Sunday, August 17, 2014

A More Walkable Southeast Baltimore

As I continue my series on walkability in Baltimore, my focus turn to southeast Baltimore. No I'm not talking about the already walkable Neighborhoods of Inner Harbor East, Fells Point, and Little Italy. I'm, talking about Neighborhoods further into southeast Baltimore such as Canton, Highlandtown, Greektown, O'Donnell Heights, Brewers Hill and Patterson Park. Sure these Neighborhoods have sidewalks but walkability isn't all about sidewalks. How accessible is it to transit lines be they the Charm City Calculator or Rail Transit? This is what I will address in part of my walkability series.
No discussion on Southeast Baltimore can be complete without the Red Line. Indeed, the Red Line will increase walkability in Southeast Baltimore as well as every other part of the City and County it reaches. I don't however think that its current alignment through Southeast Baltimore is best for the Community at large. First of all, the fact that it's surface level along Boston St. will create more traffic and therefore decrease effective walkability for the area is a problem. It should also be noted that Boston St. is not nearly as high density as other parts of Southeast Baltimore. While retaining the same amount of riders in Fells Point and Canton, the Red Line will be able to gain riders in Uppers Fells Point, Highlandtown, and Patterson Park all of which are higher density than Boston St. by simply relocating the Red Line in Southeast Baltimore to Eastern Avenue. This will be tunneled of course. 
With or without the Red Line, Southeast Baltimore needs representation on the Charm City Circulator. The Charm City Circulator is a free series of buses that connects to Baltimore's showcases, attractions, and institutions. The lines circulate from Downtown and branch out into Neighborhoods such as Fells Point, Locust Point, South Baltimore, Federal Hill, Mount Vernon, Station North, Little Italy, Inner Harbor East, Johns Hopkins Hospital, and University of Maryland Biotech Park among others.
Southeast Baltimore is undergoing something of a building boom. Canton Crossing has given Baltimore its first true Big Box Shopping Center with suburban style tenants. Brewers Hill is also seeing hundreds of new Apartments going up where vacant and blighted industrial buildings once stood. Greektown is seeing town homes going up where its vacant and industrial buildings once stood. O'Donnell Heights has been torn down and is seeing redevelopment as a mixed income Community. Highlandtown, although there's not much in the way of new construction is being rediscovered after decades of disinvestment and population loss.
The only way to increase walkability at this stage in the game for Southeast Baltimore would be a new line on the Charm City Circulator. This new route named the "Silver Line" would at first overlap other lines mainly so that riders may transfer. It would start at Howard and Pratt St. for a connection to the Light Rail, and just like the Orange and Green Lines would head down into Southeast Baltimore via President St. While the Orange Line stops short at Fells Point and the Green Lines turns north to Johns Hopkins Hospital, the Silver Line would continue Southeast to Boston St. in the heart of Canton.
Once in Canton, the Silver Line will follow Boston St. with stops at predictable places such as the Safeway, Canton Crossing, and the Canton Waterfront Park. Crossing into Brewers Hill, the Silver Line will continue along Boston St. picking up Residents in all of the new Apartments from the building boom(pictured above). Continuing still down Boston St. past the Baltimore Travel Plaza (of which  there will be a stop) the Silver Line will reach its eastern "terminus" at Gusryan St. A future stop at the proposed Amazon Distribution Center can be master planned in as well.
Gusryan St. runs through O'Donnell Heights(pictured above), a public housing development currently being torn down and redeveloped as a mixed income Community. Surely a selling point to lure new Residents in and welcome old Residents back would be a stop on the Charm City Circulator's Silver Line. The Silver Line will then continue north before turning westerly onto Eastern Avenue.
Along Eastern Avenue will be a stop at Hopkins Bayview Medical Campus on its way to Greektown. Greektown, like Brewers Hill is also in the middle of a building boom. The Silver Line will turn down Oldham St. which ground zero for new construction in Greektown. Town Home Developments like O'Donnell Square and Athena Square (pictured above) where blighted industrial buildings once stood are selling like Hot Cakes. The Silver Line will then turn onto O'Donnell St. for a few blocks before turning up Haven St.
Once on Haven St. the Silver Line will make another left turn onto Eastern Avenue. It is here that the northern part of Canton will have access to the Silver Line as well as the Communities of Highlandtown and Patterson Park with such attractions as the Patterson Theater and the Southeastern Branch of the Enoch Pratt Free Library. West of Patterson Park the Silver Line will begin to overlap the Green and Orange Lines as it makes its way back Downtown. It will pick up Baltimore St. in Charles Center via President St. for a transfer to the Metro while ending its circulating route back at Howard St.
In all fairness Southeast Baltimore is quite walkable with its plethora of sidewalks and narrow street grid with a dense population. However there's always room for improvement such as a better aligned Red Line and its very own representation on the Charm City Circulator. Stay tuned for my final installment on my walkability series.


Anonymous said...

The problem is, that there already are bus lines going through Canton. botht he #13 and #7 buses go through Canton.and they travel nearly empty through Canton

I myself live in Highlandtown.and ride the buses.And have done so for over 20 years.Since I don't own a car.But the fact is that most Canton residents own cars.And they simply do not want to ride public transit

Canton residents will pay for a taxi, or Uber.But they wont pay $1.60 for busfare

So instead of putting buses in neighborhoods where residents do not want to ride buses, why not put more buses in areas where buses are so overcrowded, that they have to pass by passengers waiting at stops

In the poorer neighborhoods of Baltimore, buses are severely overcrowded.Yet the city government wants to spend money building lightrail in rich neighborhoods where residents do not want to ride public transit

Its an elitist position

Pete from Highlandtown

Marquis Jacques said...

So why does everyone I talk to that either lives out there or wants to go over there all agree that they need one and they would use it? I Believe some people would just rather not wait around for the MTA buses that are late all the time and free, quick local transit is the future and especially Baltimore's future. It's a major incentive to get new people to move here. They all love it.

Marquis Jacques said...

Also the MTA has a stigma attached to it. Their outdated, unreliable and for some reason, people have been scared to ride them for years. Before the Circulators, you didn't see people takeing the #1 through Fed and Locust Point, # 3 though Mt Vernon or the #7 through Fells. They either walked, rode a bike or mostly drove everywhere. Now most of those people take Circulators. So obviously it stands to reason it's the MTA buses people in general would rather not take. Not public transit in general. In Charles Village it not just students that that take the free Hopkins shuttle to mt. Vernon then catch the Purple the rest of the way.