Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Using Existing Infrastructure to Build a Streetcar

For the past several years, there has been a push to put a streetcar along Charles Street, but let's just say there has been some resistance from some of the communities along Charles Street who feel that it will cause more trouble than good. I am definitely in favor of creating a new streetcar line in Baltimore, but I am not fully sold on the route that is currently being proposed by the Baltimore Streetcar Campaign.

The proposed route goes up starts at the Inner Harbor, goes north on Calvert, turns west on Redwood, and then north on Charles until University Parkway, where it loops and turns south on St. Paul Street. It then turns west on Mt Royal and then South on Maryland Ave/Cathedral Street/Liberty Street/Hopkins Place/Sharp Street turns east on Conway and then north on Light Street back to the Inner Harbor.

In my opinion there are two issues with this route: 1.) Charles Street is narrow and congested through Mount Vernon until past Penn Station; and 2.) the route on the southern half is really close in proximity to the Light Rail and almost duplicates that service.

An easy solution would be to shift the northbound streetcar to Calvert Street until Mount Royal Ave and then continue up Charles Street, and have the southbound streetcar traverse St Paul Street/Light Street for the entire route. This essential solves the two problems stated above. Calvert Street does not get nearly as congested as Charles Street can, and this would help to increase service downtown while at the same time helping to encourage development further east.

The biggest hurdle with any of this is cost. Right now the city is deeply focused on the Red Line, that if it is funded will not be operational until 2021 at the earliest.

The other option would be to use the existing infrastructure of the Light Rail. A streetcar route could branch off of the light rail along Howard Street to serve many possible areas of the city:
  • Serve the Charles Street corridor in Mount Vernon/Station North/Charles Village/JHH
  • Serve Remington or even Hampden by way of Howard Street/Maryland Ave
  • Serve Bolton Hill and Reservoir Hill by way of Eutaw Place/Madison Ave.
For any of these options the Light Rail Station at Camden Yards could be a turnaround point.

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