Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Light Conway and Charles: Make way for Transit!

I wasn't very clear on the vehicle types that would be used on my new Red Line, most importantly my proposed surface alignment on Pratt St. (my last post) it would include the latest advanced Light Rail vehicle that does not require over head lines powering the train. When I talk about any type of new Light Rail lines just assume this is the train model I'm proposing. For the existing Light Rail, I would like to see it upgraded to this model of train to make it less invasive when it's at surface level. Past Pratt St. the Blue Line will go underground using existing CSX tunnels which will be vacated.
Downtown, I wish I could have more surface transit but it's time to face facts. With the Yellow Line branching off of the Blue Line it will make several sharp turns. First it runs down Conway St. then to Light St./St. Paul St. where it meets the Green Line in a stop that's already setup for a second stop.
Then up Calvert St. to Penn Station. I wanted to make this surface level from Howard St. to the Light and Pratt intersection but it will have to be tunneled for the sake of vehicular traffic.
Except for the Red Line on Pratt St. there's no room for surface transit. The Charles St. Trolley Line running from Pratt St. to University Parkway in Charles Village. Charles St. from Pratt St. to University Parkway is plenty wide enough for surface transit. In fact, it could stand to be narrowed down to two lanes the entire distance. The Trolley Line will be in the middle of the street and one lane of through traffic on either side. Turn lanes will be installed for turning vehicles. The line should reduce traffic between the Inner Harbor and Charles Village. I had originally planned for the Charles St. Trolley to go south of the Harbor but it's too narrow. The only way to make it happen would be to take away on street parking and or make it a one way street in Federal Hill. Charles St. in Federal Hill is a Main Street and the Trolley Line would take away from businesses there vs. Charles Center, Mount Vernon, and Station North where it would add vitality.That being said, the roads Downtown, with or without additional rail transit are too wide. I had planned on narrowing certain streets and intersections to make way for the Yellow Line, which I had thought would be at street level. With the Yellow Line in tunnels I decided to narrow those streets anyway to allow for an efficient flow of traffic. The first street to be narrowed besides Pratt and Charles would be Light St. Southbound, It will lose one lane of through traffic and one right turn lane onto Conway St.
Northbound, it won't veer off to the right creating a second Pratt St. intersection. Northbound Light St. will have one right turn lane onto Pratt St. The rest will continue to Calvert St. This now useless oversized "turn lane" will be the location for the Red Line's surface level Inner Harbor Stop. One block to the west tunneled will be the Yellow Line's Inner Harbor Stop.McKeldin Park would be expanded seeing as its surrounding streets will be narrowed. The median of Light St. will be widened and redesigned to make the McKeldin Park into a Preston Gardens type of Park between north and southbound Light St. up to the Key Highway Split which does NOT need a roundabout.
In order for these streets to be narrowed there needs to be another southbound street that leads to I-95 from Baltimore's Downtown and Central neighborhoods. That street is Howard St. Howard St. turns into I-395, the nation's shortest interstate and dumps Downtown traffic onto I-95. What most motorists do is take St. Paul/Light St. to Conway St. to I-395/Howard St. for this. Howard St. died two deaths, the first when it was turned into a Pedestrian Mall (thank you late '60s early '70s urban renewal) and the second when the Light Rail was rammed down it. Reopening the Pedestrian Mall to vehicular traffic wasn't enough to revive it. It lost too many lanes of traffic to the Light Rail, even more so when double tracking was put in. A lot of Howard St. Downtown because of the Light Rail is one way Northbound.
With the Light Rail tracks tunneled in the soon to be vacated CSX tunnel Howard St. can experience a rebirth as a two way street for its entire length with on street parking to pump new life into new retail that will result. Most importantly, Howard St. will be a vital link to I-95 for southbound travellers relieving congested streets like St. Paul/Light St., Conway St., and Lombard St. I will not discuss Lombard St. because it's worthy of its own post. Well Light, Charles, and Conway Sts. have made way for transit and a much smoother and efficient vechicular traffic, remember wider isn't always better.

Well guess what? This is my 100th post! I've enjoyed writing, researching, and photographing every last one. Here's to another 100! If you've enjoyed reading a fraction of much as I have writing this blog you've made me a happy man.

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