Thursday, June 25, 2015

So Long Red Line, Thanks for All the Memories

So it looks like the end for the Red Line, at least in its present form; and with it the hope that Baltimore will get any new transit in the next decade. I started this blog back in 2008, and a lot has happened in 7 years: I got married, had a kid with number 2 on the way, bought a house, switched jobs - all of which has led to significantly less Skyline blogging. Anyway, I took a look back at one of the first posts I wrote about the Red Line in 2008. Back then it was supposed to cost $1.6 billion and be up and running by about 2016. Now he we are on June 25, 2015 with federal money committed and backed by Baltimore City and County, and then Gov. Larry Hogan finally pulled the plug on what turned into a $2.9 billion gorilla that wouldn't run until around 2022. There is more to this story, but I'll leave that for another time.

What it all boils down to is this: Baltimore needs better transit. The Red Line wasn't perfect, but it could have worked. The real issue, however, is that it should never have gotten to this. The Red Line was seen as a panacea, it would solve our transit woes and get Baltimore back on its feet. MTA put all their eggs in one basket on this one. Instead of being a smartly designed addition to the system, it tried to be everything to everyone, and in the end got too big and too expensive at the wrong time. Now, all our eggs are smashed. Now what?

Maybe now the MTA in general and Baltimore in particular need to look at improving, enhancing, and expanding what we have currently.

  • This means fixing the Light Rail, so it moves seamlessly through downtown on Howard Street, and making it a more reliable choice. 
  • Being serious about revamping the MTA bus system: better routes, better reliability, improved signage and shelters, better professionalism of the employees, and no tolerance for riders who want to cause problems.
  • At the same time making the Quick Bus routes truly Enhanced Bus Service with signal priority, dedicated lanes where available, and specialized bus livery and stops. 
  • Having a serious discussion about how the Penn and Camden Lines can better serve commuters heading into Baltimore. 
  • Having additional Express and Commuter Bus routes heading into Baltimore City and the job centers in our immediate area. 
While this is going on. Let's start the process for another New Starts bid.
  • Dust off the plans to extend the Metro Subway beyond JHH to either North Ave or to Bayview along the Amtrak ROW, the latter which is favored by Gerald Neilly and the Right Rail folks (which I genuinely believe they are correct about)
  • Couple this with a renewed attempt for a spur line from Lexington Market along Route 40 to West Baltimore MARC as heavy rail, or even light metro if the ridership won't be as high. 
  • Look at taking the Light Rail beyond BWI to the BWI Rail Station and making a better connection with Penn Station. 
While this might be the end of the Red Line, we should still look forward to what we can do to make Baltimore a better and more connected city.