably would be counter productive to stop it as by the time we got going again costs would have risen to more than what it will cost now (see Ottawa) The city is not noted for thinking ahead, back when Boston street was being built the Baltimore Area Transit Association begged the city to put in a median for streetcars and their response was “if we ever do something like that we will deal with it then. now we are dealing with it at much greater cost.

    so while I support a streetcar system starting with putting in the basic last lines that were removed (8 & 15) on York Rd and Belair Rd and adding in an east west route such as along North Ave (13line) and a few other key routes I do not support pulling the plug on the Red line (however it makes no sense that the current light rail line and Red line will not be compatible and cars will not be able to run on the other route.)

  • CB

    Gerry, in your plan what about extending the Red Line through Lexington Market under Saratoga and having it turn south to intersect at Charles Center? You could even have a station around Cathedral Street. Was a route like this ever proposed?

    An extension of the Metro Subway is a must. An extension to a new MARC station and Bayview would be great for connectivity. Even a shorter extension to Upper Fells and Patterson Park could serve more people in East Baltmore that the proposed Red Line will miss.

    A streetcar network would be great to have in Baltimore again. It really doesn’t need to be rapid for shorter trips in the urban core, but rather reliable and timely. Something like this would better serve Canton.

  • James Hunt

    Richard Chambers wrote:

    … But that’s ok, because you are right and everyone who has fought to get the Red Line this far is wrong, right Gerry?

    +++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

    Gird your loins. The opposition to this ponderously slow, two-car-train, $2.5 billion-and-rising Class A boondoggle has not yet begun to fight. Meanwhile, the champion of this absurd pick-pocketing of taxpayers’ has his eyes on the White House and won’t be much help when the solid waste hits the whirring blades.

    • Richard Chambers

      The opposition has “not yet begun to fight”? Gird your own loins, buddy.
      The opposition has been making these arguments for 13 years! I first saw Gerry’s streetcar idea back in ’08 at a One Less Car-Envision Baltimore Transit Summit. Its old news, Boyo.
      No one cared then and they don’t care now. If it weren’t for the Brew’s
      incredible embrace of NIMBY-ism Gerry and his like would have no outlet
      for this nonsense. Its extraordinary that we are seeing the EXACT SAME
      ARGUMENTS from the “opposition” that we’ve been seeing since Parris G. was Gov and your buddy George W.
      was first waltzing into the White House. Yet the Red Line keeps chugging
      on, jumping through more hoops on its way to reality.

      One more thing — Funny how
      Conservatives and NIMBYs think they know what Maryland taxpayers want or
      don’t want. I have a funny feeling that if they were so opposed to the
      Red Line and its little friend in the DC suburbs, the Purple Line, they would
      have squelched them a decade ago. But here where are. I guess us Marylanders just don’t see the logic of “bright lights” like Bobby Ehrlich, “Chubbs” Christie and Scott Walker. Too bad for us, right?

      • bob

        do not write Gerry off he is very sharp and knows his stuff and what he talks about, I agree with much of what he says and disagree with much other, we have been having these discussions or 20 years or more, these discussions help make what we get better. but at some point one has to say
        better is the enemy of good enough, the Red Line is good enough now lets start planning the future beyond the Red line and that is where I wish the planning andh effort would be spent, we need a net of streetcar lines, and trolley buses are a distinct advantage to diesel buses, the biggest hoax is the hybrid bus (which by the way exceeds the weight limit for roads in the US, they are exempt, problem is physics isn’t exempt)
        dual mode buses with electric power in the urban core and diesel power on the edges of service with wires being extended over time, these buses are readily avaliable, Dayton ohio is buying some as the first US city with them.

  • Wally Pinkard

    The other issue I have is that I lived in Boston and have seen the difference between Underground and Above ground Transit. The Red Line through Cambridge mirrors the B Green line on Commonwealth Ave in terms of distance, they are just on opposite sides of the river. The Redline is fast an efficient, the green is slow as molasses. I have seriously missed a train and ran two stops to catch up to it. The last thing we need is a train that we can literally outrun.

  • ZacharyMurray

    The northeast side of the city i.e. Greenmount/York, Harford, Bel Air Rds need to be tied into the system within the next 10 years. They are home to some of the city’s most stable neighborhoods. Development could really take off in those parts.

  • James Hunt

    Richard Chambers wrote:

    …One more thing — Funny how Conservatives and NIMBYs think they know what Maryland taxpayers want or don’t want. I have a funny feeling that if they were so opposed to the Red Line and its little friend in the DC suburbs, the Purple Line, they would have squelched them a decade ago. But here where are. I guess us Marylanders just don’t see the logic of “bright lights” like Bobby Ehrlich, “Chubbs” Christie and Scott Walker. Too bad for us, right?

    ++++++++++++++++

    So, you’ve got the Alinsky-approved name-calling down. Very nice. See you at the RL funeral. Wear black. Or red. Your call.

    • Richard Chambers

      “Alinsky-approved”? Got it. Well, thank you for your reasoned argument. You win. You have knocked down all of my points in favor of the Red Line. End of discussion. You can go back to Fox Nation now.

  • Greg F

    Other than an expansion of the subway to the east, I don’t see much to like in this plan. It is claimed that streetcars and light rail are becoming more alike, but I’m not so sure about that. Light rail cars are larger, usually run in their own right of way, and can be coupled together. I think these are some pretty significant differences. A streetcar would have limited capacity and just get stuck in traffic.

    I also find it interesting that this plan changes nothing on the westside. Lots of people in Edmondson Village are very angry about the space that will be taken up by the Red Line. And while I think that their concerns are overblown (like those who oppose the Red Line in Canton), it is interesting that their concerns are completely ignored in this article.

    In all honesty, I think I’m coming around to Richard Chambers POV. The Red Line is not perfect, not by a long shot. But it won’t be the end of the world if it is built. And it will do some good.

    This being said, TRAC’s plans which called for a heavy rail Red Line using already available right of way are for superior to the Red Line itself and what Gerry has posted here.

    http://www.getontrac.org/

    • Gerald Neily

      The Red Line would cost $2.6 billion and the best you can say is “it won’t be the end of the world”? But it will prevent any more regional transit from ever being built, as I’ve said, which is a fatal flaw.

      Light rail or streetcar vehicles can be spec’d anyway anyone wants. Red Line vehicles would be extremely narrow (about as wide as buses and narrower than most streetcars) to fit the tight space on Edmondson Avenue. I don’t blame the anger of Edmondson Avenue residents. It’s not overblown. It has been suppressed. I wish I had an answer for them, other than kill the plan. But it’s not a fatal flaw, unlike many of the others.

      • Richard Chambers

        Gerry, I’m finally really starting to question your motives on a basic level here. How dare you say that the Red Line will “prevent any more regional transit from ever being built”? What the Hell kind of blanket, misinformed statement is that? I would think that a man with 40 years of planning experience would know that infrastructure investment is a slave to national and local economic forces, as well as the political affiliation and outlook of the Governor. I remember in 2003 after Ehrlich was elected, everyone figured the Red Line was dead, or at least relegated to a low-end bus rapid line. Then O’Malley cleaned house and everything changed. I also remember in 2009 when the Red Line was on the ropes because nobody could conceive of the State approving a tax increase to help pay for transit infrastructure. Then the economy got better in 2011-2012 and we passed the gas tax. The way I see things, you and the Right Rail people are really not interested in creating a better transit system (if you were, you all would have been at the Regional Rail Plan meetings back in 2001, 2002 and 2003 when the Red Line was actually hashed out instead of coming in at the 11th hour). Instead this is starting to resemble an old-fashioned conservative economic argument about taxpayers getting hosed and big government spending too much of our money. I’m starting to see this as more about politics than planning. My suggestion? Stop wasting time with streetcar schemes and start raising money for the Maryland GOP. You want to kill the Red Line? Vote Republican. That is without any doubt the best way to knock out any hope of the Red Line getting built.

  • Gerald Neily

    I just dug out the numbers. The MTA says there would be 6062 daily transfers per direction between the Red Line and the Metro at their two-block long underground passageway, or over 12,000 total out of 58,000 daily riders for the entire Red Line line. That’s a lot of transfers and it would be much more if we ever built a real regional system. They deserve an actual station connection, like in virtually every other modern rail transit system in the world. Transfers are important.

    • Gerald Neily

      Total Red Line bus and rail transfers are 50% of the expected ridership. To be consistent here and quote all the data from a single source, Table 4-7 of the Final Environmental Impact Statement, the projected 2035 total daily ridership is 54,570, of which 6062 is boardings from Metro at their transfer point, the two-block long pedestrian tunnel from the Charles Center Metro station. Assuming de-boardings are the same number, that’s 12,124 Metro transfers out of 54,570 total Red Line riders, or 22.4% of all riders on the entire Red Line linking to Metro.

      • bob

        of course they could (but probably won’t) put in moving sidewalks like in the airport.

  • Zeb Snyder
    • Jed Weeks

      Because that alternative was studied and determined to be an option that would provide inferior service and produce smaller ridership?

      • Zeb Snyder

        Seems to me that would be true only if an inferior form of BRT were adopted. The red line study I’ve read seemed to make some unwarranted assumptions or choices about BRT loading times and headways that might have dramatically affected the conclusions reached in the study.

        • bob

          BRT means Build Rail Transit.
          to build a truely functional bus system of sort of rapid transit will require as much money as building a rail line and will take just as long.
          and remember the operational cost. a bus lasts 12-15 years a light rail vehicle lasts 25+ years.
          and each and every bus needs a driver, the most expensive part of every transit mode, a rail vehicle can be coupled together and each car is longer so the operational efficiencies are far far better in the long run

      • Richard Chambers

        Thanks for mentioning that, Jed. Its unfortunate that so people are bringing up ideas that were reviewed and discarded years ago. One problem with this 13 year process for planning the Red Line is that many people forget about what has already gone on. Some of the people complaining about the Red Line today were probably in elementary school when the first public meeting happened. If there has been one true failure to the Red Line it has been the length of the planning process. But that is the nature of these enormous infrastructure projects.

        • Zeb Snyder

          I don’t think it is unfortunate that people bring up ideas that have been considered and rejected, since there is still time to change course. Some of us may not have followed the issue that closely for the entire process, and others may not agree with the conclusions reached by those who’ve reached them. Either way, that shouldn’t foreclose us from questioning whether viable alternatives have been given due consideration.

          • bob

            fortunately or unfortunately we are beyond the “change” phase of the funding/building sequence. we either build it as approved or go back to start and waste another 12 years, and the price tag will be triple what it is now.
            I disagreed with the final plan in some ways, especially digging a second tunnel when the subway tunnel could be shared, but the talk stage is done, time to dig and build

    • Gerald Neily

      Excellent question, Zeb. Sometime ago, I wrote a Brew piece on what I thought a Red Line optimized for buses would look like. Answer: A bit like what CB proposed below – a downtown tunnel extending beyond Eutaw Street. The MTA’s ploy to ensure Bus Rapid Transit and Heavy Rail Metro’s rejection was to plan an alignment optimized for light rail, and then study options using the exact same routes but with pavement for buses or grade-separations for heavy rail. Light rail will win almost every time under such comparisons.

      But the premise in my present article was to come up with a plan that salvages as much of the MTA Red Line plan as I can, rather than starting over with a clean slate like Bus Rapid Transit. In this case, my answer was to get rid of the Red Line’s downtown tunnel and tweak the rest.

      • Zeb Snyder

        Thanks Gerald. I see merit in your proposal here, and I’d love to read your prior Brew piece on a Red Line featuring buses. I’ll have to search for it.

      • River Mud

        The other issue is decades-old thinking that there’s no such thing as a “dedicated route” for buses – merely “dedicated lanes.” And as I watched in person on one project (currently under construction by MdTA), the “dedicated lane” somehow turns into “HOV lane” which before the first shovel is in the ground, turns into “general vehicle traffic lane,” and in the end, no enhancement to transit occurs, as it is excluded to make way for the mirage of traffic volume alleviation via new lane construction. In the project I worked on, the final planning documents had “future plans” to convert the traffic lane into high speed transit at “some time in the unknown future,” which of course means never. Sad.

  • James Hunt

    Richard Chambers wrote: “Alinsky-approved”? Got it. Well, thank you for your reasoned argument. You win. You have knocked down all of my points in favor of the Red Line. End of discussion. You can go back to Fox Nation now.
    ++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++
    Look, hon, your “well-reasoned argument” boils down to this: “Maryland taxpayers have to spend somewhere north of $2.6 billion on this tinker toy because Maryland taxpayers have already wasted 13 years and millions of dollars studying it and everyone in Edmondson Village _needs_ to be able to get to Canton in 44 minutes and vice versa and if you don’t agree with RICHARD CHAMBERS you’re a NIMBY!-FoxNews!-Conservative!” So, really, sweetie, where are the “well reasoned arguments” I’m supposed to be responding to? I mean, sugar pie, as Gerry as already pointed out, nary a spade of dirt has been turned on this boondoggle and already stations are being value-engineered out of the plan. Let’s save everyone time and money and value engineer the whole thing out of existence.

    • Richard Chambers

      Jeez. Anger management in your future, sweetie? How about this for a well reasoned argument – There have been nearly 100 public meetings concerning the Baltimore Regional Rail Plan since 2001. Some of these were put on by the MTA, some (like the Mayor’s Red Line Summit of 2008) were hosted by the City of Baltimore, and others were initiated by the Baltimore Regional Transportation Board. The planning for this line was done in the public eye. I remember the first notices for public meetings in the Light Rail cars back in late 2000. No one just dumped this on the good people of Canton. So, if the current Red Line is the result of an extensive public process, why should it be derailed by a bunch of arm-chair planners, gadflies, and – yes – NIMBYs? You say its a lousy plan. I say its pretty good. Here’s the difference – I have over a decade of public planning and input on my side. You have…um…your opinion. Good for you.

      • Greg F

        What Richard says is certainly true. There have been many, many, meetings. And from the very beginning, principled transit advocates (most notably Ed Cohen) have been suggesting alternatives. I don’t believe it was until later on in the process that the NIMBY’s began to rear their ugly head.

        This being said, while I think there are better alternatives. I also believe the Red Line will be extremely beneficial to the region. It’s time to stop arguing about the Red Line and begin working towards a long-term comprehensive transit plan for our region.

        • Gerald Neily

          Thank you, Greg F., that’s exactly what I’ve done here and ever before and ever since I wrote my first Sun op/ed critiquing the “blue ribbon panel” regional rail plan in 2001 when the first draft came out. And what Ed Cohen has done in a very different but also very constructive and principled way. “A long-tern comprehensive transit plan for our region” is exactly what we need and exactly what the Red Line is not and never even pretended to be. The rest of the regional plan has melted into obsolescence, infeasibility, and irrelevance.

          Taking Chambers as constructively as possible, he is prescribing the Ed Cohen method of attending dozens if not hundreds of meetings, which is great. I’ve also attended many meetings, though far fewer than Ed. There are many possible paths to the truth.

          • bob

            Ed, Gerry, myself and others have attended many many many of these meetings, I started out with the “phase II planning” in the early 70′s for the 77 mile subway system, bought a house near where a station was thought to be, house is paid for but still no subway.
            and plan, after plan after plan and still very little to ride.
            and still we have unconnected “Lines” but no system. but at least we are starting and I would hope that the red line will be a spine for a number of other lines radiating from either end of the downtown tunnel. yes it will be a mess I lived here when the Baltimore St tunnel was built, and worked in DC with all the Metro construction and other cities while they tunneled. but how many riders of the Metro remember the construction mess while they ride beneath the traffic. it works.

            but at the rate it is going and my first letter to the editor was in 1963 to oppose the abandonment of streetcars, and I hope beyond hope to actually ride a system of transit in this city.

            stop talkinng already and start building

            I watched DC which started when we diid build over 100 miles of subway with streetcars coming on line at the end of the year and still Baltimore dithers. yak yak yak while the cost goes up up up..

        • River Mud

          I’d say the larger point is that the Red Line is happening. It’s not going to not happen. So while I may not agree with some of Gerald’s assessments on “what’s next,” the appropriate thing is definitely to focus on “what’s next.”

          • Gerald Neily

            Yes, “What’s next?” is exactly the right question and the Red Line precludes all logical answers, River Mud. That may be the Red Line’s biggest fault among many gigantic faults. So “What’s next?” must be to fix the Red Line so that Baltimore can have a rail transit future instead of a multi-billion white elephant.

          • River Mud

            But can it reasonably be fixed to the satisfaction of any majority of stakeholders? While 70% of stakeholders likely don’t support the current design/alignment/stationing, I’d bet that few of them agree on what should be done differently. What positive outcome would be achieved by opening up the process yet again kind of eludes me. At some point, if you believe in transit planning, you do have to believe that the Red Line will be “OK.” Lost opportunity, for sure, I can see a thousand of them within the project, as do you. Not cost efficient? Nope, I’m with you there too. But still, as transit projects go, “OK.” Knowing as much as you do about the wheels of City Politick, you know that if the Red Line evaporates, it will be two decades or longer before the next effort at transit expansion finds Baltimore.

          • Gerald Neily

            River Mud, the Red Line is just another failure of that same “City Politick” you refer to as the Grand Prix and various other boondoggles in Baltimore history. Yes, I believe in real transit planning, just not the perverted kind practiced by the Red Line process. I do not exaggerate: the $2.6 billion MTA Red Line plan would be worse than nothing, and the “lost opportunities” would be lost virtually forever. That said, I am simply in “damage control” mode here, not “start over” mode, and I don’t expect the MTA to actually obtain the $2.6 billion of other people’s money anyway. The proposals I’ve outlined here would actually be far easier to implement than the MTA’s current house-of-cards plan.

  • James Hunt

    Richard Chambers wrote: “Jeez. Anger management in your future, sweetie?” …++++++++++++++++++++++++++++Of course not, peaches: I’ll never be as good at name-calling as you. I’m sure if this went on long enough, you or one of your confreres would call me a racist for believing that the Edmondson Avenue median should look as nice as the tree-lined Boston Street median does now, and that neither should be ripped up to accommodate the latest in 19th c. technology. At any rate, here’s why I oppose the Red Line.(1) the $2.6 billion price tag is just the opening bid. Like the Big Dig in Boston, which was originally priced south of $2 billion and ended up north of $15 billion, there’s no telling — even with a handful of test bores — what tunneling through the 200-year-old fill under Lombard Street (or adjacent to 200-year-old houses in Fells Point) will turn up. It will, however, raise the price enormously.(2) For all that dough, all the RL provides West Baltimoreans is month after month of construction disruption, a lovely storage and maintenance facility (who wouldn’t want to live near that?), and an ever-so-slightly faster trip downtown. But for many, the bus will still pick them up closer to home and leave them a lot closer to their destination. And, thanks a previous transportation boondoggle (the Road to Nowhere) it still can be a pretty fast trip.(3) The East Baltimore segment incredibly wanders far from the most transit-dependent residents in that part of town to serve the least transit-dependent. Brilliant! Nor will commuters on Boston Street have any incentive to get out of their cars. The station has poor — if not outright dangerous — access and once a commuter hits it, it’s still preferable to keep heading downtown. It’s a transfer after all, and you know how everyone feels about transfers.Now, I’m just getting warmed up, but this will have to suffice.

    • Andrew

      All of the above! The price will soar and the developers will squeal with glee.

  • bob

    extend it North as streetcar and merge with a streetcar line running east/west on North Avenue from Walbrook to Gay st, use the Hopkins or Orangeville site for a major transit hub

  • ejd1984

    Baltimore seems to have always been way behind the transportation curve and needs of the public. And/Or they’ll get a brief moment of foresight and clarity, but never follow thru

    A few years ago I found this subway proposal from 1938.

    http://farm6.staticflickr.com/5341/9612716215_7aec8e9587_o.jpg

    If this had been built and expanded, a good portion of Baltimore’s population wouldn’t need vehicles for routine activities around the city (and surrounding communities)

  • Christopher Petty

    Getting rid of the streetcar system was the worst mistake Baltimore made.

    • River Mud

      That’s a pretty high bar to reach!

      • Christopher Petty

        True…lol

  • Christopher Petty

    Why is the MTA considering a Metro extension to Morgan State? It makes NO sense. An extension from Johns Hopkins Downtown to the Johns Hopkins Bayview would serve the employees, and extend service closer to the east side of the city.

    • Gerald Neily

      The MTA is NOT considering a Metro extension to Morgan State anymore, Mr. Petty. They deemed the corridor “high priority” in their 2002 regional rail plan, then studied it and killed it due to lack of cost effectiveness. However, they’ve decided the 14 mile Red Line meandering along the waterfront is a better rail route to Bayview than a one-plus mile Metro extension, without conducting a formal study of the latter. At this point, the MTA doesn’t know what to do with the Metro, and judging from the falsehoods that have spread about the feds not funding any more heavy rail, they seem content to just let it languish at the current Hopkins Hospital terminus indefinitely if not forever.

    • River Mud

      Not saying it’s a good idea, but (bus) transit in the northern 1/3 of the City is an absolute joke. To ride MTA buses from Belvedere to downtown (10 miles) takes more than an hour on most days. Across the Patapsco to Locust Point or Brooklyn? 90 minutes (14 miles). To take MTA transit out of the city and to the south, say, to our state capital just 25 miles away (a normal 40-45 minute rail commute in most of the developed world), requires (at least check of the MTA ‘map my ride’ app) 5 buses and 103 minutes, if all connections are made on time. There’s no reasonable opinion that more transit isn’t needed. Gerry’s article provokes a good discussion….the Red Line alone won’t solve much, yet is still an essential part of bigger ideas that actually serve taxpayers/residents.

    • Tim Lee

      the consideration is to extend the Metro(Green Line) to White Marsh with connectivity with MARC as well as Morgan State and several communities along the was.

  • Matthew Riesner

    I would like to see lightrails/streetcars with lanes that are generally closed to traffic but can be used by emergency vehicles to navigate around busy urban traffic, especially in rush hour. I think it would improve response time for emergencies. In Istabul, I have seen the downtown tram lines used for this purpose and it seems to work fairly well…they also allow taxi’s to use these lanes at night during off-hours (which maybe another plus, since there will create a late-night dedicated taxi cooridor).

  • ejd1984

    Just Curious – How much of this original 2002 Regional Transit Plan is still on the books? Will the Red Line eventually be extended to Dundalk & Turners Station?

    http://farm8.staticflickr.com/7434/9681254850_330fcda1e0_o.jpg

    • Gerald Neily

      EJD, there has been just about zero talk of ever extending the Red Line beyond Bayview to Dundalk and Turner’s Station. At least I’ve never heard any. The Baltimore Metropolitan Council plan for 2035 extends the Metro about a mile from Hopkins Hospital to North Avenue, but they got zero support for that from the MTA study, and even if they did, what then? The extension from there would be north toward Morgan which is also dead. The BMC plan does have a light rail extension from BWI Airport to the Dorsey MARC station slated for some time after 2035. That’s about it.

      The 2002 plan called for three lines to be completed by 2012-14: The Red Line, Morgan Metro extension and a local “Mini-MARC” line to Middle River which never seemed to have been taken seriously.

      That leaves the Towson line, which would cost somewhere upwards of $10 billion, too much for the MTA or BMC to even think about.

      Bottom line: It’s no wonder that so many people think it’s the Red Line or nothing. But the real problem is that the Red Line’s current plan is the cause of the nothing.

      • ejd1984

        Just an FYI Follow Up: I emailed the MTA Red Line last Friday and got this response this morning.

        “The easternmost terminus station for the Baltimore Red Line is currently planned to be the Bayview MARC station. Nevertheless, design decisions are being made with the consideration of possible future extensions in mind. At this point, there is no timeline for a Red Line extension to Dundalk.”

        • Gerald Neily

          That would be the strangest alignment ever, EJD.

          • Tim Lee

            The red line is being planned for bayview with the expansion to the East Baltimore MARC Station and Dundalk in the regional plans for the future. The plan outlines phases such as an extension of the Metro to White Marsh Via North Ave and Morgan state. The Yellow Line would be an extension from the CLRL to continue from BWI Business District to BWI Amtrak, Arundle Mills, and eventually Columbia. While planning went forward with the Green Line expansion(METRO) it was determined that the Yellow was of greater need than the Green Line at this time. Priority is the red line. Because the state is embarking on two major transit projects it has placed a hold on other planning at this time

  • Tim Lee

    I actual applaud the MTA for their planning. The red line has taken a lot into account. The need for a dedicated tunnel through the downtown is present… especially with the areas the line will service. Harbor East, Fells Point, and Canton are exploding with development and traffic. The line will also service University of Maryland and Johns Hopkins Bayview. A quicker mode of transit is needed east to west. While the platforms may only accommodate two cars initially, a platform is easier to modify than a tunnel. The Metro isn’t a great example as it was never fully completed properly. The metro doesn’t service many areas of interest. The current light rail was also poorly planned. The MTA took considerations for the red line from our successes and failures as well as other examples of public transit in other regions. Sure the system won’t be perfect or please everyone, however, it needs to serve as a quick mode of transit from east to west that avoids traffic. The line is needed so we can shift those buses acting as primary route can shift to secondary feeder routes. This is what DC does. The light rail is intended to serve the region. street cars are great, but run slower and do not meet the needs of this specific project. Perhaps the Charm City Circulators would make for better streetcar lines.

    • Gerald Neily

      Tim, station platforms can never be modified in tunnels; it’s skinny two-car trains forever. The U of MD station was eliminated. Despite the obscenely expensive downtown tunnel, the MTA Red Line is still projected to average less than 20 mph – far too slow to be useful for regional transit or for meaningful feeder bus service. But the even worse is the Red Line’s terrible system configuration which bypasses the far faster and higher capacity Metro.

      • Tim Lee

        The University Center/ Howard st station is sufficient. One of the issues with our system is the close proximity of stops. There’s a bus stop on every other block. The fine folks at UB will be ok walking a block or two.The far faster metro system has never reached it’s potential speed because it has to slow for the next stop. I’ve timed both the light rail and metro and it’s about 2 minutes between stops for both metro and light rail. Street cars go much slower and make frequent stops. New Orleans has a beautiful streetcar that’s great for sight seeing, however, lets hope you aren’t on a time schedule. Light rail has fewer stops and is able to pick up speed. Hard rail or metro can reach speeds of almost 80mph while streetcars reach just over 40mph. Light rail can reach over 60mph… well over 20mph. Less frequent stops allows transit to reach higher speeds. and if you think a station can’t be modified, even if it’s under ground, all you need to do is look at new York. They’ve been doing it for years. However, two light rail cars should be plenty sufficient.

        • Gerald Neily

          The Red Line is projected as 45 minutes to go 14.1 miles. That’s less than 20 mph. Saying something is “sufficient” just indicates bad planning. Everything should be optimum, not sufficient, especially for an astronomical $2.6 billion. People keep describing the Red Line as “not bad” or “as good as New York” in one aspect or another. New York grew up around its huge comprehensive subway system, whereas Baltimore must learn to use its rail transit, which it has not in three decades. Yes, two car trains will probably be “plenty sufficient” for the Red Line, because for example, only a few UB staff and students will walk to and from Howard/Lombard to cram into the tiny trains so ridership will be far below MTA expectations, just as it is for the existing system which carries roughly half of what was promised.

          • Tim Lee

            Every time a train stops it waits. There are 19 stops and each stop will result in the trains waiting about 1 minute. That’s about 19 minutes out of 45 the train isn’t moving. That means the train is only in transit 26 minutes of that time. The train is constantly slowing for stations and is always at varying speeds. If the train is only in transit for 26 minutes and goes 14.1miles… then the train is averaging more around 30mph when in motion. That’s higher than NYC speeds. There have been numerous studies done that indicate that the maximum the average person is willing to walk from their destination is 1/4 a mile. The Howard st station Is with in that 1/4 mile radius. The 2 car length platforms will work because the key isn’t longer trains, it’s frequency of service. During peak times more trains would run resulting in less crowded platforms and less crowded trains.

          • Gerald Neily

            The key to rail transit is economies of scale. New York rail platforms are extremely long, as is ridership. Puny two car trains are just a recipe for higher deficits, unless trips are short enough to create heavy rider turnover, as is the case with streetcars but not regional rail buried 70 feet underground. When deficits continue to escalate as they have, the MTA reduces frequency rather than increasing it, leading to overcrowding which will slow down trains and cause bunching just like the bus system chronically faces. This is standard MTA operating procedure.

            That 1/4 mile radius factor is just a simple-minded rule of thumb. Far more important is the immediate station environment, which for Howard/Lombard is really bad.

          • Tim Lee

            First, UB is within 2-3 blocks of the proposed station. It’s easily walkable. Studies of the west side show the majority of ridership is between Saratoga and Baltimore streets along the Howard street corridor. those locations see over 3000 riders per station per day. Center street is one of the slowest stations at 500 riders per day. Howard street is the most important of the two and UB is still accessible.
            Tunnels are burrowed at the same width. Should expansion for platforms need to occur then no tunneling is necessary. Only 3.7 miles would be underground. This is also a similar design that Seattle constructed and is now considering expanding due to the success of the line. rather than spend money on longer platforms and service extensions immediately, the MTA is planning a route that has the capability to expand based on need and at a cost that will meet the FTA consider us for federal new starts grants. The MTA will have an easier time expanding platforms and extending rail to Dundalk at a later date as they’ve done with Howard street station realignments and the extension to Hunt Valley.
            Based on capacity… each car will have a rider capacity of about 1,350 per car. 2 cars per train give the train a ridership capacity of 2,700 riders. The red line is projected to operate between 5am-12am on weekdays for a total of 19hours. Service is estimated to operate with a headway of 10minutes. That’s a total of 114 trains per track. That equals to a capacity of 307,800 riders per day. As of February 2012 the MTA’s daily ridership average was 414,867. the Central Light Rail Line(CLRL) transports around 30,000 riders weekly. A two track system with platforms will be more than enough capacity should our ridership more than double.
            Now, I wanna talk streetcars. What’s the difference between streetcars and light rail? Light rail operates primarily on a dedicated right of way. While Streetcars operate alongside traffic. Sometimes Streetcars will utilize dedicated medians such as the streetcars along St Charles Avenue in New Orleans. Likewise Light rail has the capability of operating like a streetcar as the Central Light Rail Line (CLRL) does through Howard St in Baltimore. The primary difference is frequency of stops. A streetcar operates with frequent stops and usually runs best along a route that is short, such as 4 miles. Melbourne constructed a streetcar system with such length. One of the biggest complaints is it doesn’t meet the needs of commuters going long distances. frequent stops add more time to the trip. Light rail has less frequent stops spaced further apart to allow for quicker travel time and works best when used on longer routes that extend to the suburbs. Baltimore is trying to connect it’s suburbs with the downtown so light rail fits our requirement better than streetcars do in this case.
            In 2020 our light rail cars will be in need of an upgrade. The MTA has recommended the purchase of new low flooring models that will accommodate both the red line and the CLRL.

          • Gerald Neily

            I’ve already refuted most of what you’ve said here, Tim. As for your contention that each Red Line car has a capacity of 1350 riders, you’re off by almost 1200. It’s actually about 66 seats plus room for a crush load of 100 standees, for a total of about 166.

      • Tim Lee

        Also…. the average speed will be about 25mph for the red line. The same avg speed of a NYC subway car. The line will be 14.1miles long with an average speed of 25mph.

        • Matthew Riesner

          But our city is not as gridlocked as NYC. It’s a mucher harder sell to folks who have other available means of transportation available to them at 14.1mph in Baltimore. This train needs to beat the speed people can commute into the city via automobile for it to be a real success that serves the taxpaying population.

          • River Mud

            Agreed, but there’s a “convenience factor” as well. I’d sacrifice 10 minutes to avoid paying $25 for parking. To your point, MTA says that there’s “no demand” for commuter buses between Baltimore and Annapolis. Maybe (??) that’s because the current bus trip requires 2-6 changes (dep. on where in each city the rider wishes to travel) and takes a minimum of 90 minutes. Vs 25-45 minutes via car.

          • Matthew Riesner

            But those that work every day do not pay $25 for parking, only people who occationally come downtown. Generally, they pay a monthly fee for parking (and many companies pay for their employees to park), which works out to be $5-12 per day, depending on the lot/garage. Once you work out mileage and parking and subtract the fare it would work out to be about $6. Spending $6 extra dollars to ensure that I’m at work on time and not catching hell from my boss seems like a $6 well spent. As I’m saying, if it’s going to work it needs to be significantly faster than driving and run a Swiss/German standard of being on time (currently, it seems like we are running on an Italian or Indian standard for punctuality. I wish there would be some talk of express trains (those that would miss most stops and be given priority on the line), starting at locations with major parking facilities and ending at major hubs.

          • River Mud

            Duly noted (bosses up workers’ asses), but (just as devil’s advocate), average Baltimore commute is 30 minutes (24 miles) x .2 x .55 = $26.40 mileage + $5 parking = $31 vs $6. Per month, $620 vs $120. Now, I admit it’s a red herring because in almost NO CASE in Baltimore can you just hop on an on time bus or train and take it to the primary transit line which would also be running on time – you would likely take a taxi or drive to a light rail lot or something else that would add cost. But even as is, I think there **is** likely a decent long term savings over car mileage, for the average Baltimore commuter….as long as they have flex time (gulp)…

          • Matthew Riesner

            The line is only 14 miles long…It’s only 10 miles from the inner suburbs and no more than 7 miles each way within the city to downtown (Baltimore is less than 14 miles wide) x .565 (IRS mileage) = $ 7.91 to $11.50 round trip ($16 for full round line round trip) plus parking…I just think it needs to run much faster.

          • Gerald Neily

            The great Brew rail discussion goes on! I’d say the best way to assess the Red Line impact is to compare it to the existing Metro, which was built to a far higher standard in every way. The Red Line would thus have far less impact despite its multi-billion price tag. Red Line boosters argue this is the final or missing piece to complete the system, but the lack of connections except the absurd two-block ped tunnel belies that. A further fatal flaw is the way the Red Line would prevent the Metro from ever being extended in a cost-effective way.

            To maximize the positive impact of the Red Line, it should exert maximum leverage to support and augment the Metro and the rest of the existing system, which it emphatically fails to do.

      • Matthew Riesner

        I’ll tell you what, I will not take this service unless it gets me real gains in time/ is time neutral. I will be moving to West Baltimore County (Catonsville) soon, and can drive to my office downtown in 30-40 minutes. To drive to a station, park, wait for, and take the train will take more than an hour (my experience with MTA is that they alway are late, they are definately not running on a German or Swiss standard for being on time…so that needs to be taken into acccount). The only way that this service will be successful for me is, 1) have a station either within walking distance or within a short driving distance with ample free parking, 2) travel an average of at least 45 mph (including stops), 3) not be effected at all by traffic, and 4) always, always, always be on time!

  • Matthew Riesner

    Speaking of trains, these trains are not going to use the same gauge rail as the existing lightrail…and I wonder why no one has been speaking up about that. This means that they MTA can not use the economies of scale to leverage a better deal on purchasing rail cars in the future, which also means that the two lines can not share repair facilities, drivers and repair people withour having different training, and that cars can not be share between the two lines to help allieviate system demand. We need a unified system, the same type of rail cars, tracks, etc. as well as switches to allow cars to place on different lines, in order to have a cost effective system.

    • Tim Lee

      By2020 the CLRL will need new vehicles as the cars will have reached their lifespan. There are recommendations that the MTA purchase low floor cars, preferably the same cars as the Red Line. Low floor cars are available in standard gauge. A separate facility is being planned for West Baltimore.

      • Matthew Riesner

        Exactly my point, I have asked folks with the redline project, who have told me many times that the redline will use a different (narrower) gauge track than the existing lightrail. If you know anything about history of railroads, having various track gauges causes all kinds of headaches and sets physical limitations on merging and expansion.
        It would make sense to purchase the same vehicles for both lines, which to do so would require the redline to use the same track guage as the CLRL.

  • Tim Lee

    There’s a few streetcar lines I’d like to see. North Avenue, Central Avenue or Broadway, Druid Hill, and even Jones Falls way.

  • Andrew

    Why can’t we take the lessons of the Light Rail and just forget any sort of rail within the city? The buses are fine for this town. Great rail service to DC would be a massive economic boon to Baltimore. Anything they build in Baltimore is still going to be packed full of druggies and will just be another expensive place for them to sleep like our parks. Tax-payers aren’t going to ride these things.

    • River Mud

      Well, you’re right about one thing. Taxpayers won’t ride them until they (trains) go – and effectively go- to places the taxpayers want to be (work, home, personal time destinations). This is the heart of NYC’s transit success. However, it’s also the irony of Baltimore’s and DC’s failure to achieve that success – every time a high end corporate or residential area is slated for a transit extension, the NIMBYs come out of the wood work. “Yes, I’m all for the greater good, just not in my neighborhood.”

      • Andrew

        Do you really think public transport issues thwart companies moving here? These interests you named want to be isolated and shielded from the sizable parasitic and predatorial population that move in on every new beautiful venture.

        • River Mud

          I don’t think transit issues have an impact, at a large scale. However at an employer specific scale, “cost of parking, ” “availability of safe/dry parking,” and “time of commute” are key employee / job applicant concerns, and corporations are quite aware of both of those. If any/all of those concerns can be (conceptually) mitigated by the availability of an on-time, effective transit system, then it’s good for everybody. IMHO.

    • Tim Lee

      Andrew, have you ever utilized the bus system? It doesn’t run efficiently. We need to diversify our transit options. DC has a fantastic system and it’s only getting better. Not only does DC have the Metro, buses, and circulators… The new streetcars and silver line will only improve on DC’s success. New York also has a very Diverse system of Buses, Heavy rail, and Light rail. We need the same. Rail serves as a quick way to travel long distances. Buses focus more on local service. Transport in and out of the city or across town is best on a rail line that is uninterrupted by street traffic. This reduces the travel time and makes transit competitive with private vehicles. During a typical 9-5 commute the lightrail is fairly busy, and no, not by druggies. Large events such as sports, concerts, and festivals bring large waves of ridership as well. yes, many of rail’s users are low income. Many have no other option as owning a car is beyond their economic means, however, there are a fair amount of riders who choose to leave their car behind because the cost to park, gas, and traffic out weigh ridding with druggies. I assure you tax payers ride rail. This will only increase as gas prices increase alongside the traffic congestion on 695, 95, and 83.

      • Andrew

        I tried to take the light rail twice to get to ball games. Neither time did it show up, so I walked. The powers that be and the people who always manage to get the jobs running these things in Baltimore aren’t high enough IQ to handle the responsibility to do something well.
        I think Gerald Neily pointed out quite clearly that this Red Line will actually be slower than driving. Doesn’t surprise me a bit. Unless the whole thing is underground, there’s no point in building it at all because it will just make things worse.
        Look at Howard st. What a fiasco. It’s beyond help now with that big ugly moose of a train clanging away at 2 mph.

        • Reilly Edwards

          Andrew the bus system sucks. I tried to use it for a week to commute to work, (my home is in Canton) and stopped because of how god-awful undependable it was. As a dude of adequate means, I can afford to drive, thank goodness…I’m sorry for those who can’t.

          • Andrew

            Ok, let’s fix the bus system. Fire the leadership, hire a guru, up the budget, bingo. Unfortunately the marxist progressives won’t want to back that because it’s not “changy”or “innovative” or “out of the box”. The developer vultures won’t make huge piles of money either.

  • Dan Hogan

    The Camden to Penn Light Rail line is essentially a streetcar running on light rail tracks. You can add that to your map illustrating how the streetcars could run on the Red Line in an efficient way.

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  • March 24, 2014

    • Last Thursday, I sent an email to the Mayor’s Office of Communications asking for some basic responsiveness: Please return our emailed queries and phone calls about stories. Please send us the same routine emails you send to other members of the media. Lately, more so than usual, they haven’t been. It’s a shame because, even [...]

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