Baltimore to Advance Yellow Line Project Ahead of Metro Extension?

Planned Baltimore Transit System Map» Regional business group suggests a new timeline for transit projects in the city.

Over the past thirty years, Baltimore has expanded its rail system steadily, opening its Metro Subway in 1983, its light rail lines in 1992, and adding extensions to the corridors in 1994 and 1997. Now Maryland’s Department of Transportation, which runs the city’s system, is planning an east-west light rail Red Line that will begin operating as early as 2016 if the state manages to convince the federal government to supply a New Starts transit grant to pay for the project. With that project underway, the city’s leaders are pushing further discussion about the city’s future transit needs. For years, an extension of the Green Line Metro northeast to Morgan State University and Martin State Airport was assumed to be the next step.

But in a recent report, the Central Maryland Transportation Alliance described its priorities for transit-oriented investment in the Baltimore region and argued that the state should advance a new north-south Yellow Line connecting Lutherville and Columbia. Its route would partially share the existing Blue Line light rail alignment and add new sections of line in Baltimore and in the suburbs. The group, a coalition of business and non-profit leaders in the area, still argues for the eventual completion of the Green Line, which has been on transit plans since 1966.

The CMTA’s analysis of transit-supportive development, however, suggests that the Yellow Line would be more likely to create a “culture of transit,” according to the president of the organization. The Green Line, they argue, would provide fewer opportunities for redeveloping existing cities.

How meaningful is the group’s endorsement of the Yellow Line? Should the city and state, which have advanced plans for the Metro extension, change their course? Who will benefit from each project’s completion?

The northern section of the Yellow Line, connecting Camden Yards to Lutherville via Charles Center, Johns Hopkins, and Towson, seems like a reasonable investment, putting the latter city 18 minutes away from the Inner Harbor. It would provide better transit to the relatively dense areas along Charles Street, especially the redeveloping zones in Charles Village. It would connect a number of colleges and medical centers to the downtown core. On the other hand, the most productive (southern) portions of this route are planned to be covered by the planned Charles Street Trolley which would be cheaper to build, though slower for users.

The southern portion of the Yellow Line, on the other hand, seems to be another example of the sprawl-inducing transit in which Maryland specializes. While Columbia itself has a relatively “dense” downtown (oriented around a mall), one wonders whether its inhabitants would use a light rail system taking them through Guilford and Dorsey towards BWI Airport, where they would be able to continue on to trains heading into downtown Baltimore. The Yellow Line proposal would give commuters an astonishingly long 1h10 commute between Columbia and downtown Baltimore. The suburbs through which the train would travel may well grow into more transit-friendly communities, but they are likely to retain their auto dependencies.

On the other hand, the extension of the Metro Subway, dubbed the Green Line, would reach up into some of Baltimore’s densest, most transit-deprived, and poorest neighborhoods before heading to White Marsh, which has a growing suburban downtown also centered on a mall. A trip from White Marsh to Charles Center downtown would take 26 minutes. Plans would extend the project to Martin State Airport south from there. A quick review of the route indicates far more potential for infill projects along this line and what would likely be higher ridership. One significant problem: the Metro Subway, being heavy rail, would require a fully separated right-of-way either underground or elevated above the street.

Baltimore, then, has a fundamental problem: should it invest more money in a more productive project, even if it gets fewer route miles out of each buck? Or, should it decide to spend money on light rail, which will attract fewer passengers and provide inferior service, but cost a whole lot less?

Another question that may be worth evaluating: does race and class have a role to play in the CMTA’s route selection? While the Yellow Line’s route would provide service to predominately white and relatively higher-income neighborhoods, the Green Line would serve poor and black communities that have suffered from disinvestment over the years. Is the “culture of transit” for which the group’s president pushes merely an attempt to address the fact that middle class whites in Baltimore do not ride public transportation? Is there no advantage in improving the transportation options of people already dependent on trains and buses?

Rather than focus on choosing to complete either the full Yellow Line or the full Green Line, seemingly the only option offered by the CMTA, Baltimore should refocus on the sections of those projects most likely to be successful. Build the Yellow Line from Camden Yards north to Lutherville but not west from BWI Airport to Columbia. Build the Green Line from the existing terminus of the Metro Subway at Johns Hopkins Hospital to Morgan State University and perhaps White Marsh, but no further. These projects have the most potential for high ridership and would spur the most infill development of those suggested for the city as a whole. A light rail route to Columbia should be last on the list of prioritized investments.

Image above: Baltimore Region Rail System Plan Map, from Baltimore Rail Plan

25 Comments | Leave a Reply »
  • Chris

    Yonah,

    This is one of the most nuanced and accurate views of Baltimore transit by an outsider I’ve ever read. Nice work. And to answer your question, yes: “culture of transit” means trying to get middle class whites (like myself, FWIW) to ride transit. I ride MTA buses almost every day and professionals (of all races, but especially whites) are a definite minority.

    That’s not to say that poor people don’t also deserve good transit service – not at all. But the bitter reality is that the more money you make, the more politicians listen to you. When the middle and upper classes actively avoid transit, that means roads get more funding than transit. And that’s where Baltimore is in 2009.

    p.s. The head of CMTA is named Otis Rolley, and he’s a black former City planner.

  • jon

    I’ve always thought Baltimore had the potential to be a thriving urban lifestyle (culture of transit) city up there with the likes of NYC, Philadelphia, Boston, DC, Chicago, San Francisco, Seattle, Portland, Vancouver, Toronto… aka the cities attracting the “creative class” with strong downtowns and urban neighborhoods fed with quality mass transit. Building out this rail transit system is key as well as dramatically improving the MTA bus system which I found to be of poor quality when I rode it last year.

    I agree about the Green Line extension over the suburban Yellow Line extension to Columbia, but the Yellow Line to Towson via Johns Hopkins and Charles Street corridor I think should be the priority. My guess is the Columbia extension is “throwing a bone” to the suburbs for supporting the urban Red Line. Seems like all expanding rail transit systems across the country (and Canada) have to do this to get anything built. I was just in Vancouver BC and even being outside the US they have to do this very thing… build the suburban Evergreen Line because they built the mostly urban Canada Line. Meanwhile the very crucial urban and underground Millenium Line extension down Broadway to UBC will have to wait. And Vancouver is certainly not the only instance of this.

  • jon

    one more thing… regarding that proposed baltimore rail map…

    that second north-south light rail line through downtown baltimore (yellow and blue), would that likely become a replacement alignment for the present surface light rail line downtown on howard street? that howard street line seems to be one of the most poorly planned transit lines in the country (station layout, doesnt fit into streetscape with transit mall and trains barreling down that narrow street, poor connection to subway). i would hope that this additional north-south line through baltimore would end up becoming a replacement line that is more successfuly routed through downtown (preferably also underground with the subway and red line).

  • No, Baltimore is actually very similar to Philadelphia: a small gentrified downtown plus high-class university, surrounded by abject poverty.

  • jon

    yeah baltimore is very similar to philly now. but i think baltimore has the potential to be something more. though i think even philly is still a step up from baltimore in their present forms, afterall you can buy normal goods in central city philadelphia like at department stores and malls. howard street is a ghost town and the rest of downtown baltimore is nothing more than an 9-5 office park with the tourists in the waterfront festival market theme park.

  • Jon –
    Regarding the proposed map — the Blue Line is the existing light rail route, with the exception of the detour from Camden Yards through to Penn Station (which would theoretically be shared with the new Yellow Line).

  • Steve

    I concur that the LRT to Columbia would be so painfully slow as to be useless. A MARC spur from Columbia to downtown Baltimore could offer faster travel times, though construction of a CRT alignment would be far more costly…

  • jon

    but i’m wondering if they are looking to eventually phase out the existing alignment through downtown (on howard) in favor of that new north-south LRT alignment several blocks east

  • No, in fact the basic idea, whether it makes sense or not, is to have both alignments running in parallel.

  • Brian

    The alignment for Yellow north of Camden Yards is what Baltimore should have built as its LRT line in the first place. The Charles Streetcar will cover the core destinations, but unfortunately not Towson. Despite that huge mistake, Red and Green should be the next two priorities, not Yellow.

  • As a staffer for the CMTA, I feel compelled to respond to your entry, “Baltimore to Advance Yellow Line Project Ahead of Metro Extension.” While I appreciate your interest in our report, I’m worried that you may have arrived at your points from reading the article written about the report instead of reading the report. I have attached a link at the bottom of this entry for you or anyone interested in reading the report for themselves.
    There are a few points that your readers should know. First, you build your argument against our backing of the Yellow line before the Green as providing “fewer opportunities” than the Yellow. Our group insists that all projects, proposals and partnerships follow our R3=E3 decision matrix; we believe that regional, rapid, and reliable transportation opportunities drive economic growth, equitable access and environmental protection for Central MD. You are correct in pointing out that the CMTA recommends prioritizing the Yellow line as the next link in the Baltimore Regional Rail Plan to be built after the Red Line. The basis for the recommendation is an analysis of job clusters that appears on pages 16-19 of the report. Nationally, employment location and density are highly correlated with transit usage. We can add utility for transit riders and increase transit usage by increasing the number of jobs that are accessible from the transit system. That can be accomplished by using incentives, zoning and planning to encourage employers to locate near transit, and by building transit lines to connect existing clusters of densely located employment. Regarding the latter approach, the report analyzes where clusters of dense employment already exist. The Yellow line, by linking large clusters of employment in locations like Towson, Loyola/College of Notre Dame, Johns Hopkins Homewood Campus, Central Baltimore, Mt. Vernon, BWI Business Park, Hanover, Columbia Gateway and Columbia Town Center, would bring more jobs in clusters within reach of the system than any other proposed line. We are still committed to building the Green line; however the Yellow line shows greater benefit for the region. Using employment connections as a means for prioritizing transit investments will help increase the utility of transit access in the region, and can help spur the market for both transit-oriented housing and jobs. We are still committed to building the Green line and the build out of our entire transit system; however the Yellow Line’s ability to connect people to jobs, particularly in this the Great Recession, shows that it’s construction should be a priority.
    Yonah, you imply near the end of your entry that the CMTA support could be racially motivated – that we seek to expand transit to predominately white areas as opposed to poor and black communities. This is not only untrue, but completely unfounded. The CMTA is headed by an African American whose life long educational and employment pursuits have been focused on public service, empowerment and equity. Furthermore, the organization that he heads counts among its diverse coalition members and supporters the Associated Black Charities, Citizens Planning and Housing Association, The Baltimore Community Foundation, and The Anne E. Casey Foundation. These are all organizations which seek to expand opportunities for minorities and the disadvantaged.
    Finally, when we talk of expanding Baltimore’s transit system we do not wish to have growth come at the expense of the existing system. If we want to create a healthy transit system for the area we must attract “choice riders” not just those who are transit dependent. This is what we mean by a “culture of transit.” We seek to increase transit for all people of the region. The existing transit system of Baltimore can be improved, but the CMTA believes that improvement and expansion need not come at the sake of the other. A full copy of our Report can be downloaded from the following address: http://www.baltimoresun.com/media/acrobat/2009-09/49021725.pdf

    If any of your readers have any questions about the CMTA, our mission and the findings of our report please go to http://cmtalliance.org/.

    • Matthew,

      R3=E3 sounds like a new dose of “give us your support for bait & switch” the like the version shoved down our throats in 1965. Thousands of homes in 16 linear blocks between Mulberry and Franklin Streets where torn down for the unfinished I-70 Freeway and a ghost subway line to run down the middle of it.

      I first witnessed that debacle unfolding as a third grader when MTA officials presented their marketing plan to local school children. The West Baltimore freeway route model looked fantastic. They bragged about thousands of cars being able to quickly travel the route between downtown and the western suburbs of Catonsville & Woodlawn. Recognizing that they did not impress us, MTA officials next pointed out that the freeway would be built with enough median space for the subway line illustrated on the Baltimore Metrorail Subway map. That large impressive map had lines intersecting downtown in a star-pattern. Suddenly, we burst with pride to see our own West Baltimore subway line on such important map, whose lines I recall oriented as:

      Northwest-Southeast
      West-Northeast
      North-South (Towson to BWI Airport, called Friendship Airport then)

      Then my classmates and I reflected on the fact that some homes to be torn down were our own. Living one block over from the route, my block was spared. Nevertheless, we all gloomily asked ourselves, why do they want to tear down our homes for people who travel between downtown and the suburbs without stopping?

      So I remember asking the MTA officials, “Why can’t you just build a subway under Franklin Street, then go out Edmondson Ave. People could travel the same route between downtown and the suburbs.”

      First I got startled blank stares. Then the MTA folks quickly shifted to an exercise that asked us to draw shops we would like to see at our subway station. Refreshments ensued, so we 3rd graders just went along with the show. Working in a nearby barbershop, I heard a handful of adults complaining about the freeway route and home destruction. But there was no mass demonstration, in large part because construction plans printed in the newspaper included room for the subway line and the 1st subway line up Pennsylvania Avenue began construction. Thus our community was told we believed would get the subway just after the freeway was built. Little did we know the community disaster and deceit lying ahead.

      The eminent domain evictions arrived a couple years later. Many friends and small businesses that stabilized our community were removed. Living in the 500 block of Brice Street, I could look down my street at the Freeway’s concrete wall that was never landscaped as promised. The freeway ended half a block further west at Pulaski Street.

      Where’s the disaster? Perhaps you are aware that MTA planning imbeciles failed to secure Rights of Way through Western Cemetery and hence, could not connect the infamous I-70 Freeway segment to the current I-70 Freeway endpoint at I-695 beltway. Turns out powerful rich White folk would not let their ancestors be exhumed to enable freeway construction through the cemetery. In effect, that debacle said to our community, dead rich White folks were more valuable than alive middle class Black folks. So Yonah has a strong point about class and racism having a sordid history in Baltimoretransportation planning.

      Even as a young adult I remember asking adults, when would the subway line begin construction. There were rumors of start dates, but each time Maryland DOT funds went to freeway construction. When the next traunches of transit funding came around, horrible stark answers were printed in the local newspaper.

      Transit funding would instead go the “More important” Yellow Line connecting suburban job-rich Hunt Valley with downtown and BWI Airport and to Green Line extension to the “More important” deep suburbs of Owings Mills. Our community fumed but again, but with so much of decimated by Black middle class fleeing to the same suburbs, there were no major protests on behalf of inner city West Baltimore.

      Years have passed and I live in California now, but every time I visit Baltimore, I muse about the missed opportunity that would have strengthened our West Baltimore community, while positively transforming land use patterns in Baltimore. If the MTA and Maryland DOT had simply weighed input from the rich white folks and listened to middleclass Black folks, Baltimore City would be in much better shape.

      Instead of tearing down homes for an unfinished freeway, two subway lines (instead of one) could have intersected downtown and opened in 1983. Those 2 lines could have been extended to the near suburbs and the 3rd subway line completed by 2010. Baltimore would already have that complete star-pattern subway system. Given a much higher transit mode-share, Baltimore’s transit culture would have demanded more frequent MARC commuter train service traveling East-Southwest on the map as well.

      Instead of moving 60,000 Metrorail, 35,000 Light Rail and 32,000 MARC patrons for 130,000 daily transit patrons today, Baltimore Metrorail and MARC could easily have be 300,000 daily patrons transforming business and residential location decisions for a more vital Baltimore. Today transit plans would more appropriately be extending Metrorail and MARC lines to the deep suburbs of Hunt Valley, White Marsh, Owings Mills, Glen Burnie and Columbia to boost those numbers past 400,000.

      Though the MTA can never remedy that debacle, I am happy to see that the Red Line will fulfill finally East-West rail transit route promised to my community and the community of East-Southeast Baltimore. After the Red Line, prioritizing the northern Yellow Line from Towson down Charles Street to downtown Baltimore is a also smart move that fullfills an old promise. It may even be a make-good for the ill-concieved, under-performing throw-in LRT currently traversing low-density Jones Falls Expressway, while bypassing Towson.

      My dose of historical reality also chastens the MTA’s rationale of prioritizing a new low density Southern Yellow Line extension to Columbia before the old high-density Northeastern Green Line extension to Morgan State University. The Southern Yellow Line extension with 11 stops after BWI Station has the earmarks of another underperforming Hunt Valley line (now colored Blue on the MTA map). This Southern Yellow Line was not promised. Nor can one rationalize significantly more patronage that it will deliver above frequency improvement to the planned MARC Orange Line to Dorsey. Thus, prioritizing Orange Line improvement before the Southern Yellow Line extension makes more sense.

      Yes it will take longer and be more expensive to complete, but Green Line extension will transport far more patrons downtown and throughout the transit system. IT WAS PROMISED DECADES AGO. So the transit priority should be be Red -> Northern Yellow -> Green -> Orange -> Southern Yellow

      Given Columbia has been a national model of racial integration and business opportunity, I’m pleased that racism need not be a prevailing factor in current Light Rail expansion decisions. But class remains a major issue. So I stand with my fellow citizens of Northeastern Baltimore who demand that the Green line continue its promised course 45 years ago before this newfangled R3=E3 marketing puffery calling for a southern Yellow Line extension.

      So you can take those MTA “manufactured reasons” to low-pri the Green Line extension and shove them in a nice circular object emptied frequently. I plan to share my thoughts with the Baltimore mayor and Baltimore Sun newspaper.

  • Matthew -
    Thanks for your extended and reasoned response.

    I did read the report, and I think that my article reflects it — noting specifically that, as you pointed out in your comment, the CMTA believes that the Yellow Line would spur more transit-oriented development than the Green would. That said, I am skeptical of your group’s conclusions, namely that it makes sense to spend money helping increase sprawl through transit-oriented development in the far suburbs — notably, with the route between BWI and Columbia. I strongly believe that inner city, infill growth is more effective in the long-term in producing the kind of livable communities for which we should be fighting, and that’s why I pointed to the northern section of the Yellow Line and the inner-city extension of the Green Line as the priorities here. The route to Columbia is unlikely to produce those types of neighborhoods, despite what your report concludes. The same can be said for the Green Line extension past White Marsh.

    In terms of my discussion of motivations, I’d like to point out that there is no reason to conclude that simply because the head of an organization is black, he will choose to advocate what is best for the black community — the same could be said for members of the white, hispanic, or asian communities. Indeed, it’s hard to deny that the Green Line will serve predominantly black communities while the Yellow Line’s southern route will not. It’s a matter of choice — the CMTA argues that “choice riders” should be attracted to promote the “culture of transit.” I would argue that inner-city, transit-dependent people living in dense neighborhoods should be adequately served first before moving on to suburban communities. Perhaps the motivation behind the choices was not race or class, but the decision to push one route ahead of another most certainly will affect separate races and classes quite differently.

    • Yonah, See my counterpoint to the MTA’s Matthew on the wrongful Yellow Line southern expansion priority before Green Line northeast expansion. Directly affected by the MTA & Maryland DOT’s poor decisions since 1965, I also explain why Baltimore doesn’t attract over 300,000 rail transit riders today, though it had DC-like population density.

      Race was a major factor then, but is not the major factor today in their priorities. Treating class as a major factor and dumb thinking that sucks vitality from the city center are still in abundance.

  • EngineerScotty

    I think the “choice” issue is more interesting question for transit planners than discussion of race. (Not that the latter is not important, but its a topic that generates a lot of heat, and might quickly dwarf a transit blog in scope).

    The question is essentially this: When expanding a transit system, is it preferable to a) attract new riders to the system (and out of cars) by appealing to “choice” riders, or b) enhance the level of service for existing riders, many of whom may well be transit-dependent and thus riding the bus or train anyway?

    In Portland, which doesn’t have the racial dynamics of Baltimore, there is nonetheless a conflict between transit advocates who want to expand the various parts of the rail system (MAX and the Streetcar; WES has few defenders), and those who would rather forgo such capital-intensive projects and instead spend money on faster and more comprehensive bus service. When you factor in “transit oriented development”–building transit to serve presently-undeveloped areas with the intent of generating infill (often upscale), many bus patrons in town get openly hostile to Tri-Mets aggressive plans to expand MAX well beyond its current state. (The Green Line opens this weekend, of course).

    A complicating factor, of course, is that Tri-Met’s operating budget is significantly dependent on payroll tax revenue–a source of income that is not particularly stable, and is outside the agency’s control. As no mode of transit “makes money” overall; new services often require cuts elsewhere, and it’s easy for bus riders to blame the reduced frequency on their favorite line on the train.

  • jon

    but a payroll tax is more stable than a sales tax, which across the country is the preferred method. obviously thats not even an option in oregon.

    it seems reasonable to me to build the yellow line to columbia for equity in that you want to cover all parts of the region and classes. most of the lines built so far have served inner city communities in Baltimore which is great. But the MTA needs the political support of the entire region which is paying into the system anyway through taxes. i agree about the need to serve inner city neighborhoods with better transit especially since they are largely transit dependent but i think it is reasonable to have some suburban lines to ensure that the transit system serves a range of people in the region and not just the poor. transit needs the political support of the middle and upper classes since it receives a lot of tax money from them and in a place like baltimore i understand transit is mostly seen as something for the poor, and that is unhealthy for the transit agency and regional commuters. yes theres less transit need for suburban communters but there is political need. and some of these lines will bring inner city residents out to suburban jobs.

  • Ben

    1h10min from Columbia to Baltimore is unacceptable. However, there is no reason that a train leaving Columbia for Baltimore has to stop at all stops. Take the NYC Subway for example. Multiple trains use the same tracks running different schedules, i.e. the 1,2,3 trains, the A,C,and E trains…… Some are express, and some are local. The train schedules also vary depending on the time of day. Trains don’t have to stop at industrial centers at 8pm on a Saturday night.

    Additionally, the number of stops in Columbia is quite dense, and I don’t think is supportable. They are also better served locally by an express bus. Downtown Columbia to downtown Baltimore is also better served by a rapid transit bus. If you get the travel time from Baltimore to Columbia down to 45 minutes, I think you’d have something better.

    I look forward to more transit options between Columbia and Baltimore.

  • Ben: in New York, express trains don’t share tracks with local trains.

  • Baltimore has a number of tough issues. The biggest difference between Baltimore and cities mentioned like Philadelphia (or DC) is the lack of great fixed rail transit service within the city. Without such service, the city continues to leak population at a significant rate, while Washington has stabilized and is increasing in population.

    The WMATA system for Washington was not designed to improve DC neighborhoods, that was the fortunate unintended consequence of having neighborhoods near downtown that were also served by the transit system, a system that was designed for suburbanites to be able to get to their jobs in the city. (29 stations at the core of the city cover a roughly 15 mile square and serve both business districts and neighborhoods, and provide a relatively high density of station service.)

    Baltimore needs its own transportation plan. It’s clear that the CMTA doesn’t have Baltimore’s interest as foremost. I understand their reasoning about connecting key jobs clusters. (But as some of these comments point out, maybe rail service could do that better. Similarly, I notice a CSX track that serves the White Marsh area, but isn’t used for passenger service.)

    At the same time, only by massively improving connectivity within the city via fixed rail transit service can Baltimore seriously propel neighborhood revitalization forward.

    E.g., Matthew mentions choice riders for transit, well we also have choice “riders” for residential location decisions. If there is more, better transit within the city, more residents will come in, more opportunities for infill development will exist, etc. Now, that may faze some people concerned primarily about transit and equity, because that will mean the influx of more residents with higher incomes and other differences, leading to clashes and use of the G (gentrification) word.

    OTOH, it happens that I am taking a one year appointment for a planning job in Baltimore County (not on transit), and there is no question that better connections between the Towson corridor and central Baltimore are necessary. (The blue line followed an existing rail line and therefore bypasses Towson. I do wonder about the possibility of creating an infill station and a good Circulator bus service to provide Greater Towson with service.)

    Even so, I think green line extensions should occur and Baltimore City should move them forward, by creating a massive urban renewal district, and selling bonds against future property tax revenue increases, just as how Portland funded the creation of the Yellow (Interstate) MAX line.

  • Fritz

    The Yellow Line north is incredibly important and should be separated from the debate on the section out towards Columbia. From Camden Yards up to Johns Hopkins University you have dense urban centers and rowhouses that run you from a mix of neighborhoods, many which need infill development (especially around Penn Station). You have a mix of classes/races from the affluent edge or Roland Park right near JHU to the mixed and ever changing Charles Village to the less well off areas around 25th and North streets and back to affluence in Mt. Vernon before heading downtown to Camden Yards to meet up with the Blue Line. This segment is important for a few reasons. It brings affluent AND dense urban areas to the Baltimore transit system which has a reputation for linking poor areas. Look at the CMTA’s map (pg. 24). Besides Mt. Washington almost all of the stations are at or below regional median income in the city. Part of that is Baltimore but part of that is planning which ignores more affluent sections of the cities. What we need is a system where you can go from North Broadway to Roland Park and gives people access to the museums, harbor, Penn Station.

    Now the Green line extension within the city is important. And the Yellow line extension up to Towson and even reconnecting with the Blue line would be nice. And the line to Columbia is a poor idea by light rail. But a Yellow line at least to the city border and an expanded Green line to serve East Baltimore and of course the completion of the Red line will finally give us a system that connects all general areas of the city. The Charles St. corridor (and neighboring Howard, St. Paul, Calvert, Maryland) has plenty of opportunity for infill and more importantly, a much greater potential for it than does North Broadway. A better connected Baltimore will help all areas of the city.

  • Kori

    I hope people realize that this is a long-term plan that won’t be completed any time in the near future. I think most of the detractors of the Southern portion of the Yellow Line haven’t read plans of the respective locations. Columbia is the second largest city in Maryland roughly a 100,000 people with a large scale plan to redevelop downtown, which would make downtown Columbia the most densely populated downtown area in Maryland outside of Baltimore

    5,500 additional apartments and condominiums, 4.3 million square feet of new offices, 1.25 million square feet of retail space and over a 1000 hotel rooms is in legislation to be added over the next 30 years to Columbia. Legislation is also on the table to possibly add small amounts of housing to the village centers will create more urbanized residential dwelling. Columbia will keep its open space but there are major development plans from Blandair Park, to Symphony Woods, current location of the Mall, Merriweather for large concerts and events and expansion of Gateway office park make Columbia a wise choice.

    I do agree an hour and 15 minutes to Baltimore is horrible and should try to be around 40-45 minutes. Though when BRAC is at its peak next decade bringing 600,000 to a million more people to Maryland rapidly and the development in Baltimore and Columbia continues, traffic will be a nightmare. Silver Spring and Bethesda have Metro Stops to help people get to and from work. Columbia will be more densely populated than those cities. With population and density of the time the Yellow line will be built this makes perfect sense.

    Also as a Black man born and raised in Columbia to working middle-class parents the locations the stops will be are in Diverse demographic areas such as Guilford, Owen Brown, and by the Mall. Columbia is one of the most diverse cities in the state and residents who do live in public housing have trouble working in Baltimore or other locations even in Columbia due to lack of access to decent public transportation.

    I would say look at the development plans of all the cities in the state and that is how transportation should be determined in a smart growth way. The proposed development for Columbia is attached of course subject to change could be less though there will be development. http://www.columbia-md.com/MasterPlan/draft.aspx

  • Woody

    Kori, that’s a long range plan indeed. General Growth Properties filed for bankruptcy reorganization in April. That’ll probably delay things, part of the larger real estate bust the country is experiencing.

    But it was very interesting to look over their proposals for the Columbia town center, to add density and better public transportation over the next 30 years — or perhaps more. The whole plan may need some reworking in the light of the Great Recession. Retail may have maxed out around 2007 or 2008, and we will never again fill so many stores. Time will tell.

    Meanwhile others here want the Yellow Line from the north through downtown Baltimore. That could make the stretch to Columbia a Phase 2, maybe allowing someone to figure out a way to make the connection between Baltimore and Columbia faster than the current proposal.

  • Ocean Railroader

    I remember hearing a romour about how the Washingtion DC Metro subway wanted to build a six to ten mile extension to their green line to reach a army base that was fairly close to Baltmore’s Airport and that it would be so close to Baltmore it would meet up with one of the southen light rail lines in the city or be linked up by a city bus. It seems odd in that Baltmore named their heavy rail subway line the green line. If this six mile to ten mile extension idea is true could it be possible that one day in the next 50 years that the Washingtion and the Baltmore heavy rail subway lines could be linked up with one another to form one super metro system. Mayland right now seems to be planning a lot of new light rail lines outside of the Washingtion beltway or near it could this possibly be the formation of a super metro system?

  • Voice of Reason

    It seems to me that maybe they should get rid of stops on the yellow line to get more people to ride it. Do they really need to stop for 10 minutes after going 100 feet? Sure, some people might have to drive a little to get to it, but if you could get Columbia to Baltimore down to 30 minutes, it could be a great option that would reduce traffic.

  • Richard

    I think the Yellow line should be prioritized north and south; however, south only to Dorsey. Arundel Mills is a huge jobs engine and it needs to be connected to Baltimore. But Dorsey has the MARC train and needs to also be connected. After the Green line we can consider further expanded yellow to Columbia.
    On southern yellow line, I greatly question the extension as it is. It would create BWI as a one stop dead end, making for either a shuttle train, which would be annoying for people with luggage, or a rarely used stop. And also make Ferndale & Glen Burnie rarely serviced stops since the extension would only be for two stops, one a small station and another a commuter lot (which would lose commuters to other yellow-line stations). Perhaps extending the yellow line (or I guess Blue line now) from Glen Burnie to Arundel Mills and Dorsey would make more sense. Giving more frequent service to Glen Burnie and not making BWI a one stop deadzone.

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The Site / The Fight

by Yonah Freemark

yfreemark (at) thetransportpolitic (dot) com

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