Monday, February 9, 2009

Violetville/St. Agnes Transit Hub

When building a truly comprehensive transit system, certain stops should be known as "hubs." Hubs are where you can transfer to other transit lines or bus lines. When planning where a hub should go you should examine the neighborhood surrounding it. There should be an existing draw but on the other hand there should be factors where a transit hub would jump start revitalization. The West Baltimore MARC Station will be one no doubt.Other options have been the Lexington Market area. Lexington Market being the draw and the Westside of Downtown being the area that needs a jump start. The Lexington Mall for instance, the block of Lexington St. that was closed off to vehicular traffic would be a perfect place for a hub seeing as the Green, Blue, and eventually the Red Line will have stops here. This would reopen Lexington St. not only to cars but for the many bus lines that travel around here.
Another hub option mentioned will be the Orangeville/Bayview area. This would be the location for the East Baltimore MARC Station. Johns Hopkins Bayview Campus would be the draw to this location and Orangeville, an under utilized industrial area slated for dense TOD is the area that needs the jump start. The MARC Penn Line and Purple Line (same tracks) would stop here as will the Red Line. There are also numerous bus lines that stop here and there is access to all the major highways from here.
Yet another hub option would be the Hamburg St. MARC Hamburg St. under my transit network would be the terminus of the MARC Camden Line. Also stopping here would be the Orange Line (same tracks), the Blue Line and the unbuilt Yellow Line (same tracks as blue line.) Obviously, draw here would be the Stadiums and the Convention Center. It may Jump Start redevelopment efforts in Westport, Mount Winans, and Cherry Hill.
Then of course there's the Mac Daddy of all transit hubs; Penn Station. With access to Amtrak, The MARC Penn Line, the Purple Line on operating on the same tracks mind you with transfers to the Yellow Line, the Charles St. Trolley and easy walk ability to the blue and green lines. Lets not forget the JFX is right there and multiple bus lines as well. Penn Station is currently the catalyst that will give Station North a jump start. Currently on the drawing board for Station North is a Boutique Hotel located on the vacant floors above Penn Station, a Concert Hall, Green Space possibly on conjunction with the Concert Hall, Six High Rise residential buildings with ground floor retail, and the restoration of the North Avenue Market and the Parkway Theatre.
Map From Google Earth
Now the hub I'm proposing, it's the purpose of this whole post, everything else is just examples and justification for this one. It will be the SoWeBo Hub located at Southwestern Boulevard and Wilkens Avenue. Its draw will be St. Agnes Hospital and it will jump start every neighborhood that makes up SoWeBo. Now I'm sure asking how does a transit hub have that kind of pull? The only rail stop is the Purple Line and the MARC Penn Line and Amtrak don't even stop here. Well, you're right but there's a little something called Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) that will introduce itself here. BRT has not been included on any of my transit plans until now. I'm considering down grading my Silver Line that spans Northern Parkway down to BRT because of its lower density.
Map From Google Earth
Now what is the route of this new illustrious BRT line? Well, it will begin at the transit hub at Southwestern Boulevard and Wilkens Avenue and travel under Violetville and St. Agnes Hospital where it will meet abandoned rail road tracks just north of Carroll Park and south of Wilkens Avenue. Its route will be short ending at Mount Clare Junction and the B&O Railroad Museum. In between the SoWeBo transit hub and Mount Clare Junction there will be three stops; one at St. Agnes Hospital, another at Monroe St. and finally Carey St. This will jump start many neighborhoods that make up SoWeBo that need that shout in the arm.
The effected neighborhoods will be Oaklee, Violetville, Morrell Park, Gwynns Falls, Mill Hill, Carrollton Ridge, Mount Clare, Pigtown, Union Square, and Hollins Market. There are many vacant homes in this cluster of neighorhoods but I feel redevelopment should be minimal. A few dalapidated rows of homes sure but for the most part, $1 row homes with a "no flip" clause.
New development should be in scale with the existing housing stock and will be located on the industrial wasteland that seperates Wilkens Avenue from the BRT tracks. Other notable places along the BRT track include the Montgomery Park Office Building and Carroll Park, which includes an 18 hole golf course. At the other end of the BRT line is the Mount Clare Junction Shopping Center which struggles with vacancies. The BRT line's terminus here will certainly boost business here. Also located here is the B&O Railroad Museum. The BRT Line, for the most part will operate on tracks that were once B&O Railroad tracks, what better way to showcase the evolution of transit than to have something modern like BRT on old Railroad tracks? I think this is a win win for all of SoWeBo.BRT is not very popular because too often transit planners want to use it as a cheap method for a much more regional line that demands Light Rail or even Heavy Rail. BRT does have its niche in the hierarchy of transit systems but it has to be local and not a cheap substitute for Rail Lines.

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