Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Creating a Separate Yellow Line

The Baltimore Regional Rail System Plan that was drafted in 2002 included, besides the Red - which after 11 years has yet to begin construction - also envisioned a separate yellow line that ran parallel to the current light rail, but several blocks east that would connect the Inner Harbor with Mount Vernon and Station North; eventually going up York Rd to Towson before rejoining the current Light Rail right of way at Lutherville. This was a very ambitious plan which looks to be nowhere near feasible in the near (or long term) future given how expensive that would be to build.

However, what about building the line just to Penn Station? From Camden Yards to Penn Station would be roughly 2 miles of new tunnel, but would provide rail access to an extremely traffic heavy portion of the city. The 2002 Plan proposed a new station at the Inner Harbor (approx. Conway and Light), a transfer at Charles Center to connect directly to the Metro, a new station in Mount Vernon (approximately at Madison Street), and a transfer at Penn Station to connect to Amtrak and MARC.

View Larger Map

This new separate Yellow Line would run trains between Penn Station and BWI (or alternating to Glen Burnie), sharing stations between Linthicum and Camden Yards with the Blue Line. The Blue Line would continue to run trains between Hunt Valley and Glen Burnie, and potentially alternating to still serve BWI. The short Penn-Camden shuttle would be eliminated.

There are many advantages here that would drastically improve the interconnectivity of our transit system.
  1. A direct underground transfer connection at Charles Center for the Baltimore Metro, and ideally the Red Line.
  2. A new connection at Penn Station which would get riders to/from Penn Station faster and more frequently than the current light rail station.
  3. Serve more of the dense downtown neighborhoods which are currently the fastest growing in the city. including a station in the Inner Harbor. This would allow for
  4. Remove some traffic from Howard Street to allow for better headway frequencies along that ROW for Timonium/Hunt Valley trains.
  5. Potential for expansion north of Penn Station in the future, or a connection for southbound trains from Timonium/Hunt Valley to also access Penn Station.
There are also some disadvantages/problems that need to be addressed.
  1. This would be quite expensive. For two miles of track and new stations the cost would be in the hundreds of millions of dollars, if not more.
  2. Lack of funding. There are already questions about this with regards to the Red Line, so who knows what would be available 10+ years from now for a project like this.
  3. Station placement: There is not a lot of open space for station entrances along the alignment. Sidewalk bumpouts with enough room for an elevator on one corner and a stairwell on another would probably be sufficient.
There is a lot of potential for a separate Yellow Line, especially when it comes to make a more comprehensive and connective transit system in Baltimore. Let's hope some transportation planners will think about this seriously.

1 comment:

  1. While the red line is a nice to have, it really seems to me that Baltimore's transit dollars would be much more efficiently spent in ideas like this, small projects that enhance and improve the existing system. From my point of view, none of Baltimore's transit systems work together. The Light Rail doesn't connect to the Metro, the Metro doesn't connect with MARC, and the MARC doesn't connect with the Light Rail anywhere but Camden Yards.

    An east-west transit option is nice, but the current red-line proposal has the same disconnection as everything else. Theoretically everything is connected by bus, but the bus system is barely functional at this point. I looked into getting from my house in Hamilton to Penn Station, and it would be over an hour by bus with no other options. That can't be reasonable.