Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Northeast City/County Transit: Fail

Mandatory Heavy Rail? $1 Billion Plus I-95 Toll Lane Expansion?, Lack of Quality Stops? It's no wonder expanding the Green Line from Hopkins to Morgan is dead on arrival let alone further expansions into Parkville, Fullerton, White Marsh, and Martin State Airport/MiddleRiver. These extensions, whether or not they will ever come to fruition are herby dubbed; FAIL!
The 1986 Subway Master Plan included a Northwest to Northeast Line (The Green Line) but they decided to halt further building once the Line hit Johns Hopkins Hospital. It was during that time that the Light Rail became a cost effective and therefore popular method of Rail Transit. Light Rail allows for surface level transit (which adds to traffic congestion by the way) thus killing tuneled Transit as we know it. I'm a friend of tuneled transit and I can't seem to accept the death of a good friend so I will do all it takes to revive it.
Light Rail can be tunneled but its costs are almost as high as Heavy Rail which is why the Red Line has almost no tunnels. With the Green Line, Light Rail is not an option. The Green Line is already built from Owings Mills to Johns Hopkins Hospital as a Heavy Rail Line, therefore any and all extensions must be Heavy Rail as well. Heavy Rail can't be surface level because crossing the tracks will involve crossing an electrified strip that will kill you instantly. If Heavy Rail were at surface level, it would have to be in the middle of an undeveloped swath of land which doesn't make for good transit.
Speaking of bad Transit, the 2002 Baltimore Regional Rail Plan does have a full extension of the Green Line including Morgan State, Northeast Baltimore City, Parkville, Fullerton, White Marsh, and Martin State Airport. What's so bad about that? Well there's nothing wrong with the aforementioned County Stops but noticed that from Morgan State University to the County I call it "Northeast Baltimore City" rather than name of City Neighborhoods that the Green Line will stop in.That's because it bypasses City Neighborhoods and travels along Hillen Road/Perring Parkway. Perring Parkway along this section of the City is home to Mount Pleasant Park, a vast Park with an 18 Hole Golf Course. That is what seperates North Baltimore from Northeast Baltimore.The Stops here will require that riders (if any) will have to park their cars somewhere because this area has no walkability. Mount Pleasant Park is a City Gem so TOD here will be out of the question therefore the Green Line will have to be tweaked to maximize ridership.
How should the Line be tweaked?Well, I'm glad you asked because I have come up with such a plan that will maximize ridership between Morgan State University and the County Line thereby giving Northeast Baltimore its rightful place in Baltimore's Rail Transit Network. After the Morgan State/Northwood Plaza Shopping Center Stop, it will turn east onto Argonne Drive meeting Harford Road. When Harford Road meets Coldspring Lane/Moravia Road it will be a Lauraville Stop.Still traveling up Harford Road, there will be a Hamilton Stop at its intersection with Hamilton Avenue. The Line will once agian turn east onto Hamilton Avenue, which becomes Frankford Avenue east of Walther Avenue. At Belair Road, there will be a Waltherson Stop.
Traveling north along Belair Road there will be an Overlea Stop at the City/County Line. Now I admit that density is not the highest in these Neighborhoods but it's higher than Mount Pleasant Park. Belair Road does have a lot of vacant Car Dealerships which could make for a small amount of TOD.
For the County Stops, the Line will continue along Belair Road until it meets White Marsh Boulevard which it will travel along until it ends in Middle River. The White Marsh Mall area still has undevloped land for TOD and the Mall itself can have its surface lots developed for additional TOD and the Mall could have Offices and/or Apartments directly above it.
Now, none of this will happen in the near future. It has been made very clear that the State wants the northeast City/County Region to be dependent on cars. The State has been in this mind set in the DC Area as well rather than build the Purple Line, they built the ICC and in Baltimore instead of extending the Green Line they're extending I-95 by adding Toll Lanes, and redoing its interchanges with I-895 and I-695. Both DC's Purple Line and the extension of Baltimore's Green Line could have been funded and paid for by diverting the funds from the ICC and the I-95 Toll Lanes and simply using to fund the Transit Lines that if done right will relieve conestion on the existing street infrastructure and not cause so much pollution from the cars during and after construction because, they will be riding Rail Transit instead. It almost seems too easy.
Now, The State has taken a stance against funding Hevy Rail. What they don't understand is that they're alotting sums of money equal to Heavy Rail by building more roads. That statement alone warrants me calling the Northeast City/County Transit a FAIL!

Monday, March 28, 2011

Red Line Option 4C: Fail

As much as Citizen's effected by the proposed Red Line Option 4C of all races and incomes; nothing has been done to change it. I guess the MTA has the view point that "as long as it's built, it's a victory" I'm here to tell you that viewpoint is deceivingly defeatist because they're not interested in quality just how little it costs.
That "build it out of the way" attitude will make the Red Line a failure. When something's out of the way nobody will go out of their way to get there. When building Transit, the Line and the stops they have to be in the middle of everything, all the traffic, all the attractions, all the high density housing, and as many transfer points as possible. That makes for the highest possible ridership which leads to clearer cleaner roads and the most revenue for the MTA. The icing on the cake is the contest of Artwork to hide the construction as it's built. Why would you want to hide it? If anything attention should diverted to the construction instead of away from it to gear up excitement and eventual ridership upon completion. Red Line Option 4C i dub thee; FAIL! What follows will be a section synopsis of Option 4C and why it is a complete failure.
Now lets start west and move east. We start in Woodlawn by the Medicare/Medicaid and Social Security Complex. Obviously this area is in dire need of redevelopment and hopefully the construction of the Red Line will free up some surface Parking Lots for TOD. Here's the problem; Homeland Security forbids the Stops to be at the door steps or underneath the Buildings. So, would be riders might have to walk further to a Red Line stop than they currently do to their cars or bus stops thereby failing to relieve traffic congestion in Woodlawn. Homeland Security has to lift this ban so large Government Complexes such as these will be able to conveniently access the Red Line with ease to give them incentive to leave the car at home.
Our next fiasco was actually corrected believe it or not. This one is on Cooks Lane where the original plan would be for a single tunnel. Now, with one single tunnel there will literally make for an underground traffic jam. If only one train can pass at a time, it will be faster to use your car on that stretch. The basic mission of Rail Transit is for a product that's faster than your car not slower. Luckily, someone had the presence of mind to add a second track so trains under Cooks Lane can pass each other uninterrupted.
This next obstacle is not as lucky as Cooks Lane. I'm speaking of course about Edmondson Avenue. Now before I can tell how flawed the Red Line on Edmondson Avenue will be I will have to ask you to ride the existing Light Rail on Howard St. Downtown. You're back? OK so you saw how horrific the results of ramming Light Rail down Howard St.?
Now you're aware that Edmondson Avenue is a very busy thoroughfare when passing through Edmondson Village and Uplands up to the MARC Station. Surely I'm not suggesting that the MTA is suggesting that the Red Line be rammed down Edmondson Avenue? I am, that's their plan. If you want to know the results of doing so just ride the Light Rail down Howard St. It's time the MTA stopped clinging its purse strings and actually put up the money to tunnel this portion.
On the other side of the West Baltimore MARC Station lies one of the biggest failures of all; The Road to Nowhere. Originally intended to connect to I-70 which was supposed to go through Leakin Park and connect to I-95 near Caton Avenue. Obviously I-70 ends suddenly as a Park & Ride lot at the City/County Line. The Downtown Spur, originally named I-170 has devastated West Baltimore since its 1976 opening.
The Red Line is supposed to have a stop along here. Rail Transit was Master Planned into this "Freeway" and that's what the Red Line will use. Now the Red Line and to some extent, the redevelopment of the West Baltimore MARC Station can and should be used as a catalyst to redevelop the corridor.Since the Road to Nowhere is below grade and along side the construction of the Red Line should be a development plan to guide traffic back to Franklin and Mulberry Sts. The Highway as we know it will cease to exist and new multi level development mixed use development and using the old highway as a combination of a local and open space. With that, new development can flourish throughout the devastated Neighborhoods that make up West Baltimore.
Now we head Downtown which the Red Line all but bypasses. It goes along MLK Boulevard quite possibly at grade level causing more traffic congestion and bypassing many Downtown landmarks and transfer points.
It continues along MLK Boulevard until Lombard St. where it travels tunneled along the vast expanse of behemoth Parking Garages one block north of the Inner Harbor. Its stops along here are very random and do not connect very well with all that Downtown has to offer. What's needed is a complete reworking of the Downtown Route of the Red Line. First will be a southeast "stair case" that will end at Pratt St.
This will allow for a Lexington Market Transfer Station to both existing lines, a UMB/Downtown Westside Stop, a Camden Yards/Convention Center Stop and a limited operation 1st Mariner Arena Stop used only during events. Once on Pratt St. (the City's show case), the Red Line will be surface level (it will only be service level aong Pratt St., all else will be tunneled) to "show case" Baltimore's World Class Transit Network with an Inner Harbor Stop. I know you couldn't read that last sentence without laughing sarcastically but a Man can dream right?
East of Downtown, the Red Line travels its most controverisal route (at least that's what the papers say) it will travel down President St. and turn southeast onto Fleet St. for Inner Harbor East and Fells Point Stops.
Although this area is relatively dense, an Eastern Avenue alignment would be denser and therefore would attract higher ridership. Now, we go down to Boston St. where development is sparse despite the Canton Crossing Development. Also this area would be better benefited from an Eastern Avenue Alignment. With the Red Line going along Eastern Avenue the above grade need to get to Bayview and the proposed East Baltimore MARC Station will be eliminated.
Speaking of Bayview and East Baltimore MARC, I have proposed a brand new East Baltimore Spur starting at President St. It will travel northeast accessing Washington Hill, Butchers Hill, Upper Patterson Park, Library Square, Orangeville (my preference for the MARC Station a TOD Haven) and then it will dip down to meet the Red Line at Bayview.
From there it will travel down to O'Donnell Heights which is undergoing redevelopment, Fort Holabird, Dundalk, Turners Statiion, and Sparrows Point.
Well that's my ambitious plan to take the Red Line out of the "Fail" Status. It's too important and the stakes are too high for a route that doesn't attract ridership.

Thursday, March 24, 2011

MARC Camden Line:Fail

This is one of the three MARC Stops on the Camden Line that will be discussed. This is the Dorsey Station which serves as the border between Howard and Anne Arundel Counties. It's also the southern terminus of the localized Orange Line I have proposed. While taking this photography excursion with Gerry and Peter I learned something very interesting;
The Camden Line Tracks are owned by the CSX while the Penn Line Tracks are owned by Amrak. CSX is not very conducive to Passenger so it dawned on me that modern TOD would shy away from this line. Is that the only reason the Camden Line is a Fail? Nope! There are more sinister reasons behind the scenes.First lets start at the Dorsey Station at the eastern edge of Howard County along Route 100. Route 100 is barely ten years old. Therefore, the MARC Station is also the newest along this stretch of the Camden Line if not the newest altogether. I had thought previously that discussing the Stations south of Dorsey wouldn't be relevant to this blog. My horizons have broadened and I have realized that what goes on outside of the City deeply effects what does or does not go on inside the City.
The Dorsey MARC, being as new as it is is also the most TOD ready. I am very much aware that the picture above is the antithesis of TOD. Buildings should be tall and parking should be under ground or at the very least, a monster parking garage should be built to free up these surface spaces for high density development. Speaking of garages, they have been the marker of "progress" for TOD in the region. The garages are built and that's supposed to make us think that "everything else" is coming soon. How long have the garages for Metro Centre at Owings Mills been up? And where's all the development that was supposed to follow? I don't know either.One last thing about the Dorsey Station, it's a maze to find Route 1. It's very easy to access Route 100 suggesting that in order to ride the MARC from the Dorsey Station, you must own a car and park it there. You can access Route 1 where there's a lot of dense development already built or is in the works. I would suggest blending the MARC Station with this new development for maximum walk-ability.
Next we come to Jessup's idea of a MARC Station. Dorsey didn't illustrate that the Camden Line is meant much more for Freight than passengers. Well here were in Jessup, also at the Howard/ Anne Arundel Border.The land uses here are very much of an Industrial nature. Then again, we're in the middle of the Howard County and State of Maryland Prison District. TOD here would be a hard sell. Then again, people complain about the lack of affordable housing in Howard County. Howard County Residents don't like affordable housing, they like the concept but they always want it somewhere else.Well, the Jessup MARC Station could be redeveloped as an affordable housing haven with easy access to the MARC line and therefore the DC Metro and what ever Baltimore passes as a Rail Tansit System.This location is out of the way enough to satisfy even the most arrogant Howard County McMansion Owner. As for Residents? Beggers can't be choosers and this will be an answer to the question of where people will be relocated to when I talk about tearing Section 8 and Public Housing Developments.Our last stop is the Savage MARC Station where there is the most potential out of pretty much any MARC Station in the entire region. This area is booming but the MARC Station suggests otherwise. Why? Because all the development that has recently come up about a mile away is no way shape or form integrated into the MARC Station.I will give Savage some credit; it seems more passenger oriented than Jessup and there are TOD Plans in the works. I figured with the coverage this area has gotten that a garage would have been built to make create the illusion that more construction is on the way. There is no garage.
Here Savage is perhaps the biggest failure of them all; BRAC, just beyond those elevated road signs in the distance lies jobs for thousands and thousands more to come. With BRAC, in addition to more Military Personnel coming to the Maryland Area, the number of Defense Contractor Jobs is staggering.We drove over to "National Business Parkway" and saw our State's Future. The question is; how do they from the MARC Station to their Office Buildings? They can't. Here's where the relevance of Baltimore City comes into play; Baltimore City is the only Jurisdiction in the area that can support BRAC without creating additional sprawl because the infrastructure is already there.
The result of BRAC related Business? Additional sprawl. Roads all around Fort Meade are being widened as the dependence on one's car appears to the order of the day for the BRAC boom. Baltimore City, built for a population of 970,000 will most likely hover at 640,000 while its suburbs will be forced to deal with the bottle neck of traffic and over crowding of Schools all because the BRAC Mega Office Park wasn't built near the MARC Station where Personnel could have found more bang for their buck in the City. FAIL. (I'm aware that said development can't located near mass transit for Security Reasons which is something that needs to be addressed)

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Baltimore Rail Transit: Epic Fail

The term "epic fail" was made popular by a site called the "Fail Blog," it shows pictures and words that were big mistakes and are given the term "fail" sometimes if something is a huge failure, the term "epic fail" is used.
I recently went out with fellow bloggers to take pictures of MARC Stations in Howard County, all of which are on the Camden Line or the Orange Line if localized. My Colleagues asked me what written post or posts I have in mind to go with these pictures. I did not have an answer at the time which is not unusual when I take pictures and eventually the written word comes later.
Obviously if I meet up with seasoned Professional Planners and current Bloggers; Peter Tocco and Gerald Neilly, Mass Transit WILL be discussed at great lengths. When I had some brain storming time to myself (much later) I came to the conclusion that when it comes to planning and building (or not building) Transit Lines, and the TOD that should accompany it, the Baltimore Region has failed in multiple categories. With so many failures, I hereby dub transit in Baltimore an "Epic Fail"
So what's the post? This isn't it what I have come up with will be a serious of posts that will closely examine "Fails" that both have been built and are proposed. Stay tuned for multiple "Fails" I'm sure you won't be surprised.

Monday, March 14, 2011

Lowes:The Beginning of New Development in Remington

I had wanted to do an uninterrupted series of posts regarding the Jones Valley and issues surrounding the Neighborhoods nearby. Fortunately or uunfortunately, however you want to look, at it my brain comes up with new post ideas that have nothing to do with a "series" I'm working on so I write a post that has nothing to do with the series because I don't want that new idea to fade but the end result, like in this Jones Falls Series, the posts in the series are "broken up." Well with that out of the way, I give you my latest on the Jones Falls.
This time last year, the redevelopment of the Anderson Auto Site in Remington was the focus of every News Junket. What's being proposed is a Lowes Home Improvemnt Warehouse, Grocery Store, smaller stores Staples and Ana's Linens were listed as examples and New Town Homes at 25th St. and Maryland Avenue. The Retail Development, like the Anderson Honda and Chevy Dealerships slated for closure, is located along Howard St. at both the 24th and 25th St. Intersections. With this new development in Remington's Eastern End, the Howard St. Corridor will surely be transformed and my question is; Why Stop There?
The area I have in mind has a lot of Neighborhood "Labels" it's been called Remington, South Charles Village, Charles North, and Old Goucher. For all intensive purposes, I will call it Remington. It's above North Avenue, below 24th St., east of Falls Road, and west of Mace St. It's predominately light Industrial with a few Row Homes on the western end. I had assumed the Row Homes, being surrounded by so much industry I was pleasantly surprised that the Row Homes are in great shape and it's a nice little Community.
With the new development above this little section of Remington is completed Howard St. will be completely transformed and the area in question will then look out of place. With the dealerships in place, the land uses between them and North Avenue are very appropriate but when the new redevelopment is completed, the Impound Lot and Collision Center, that dominate the landscape below Anderson Automotive, will stick out like a sore thumb.
I always somewhat disappointed that the Lowes Project didn't have a larger Residential Component. This can be rectified be redeveloping the light industrial land along from Howard St. to Falls Road in between North Avenue and 24th St. as Apartments and Condos that look like the Row Homes already in the Neighborhood.
The Apartments will allow for a higher density, will be compact and urban in appearance, and will be only three stories tall so as not to take away from existing housing. They will have underground parking so as not to crowd the already narrow streets with parked cars. Usually buildings like this may have ground floor Retail. I have elected against this because I don't think there will be a large enough market to support said businesses.
The existing Row Homes are in great shape and almost all occupied. With more focus on the area around them I think whatever is currently vacant will be reoccupied very soon.
Streetwise, the urban grid will be restored. Huntington Avenue will be extended northbound to
24th St. and southbound to 20th St. Hampden Avenue will be extended southbound to 21st St. All east-west streets 20th-24th will be extended to meet Falls Road reconnecting the area to the Jones Falls. All existing Roadways will be resurfaced and sidewalks re cemented. Landscaping will also be a big priority.
With the Anderson Auto Dealers leaving and Lowes taking its place, the landscape of Howard St. and Remington will be forever transformed. It's time that the area diretly below be examined and take similar steps to transfer form that area as well.