Thursday, April 7, 2016

The Green Line: Why Perring Parkway?

After Larry killed the Red Line, it was clear that any and all new rail transit wouldn't happen here in Baltimore. So why am I talking about extending the Green Line, a project that was dead on arrival long before Larry took office? Well Baltimore needs a properly functioning Rail System that provides coverage for all corners of the City and their inner ring of suburbs. As such, I'm going to make and talk about proposals regarding transit until it's done and it's done correctly and efficiently.
The Green Line as it exits today begins at Owings Mills and ends at Johns Hopkins Hospital. When completed, the Green Line will continue north and then northeast to Martin State Airport via Northeast Baltimore and White Marsh. This extension will serve areas of the City and County that are currently under served by transit. In order to ensure that maximum ridership is obtained at every stop, careful planning must be done to stops in the right place. This may cost more money but doing it right pays off in the long run.
The planning of the Green Line Extension ends at the Right Place (Martin State Airport) but its journey isn't correct. The fact that it travels the length of Perring Parkway through the remainder of its stint in the City. For those of you who don't know Perring Parkway, it's quite a sparse area. It's an suburban boulevard in the City that was meant to be the Perring Freeway but that idea was killed. A quick look at Mount Pleasant Park shows where on ramps and off ramps would have been had the Freeway been built as such. This sparse roadway doesn't make for a good transit line route. If you want a good route, look for high density. The higher the density, the higher the potential ridership.
After the above paragraph, I'm sure you're wondering why Perring Parkway was chosen as the Green Line's Route through the City. I can tell you exactly why; It's cheap and easy. It's cheap because it doesn't have to be tunneled and it's easy because it's going almost exclusively through parkland. Now I've never favored the cheap and easy alternative unless it was otherwise the best alternative. In this case, going through parks and golf courses won't attract the maximum possible ridership. So now that I've told that I have no interest in locating the Green Line extension in the City along Perring Parkway, where do I want to put it instead?
My choice is the more populated Harford Road for the Green Line in the City. Perring Parkway's big draw was Morgan State University, however with Harford Road, a stop at Argonne Drive will ensure that Morgan Students and Faculty will still have adequate access to the Green the Line and therefore the City. Given that Mount Pleasant Park is just a park and Harford Road goes through a large succession of Neighborhoods, ridership will increase.
In addition to the ridership increasing, the cost of building the Green Line along Harford Road vs. Perring Parkway due to the fact that Harford Road will have to be tunneled. Sometimes the best way to build a transit line isn't always the least expensive. If Perring Parkway were to be the route for the Green Line, Lauraville, Arcadia, Beverly Hill, Moravia Walther,Waltherson, Westfield, Glenham Belar, North Harford Road, and Woodhome Heights all wouldn't have easy walkable access to a transit line. With Harford Road being the route for the Green Line, they all would and Harford Road itself with its budding Restaurant District would see more feet on the ground.
Going the cheap route is nothing new for Baltimore transit. Evidence of this can be found on the existing Green Line. On Wabash Avenue fir instance the line isn't tunneled. Instead, it's above ground using an unsightly overhead bridge that hinders redevelopment along the aging corridor. Had the tunnel extended up Wabash Avenue, the TOD potential is much greater.

Above Northern Parkway, the Green Line turns its back on the Communities it was meant to serve. I-795 was supposed to go inside the beltway and connect to Wabash Avenue and that's the right of way the Green Line took. If the Green Line were to tunnel down Reisterstown Road, the communities of Glen, Fallstaff, Pikesville Woodholme, and Garrison all would have had transit stops at their front doors. The Green Line would end at the same point in Owings Mills. It would have just gone down Reisterstown Road and then Painters Mill Road to get there.    
So why Perring Parkway? Simple, because it's cheap. However as I have said, the cheapest transit line doesn't always make the best as is seen with the existing Wabash Avenue situation.

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