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Friday, September 4, 2009

Baltimore Yellow Line Boondoggle

GGW's breakfast links yesterday had a troubling article at the bottom. The Central Maryland Transit Alliance wants to prioritize extending Baltimore's Yellow Line light rail to Columbia over extending the Green Line subway to White Marsh. I can't even begin to express how dumb of an idea this is.

The Green Line extension will hit developed areas in a large city with a burgeoning centralized train system in place. This is smart. The Yellow Line extension will connect Columbia to downtown Baltimore on a very long, very circuitous route that by-passes Fort Meade, the largest employment center in the state of Maryland.

Baltimore City needs transit connections. It needs an expanded system. It needs a centralized system. A Yellow Line extension would bolster businesses in Columbia and Towson. These are decentralized locations. A Green Line extension would bolster more centralized business districts like the Belair Road and Harford Road corridors. These are centralized areas. Baltimore has been decentralizing for fifty years, and it's not working.

From Columbia, the Yellow Line would take 42 minutes to get to BWI Airport, and then another 27 to get to downtown Baltimore. An hour and nine minutes to get from Columbia to Baltimore. The northern section of the Yellow Line is actually a good idea, connecting several colleges along a main thoroughfare through the city proper. But the southern portion is as circuitous and useless as the current plan for the CCT in Gaithersburg.

CMTA, if you want light rail connecting Columbia to the city, why not push for the US-29 light rail project that was once promised to run from Silver Spring to Columbia? A direct route to the city, not a circuitous one, that hits several established communities along the way is what Central Maryland Transit Alliance ought to be seeking. I don't know how long Dan Reed's alignment (linked above) would take to get from Columbia to downtown DC, but I bet it's faster than 69 minutes.

And if Maryland does decide to run light rail further away from Baltimore, can you at least make some effort to hit the 50,000+ job center at Fort Meade before it is completely choking the region with traffic? I bet you a rail right-of-way that a lot of those employees live in Columbia.

6 comments:

Dan Reed said...

The northern part of the line is money, connecting several major colleges (Hopkins and Towson, among others) and the Baltimore area's only real suburban downtown (Towson), putting jobs and shopping within easy reach of those within the city who are already commuting there. I agree that the southern portion of the line is circuitious (the trip from BWI to Penn Station is already slow and miserable as it is) but I see potential for bolstering the redevelopment of the Route 1 corridor in Howard County and Columbia Town Center, which is pretty centralized for something with a mall at its center.

My plan from 2003 doesn't really address the issue of how to get from Columbia to Baltimore. I'm not sure how commuting patterns work from Howard County, and if you'd get more people on a line from HoCo to D.C. than on a line from HoCo to Baltimore.

Teresa said...

OK so clearly I know nothing about these things, but a part of your post (actually not related to the post) interested me. I work in Rockville, and there are TONS of people who work out here. The public transportation around these tech parks, for lack of a better word, SUCKS. I would gladly, gladly! take metro or another light rail to work if it made any sense at all. But at this point it would take me at least an hour on Metro and then waiting for a bus and taking a bus adding a half hour. And as I can drive to work in 25 minutes, that just seems stupid. I know there aren't a lot of people living in this area, but wouldn't it make sense, since a lot of people work up here, to have some sort of transport? Is it the CCT in general you disapprove of, or just the current plan? Although it doesn't make it down to where I work, the idea of something like that circuiting the tech parks seems like a really great idea to me. Maybe I'm crazy?

Pantograph Trolleypole said...

Dave take a look at the report: http://www.reconnectingamerica.org/public/stories/852

Dave Murphy said...

Teresa,

I am very much in favor of the Corridor Cities Transitway. But the current alignment is long and circuitous, and I feel that it will be a very ineffective transit solution as currently planned.

Furthermore, much of the development that is planned out there is more-of-the-same spread out office parks, and they are generally poor use of land around transit lines. development out there needs to commit to being more centralized before it can be served by mass transit.

Teresa said...

see that's what I don't understand. Sure what you said makes sense but shouldn't we be serving what EXISTS and not base that on what it should be like?

Dave Murphy said...

What currently exists will not be well served by the planned alignment of the CCT. The office parks that currently exist need more mixed use and more density before it is financially viable to serve them with fixed rail transit.