November 1, 2007


Greektown as seen from Bayview - with parking lots in the foreground and (left-to-right) Canton Crossing, Brewers Hill, and the Crown Building on the horizon. Interstate 895 is in a gully just behind the hedge.


There has recently been a minor victory for the forces of reason and logic in transit planning. The Baltimore Metropolitan Council and Maryland Transit Administration have both extended their 2015 Red Line plans to include the Hopkins Bayview Research Park. What the MTA has finally done is extend their Red Line from Canton to Bayview on the old vacant freight railroad right-of-way between Canton Crossing and Highlandtown. So at long last, it appears that they actually like the routing that I have been pushing for years, at least as far as how it would physically exist.

The rail plan's most obvious and glaring need has been corrected - to establish, in our lifetime, a rail transit connection to an East Baltimore MARC station, so that the MARC system can have some semblance of integration with Baltimore's regional transit system - something that is taken for granted in Washington, DC and most other cities with actual functional regional transit systems.

The MTA Red Line alignment now coincides with the BaltimoreInnerSpace proposed Green Line alignment between the Greektown-Highlandtown station at Eastern Avenue (lower left) and Bayview. My plan proposes a transfer at this point to Bus Rapid Transit at the south end of the billion dollar I-95 express toll lanes (shown in blue). The land highlighted in purple is proposed transit-oriented edge cities. To the right, east of I-895, is the current Hopkins Bayview campus. This should be expanded into the central area west of I-895 and north of Greektown, and made integral to both.

But the MTA still apparently thinks I am a raving idiot for wanting to connect this segment directly from Bayview to the Hopkins Hospital Metro via the high powered Amtrak right of way, which would take Metro trains only about 5 minutes plus 3 more minutes to get downtown, with very little new tunneling necessary. The MTA still wants to run their Red Line route from Bayview (very expensively) under and/or (very slowly) on the surface of streets in the waterfront neighborhoods (very disruptively) from Canton or Highlandtown to Patterson Park to Fells Point to somewhere downtown that is not close enough to the existing subway (very inconveniently).

The MTA's waterfront Red Line also does not encourage new development where that development has not already been happening anyway, even without good transit, so that the new residents and workers have already become accustomed to depending on their cars. This waterfont development is thus not truly transit-oriented.

I will admit that the new MTA route to Bayview actually has one advantage over mine. It does not require splitting the line in order to serve Bayview. All trains would serve all stations. That is also an improvement over the original 2002 MTA plan which had the Red Line split off into two branches at Patterson Park, with one going southeastward down Boston Street to Canton and the other going eastward on Eastern, northeastward to Bayview, then southeastward to Dundalk. That would have been even more expensive and awkward.

So I have learned a lesson from the MTA and their army of consultants. As a result, I have slightly modified the routing of my Green Line extension so that it shall continue along the Amtrak right of way a bit farther east from Orangeville to Bayview, and then curve back to the southwest along the same abandoned freight railroad siding used in the MTA plan, and then as due southward as previously proposed to Highlandtown, Brewers Hill and Canton Crossing.

My proposed Metro Extension, showing its relationship to the existing line between Downtown and Hopkins Hospital to the west, the I-95 express toll lanes now under cosntruction to the northeast (in blue), and a future network of transit-oriented edge cities from Orangeville to Bayview to Brewers Hill to Canton Crossing (in purple).

Bayview should thus be an integral station along the line that includes the following stations:

Charles Center Station - Existing Metro Downtown station, already built, on the way to Owings Mills.

Shot Tower Station - Existing Metro subway station.

Hopkins Hospital Station - Existing Metro subway station at Baltimore's biggest employer.

Berea/Madison Square Station - New above-ground Metro station on Eager Street serving two very important but rather forgotten neighborhoods.

Orangeville MARC Station - at Edison/Monument Streets, this is the best place for an East Baltimore MARC station because it could be easily integrated into a comprehensive feeder bus terminal and would have an easy 6 or 7 minute ride to the Charles Center Station, thus making the
MARC line to Cecil County an integral part of the Baltimore region transit system and thus able to intercept long distance regional automobile trips. Orangeville also has a tremendous acreage potential for transit-oriented development.

Bayview Station - Probably the station area that is most at the policy crossroads for either continuing its auto-oriented maximum-parking configuration, or becoming a truly urbanized transit oriented edge city.

Highlandtown/Greektown Station - The proposed transit station on the Eastern Avenue overpass just east of Haven Street would be the centerpiece for two vibrant transit-oriented urban villages. Highlandtown and Greektown would be poised to become the true Fells Points of the 21st century, as the "other" (original) Fells Point evolves into a touristy fantasy playground.

Brewers Hill Station - This is where the real development action is happening NOW, defying the negative real estate market of 2007. The big question is whether its further development to the east will sprawl into the industrial wasteland of what is now a sea of parking spaces, or whether it will be truly transit oriented.

Canton Crossing Station - This station would tie the regional transit line back into the waterfront, at the location where it can really make a difference. Charles Center to Hopkins Hospital currently takes 3 minutes. This line would add about 4 minutes more to get to the new East Baltimore MARC Station, 2 more minutes or so to Bayview, and maybe 4 minutes more to Canton.

Compare that to the MTA plan, where vehicles could spend longer at one traffic light than they may take between two stations in my plan. The MTA plan would be functionally obsolete before it is even finished.


The Bayview to Canton corridor will be the "end of the line" for regional rail transit to the east for a long, long time. The Baltimore Metropolitan Council plan says this in its long range plan for the year 2035, because it shows no more transit during that time. But even more compelling is the fact that the state is now building the billion dollar I-95 express toll lanes in that corridor. No regional rail transit project will be able to compete with express buses that can go 65 mph to White Marsh and beyond. Nor should they try.

The I-95 express lanes will need to be extended beyond the existing construction limits in order for them to be useful. Sooner or later, the State will have to acknowledge this. It will make no sense to attempt to attract traffic into the billion dollar express toll lanes when this traffic will just hit major congestion at either end of the line.

This realization will NOT require that the new highway construction be extended. It will be more effective (and a whole whole lot cheaper) to simply designate existing lanes at either end of the billion dollar boondoggle for exclusive use by the express lane users, including buses.

So the proposed Bayview rail transit station should be seen as a natural terminus for the express toll lanes. Transit riders should be able to quickly ride the Metro extension from Downtown and Hopkins Hospital to Bayview, then transfer to express buses to ride in the new express toll lanes to White Marsh, Fullerton, Perry Hall, Fallston, Bel Air, Elkton or wherever. This transfer is shown in the photos here by the connection betweeen the Green and Blue Lines.

Making Bayview an intermediate stop between Canton, Hopkins Hospital and Downtown also has some great advantages. None of the stations in East Baltimore would be more than three stations away from Bayview or MARC. Making the Bayview station an integral link rather than the end of the line as the MTA has done, there is nowhere left to go to extend the system.

It is unfortunate that nobody at the MTA or MDOT has thought this far ahead. They are still thinking of rail transit in terms of an end in itself, and highways as being another end to themselves. Both need to be integral parts of a comprehensive transportation system.

Accordingly, the rail transit component must be able to link MARC riders, express bus riders, and local bus riders as quickly as possible with the remainder fo the system. The rail transit must consist of short segments that tie the entire system together quickly and efficiently, rather than meandering around the congested waterfront streets to serve people who have already moved into their Fells Point houses and offices with every intention of getting around in their cars.


So Bayview is at a critical juncture in the evolution of travel patterns for the surrounding area. The Hopkins Bayview campus is growing rapidly but is still at the stage of filling up vast open spaces with surface parking to serve its predominately auto-oriented workforce.

In the future, as these surface parking lots are slated for infill development, the critical decisions must be made as to how many monster parking garages should be built to serve the new buildings and the workers who are already using the surface parking lots.

We must make sure that the future of Bayview is urban, to minimize the need for monster parking garages and maximize the human-scaled walkable environments.

The best way to do this is to tie Bayview into Greektown, and to make the transition zone between the two now-disconected areas the focal point for the new regional rail transit line and the express bus line to White Marsh. This transition zone is the space west of Interstate 895 and to the west of the existing Bayview campus.

Vacant parcel north of Lombard Street to be used by the proposed regional rail transit line.

Some of this area is already slated for urban development, particularly a truck teminal just north of Greektown, west of Oldham Street, and south of Lombard Street. In addition, the large parcel just north of Lombard Street between the CSX and Norfolk Southern railroad tracks is vacant and for sale. This parcel is right where the MTA has recently proposed putting the Red Line extension to Bayview.

But the really key parcel for bridging Bayview and Greektown is the MTA bus yard itself, located between Oldham Street and I-895. The bus yard is a constant annoyance to the Greektown community, with empty buses from a large part of the entire MTA service area coming and going at the begining and ends of their runs, and with heavy bus maintenance going on at all hours of the day and night.

MTA bus yard shown from Bayview toward the Oldham Street rowhouses in Greektown, with Downtown in the background. This bus yard is the critical link to integrating Bayview with Greektown and creating a seemless walkable transit oriented community.

The bus yard will be an extremely valuable and attractive parcel for development which essentially allows Bayview to become part of Greektown. A new pedestrian friendly road should be built over I-895 north of Eastern Avenue which should become a new east-west spine of Greektown and Bayview.

Another important parcel is the current Norfolk Southern truck to rail terminal north of Lombard Street and west of I-895. The new MTA Red Line alignment to Bayview also goes through this parcel. The Norfolk Southern freight terminal should be moved southward where it can serve freight from the waterfront, just as the CSX intermodal terminal at Sea Girt does. This parcel can also connect to the property south of Lombard via an opening underneath the Lombard Street bridge, thus making it part of the new urban area contiguous with Greektown and Bayview.

Under the Lombard Street Bridge. The land in the foreground is already slated for new urban development. On the other side of the bridge is the Norfolk Southern truck terminal, through which the regional rail transit line would run. All of this should be tied together with Bayview and Greektown with walkable transit-oriented urban development.

Looking eastward toward Bayview and I-895 from this same point.

This Norfolk Southern property would be ideal for a transit station that connects between the regional rail transit line and end of the I-95 express bus lanes. Transit oriented development would flow seemlessly from this multi-modal transfer station to the Hopkins Bayview Research Park and Greektown. Folks would be able to walk safely and comfortably between all three - such as walking to work in Bayview and to lunch in Greektown.

Once this is accomplished, the central focal point of Bayview will no loger be perceived as being in what is now construed as Bayview at all. The central focal point of Bayview will be at a location that is almost in Greektown. Perhaps Bayview will even seem like it is part of Greektown rather than an island "campus" unto itself.

We will be re-inventing history. In the 19th and 20th centuries, the city came first and then the suburbs. But in Bayview, Johns Hopkins has developed the suburbs first, with new buildings surrounded by seas of parking. The challenge in the 21st century will be to create a transit oriented urban center so that these Bayview "suburbs" are no longer the area's focal point and identity. The key is to build the urban center around which the suburbs can revolve.

This concept is also the key along the entire "collar" of Baltimore's inner city - to build a ring of new high density walkable transit-oriented developments that relate to the areas just inside it - Canton, Highlandtown, Greektown, Orangeville, Berea and Madison Square - while attracting major new development to areas that can handle it rather than disrupting the existing urban neighborhoods.

This is also a major reason why the regional rail transit system should be built along this transitional "collar" area rather than along the crowded urban waterfront streets in Fells Point, Patterson Park and other areas.

October 2, 2007

Heritage Crossing


Heritage Crossing, immediately northwest of Downtown, has been strongly criticized because it is not sufficiently urban for an inner city location, is too sparsely populated, and removed a much needed portion of the City's low income housing supply. The winding streets of detached and semi-detached houses set amid generous green spaces that replaced the high rise low income projects does look very out of place next to the tightly packed rowhouses around it.

Contributing to its image as an out of place enclave of suburbia in the middle of the city is the fact that its eastern and southern borders are a virtually impenetrable wall created by MLK Boulevard and the Franklin-Mulberry Expressway. In the photo above, the historic Perkins Spring gazebo is set against a backdrop that includes not only suburban-looking housing but also a large grassy mound of dirt that insulates the community from the expressway.

September 26, 2007

Transit Ride of the Near Future


Baltimore InnerSpace has discovered Google Earth, so we shall now apply it with the same untempered enthusiasm and prescience that we apply to everything we see about Baltimore, as in the glorious illustration generated above.

We shall have a transit system that does not make promises for the year 2100 or 2035, but one that changes the way we look at Baltimore right now, because the promises alone should be sufficient to fill our hearts with hope for the future. Great hope now is always better than dismal reality later.

So let's let the illustration above transport us to the Westport neighborhood, circa right now. Westport has a big beautiful waterfront (highlighted in purple) and a nice light rail line. Southward, it is our fast ticket to the whole world, via Baltimore-Washington International -Marshall Airport. We can get anywhere from here. After all, they named Google Earth after the entire planet and if you've used the software, you know they really meant it.

But let's ride the light rail northbound. Camden Station is only two stops away, where we could hop on a MARC train to Washington, DC - seat of power. There are two sports stadiums there too - for the Ravens (great!) and the Orioles (great if you're fans of the visiting team).

OK, it is granted that things bog down if you ride the light rail beyond Camden Yards and the Convention Center, up Howard Street. The City has never seen fit to give priority to light rail at the downtown traffic signals, and the MTA has not seen fit to connect light rail directly to the Metro, which constitutes rest of the regional rail transit system. And Howard Street itself, for all its charms, is not really perceived as being in the center of town anymore anyway. So yes, what we have in our light rail line is merely a work in progress - but let's put the emphasis on progress.

What we want is a rapid transit system that is (1) rapid, (2) really comes together in the center of town, (3) really connects to everything, and (4) creates an instant framework for rebuilding the city. This is all plain obvious stuff, right?

So there is a south line - from Downtown to Westport to Cherry Hill to the Airport to Glen Burnie. Now that the MTA has finally built a track in each direction, it's fast, once you get moving.

And there is a northwest line - heavy rail, the grandaddy of them all, with no conflicts for 14 miles all the way to Owings Mills.

But yes - north, east and west are now problems. North light rail goes a long way, all the way to Hunt Valley, and it's pretty fast, but only if you can get beyond the downtown bog on Howard Street. East is faster, but it goes less than a mile and it doesn't connect to any other transit at its terminus at Hopkins Hospital. It is unconscionable to have a rapid transit line with no transit connections at its terminus. That must change. And west we've got nothing.

We also need to do a better job of connecting our transit to people places. Building a rail transit line to Hopkins Hospital never prevented them from building a huge array of monster parking garages which undermine the promise of transit. So Hopkins Hospital, despite having a Metro terminus, is really just like all the rest of auto-dependent Baltimore.

But from now on, we're going to do it right, right? I can see it now !!!!!!!!!


So we're on that light rail train heading north from wonderful Westport (where over a billion dollars in new development is almost underway). Just after the next station for the Ravens Stadium at Hamburg Street, our alteration of current reality begins: The train immediately diverts from the existing tracks and turns right under the Interstate highway overpasses and enters a short tunnel under Henrietta Street, as shown in red above. The train then quickly comes back up to the surface on Light Street, just north of Key Highway in the heart of the Inner Harbor. To do this, Light Street can easily be narrowed into a civilized human-scale urban street to display the entire Inner Harbor in all its splendor.

Light Street will finally live up to its name - Light Rail on Light Street. The Inner Harbor tourist masses will then swarm to, instead of being repelled away from, Light Street like a beacon of light. The train stops twice for the Inner Harbor, and then dives back underground at Pratt Street to a Charles Center Station.

The Charles Center Station will finally resemble the central downtown station of any respectable modern subway system, like MetroCenter, L'Enfant Plaza, or Gallery Place in Washington, or Five Points in Atlanta. Believe it or not, Baltimore can do it too.

The next station in our journey is under Saratoga Street, called Lexington Market. The first set of escalators brings you up to Howard Street, where you can immediately board the old light rail line to go to Penn Station, Timonium or Hunt Valley. Transferring here to go north allows you to avoid the worst Howard Street bottlenecks between Pratt and Fayette Streets, and the city no longer feels like it is selling its soul to provide traffic signal priority for Howard Street light rail at its intersections with Centre, Monument, Madison, and Reed Streets. (The big traffic coupling between MLK and Howard can run at the same time and is thus not an issue).

The other end of the new Lexington Market transit platform under Saratoga Street connects directly to the existing Metro station, the north escalators of which can connect directly to a comprehensive bus transit hub on Eutaw Street north of Saratoga. So from here you can get anywhere else that the rail system won't take you.

Beyond Lexington Market, our new rail transit ride continues west. That makes sense, because as we've come up from the south, we've just completed our transfer opportunities to go east and north. Beautiful symmetry.


We emerge out of the tunnel almost immediately, just west of Martin Luther King Boulevard. On the left (south) side of the train are four lanes of traffic, two in each direction, where there were once three lanes going eastbound only. Two lanes in each direction is enough because the cars go underneath all the West Baltimore streets, just like the transit trains do.

To the right (north) side of the train, where once was the westbound traffic, there is now an extension of the idyllic Heritage Crossing development, known for its curvilinear pseudo-suburban streets, but now transformed into a truly urban transit-oriented community. We stop at the Heritage Crossing Station, located where neighborhood kids used to get their thrills dodging expressway traffic where Fremont Avenue once was before that.

We continue west from Heritage Crossing on our light rail train, now entering into the trench that for the decades of the '70s, '80s, '90s and '00s was West Baltimore's biggest scar. The trench is still there, but the highway is pushed up against it's south edge. On the north side of our train, the retaining wall for the elevation change is now used as a setting for many blocks of creative multi-level development, as shown in purple above.

Anyone complaining about the walled trench in Franklin-Mulberry will thus be as off-the-wall as someone complaining about the hills of San Francisco. The light rail will look upward at the inviting new buildings climbing the old retaining wall. Beyond that on the north side of Franklin Street are the gracious old Victorian buildings of Lafayette Square, finally being renovated after many decades of neglect.

Very quickly, we end our light rail journey at the West Baltimore MARC Station, which should now a comprehensive full service transit hub with buses to anywhere and MARC trains to Washington DC and other points between Delaware and Virginia.

The fact that this journey constitutes only a small piece of the proposed Red Line is not an issue. The buses and MARC trains at this terminal station can get you anywhere you want to go more efficiently than if the Red Line continued westward in the crowded Route 40 corridor.

More importantly, we have been able to pack so much new development and so many new travel opportunities into this small transit journey from Westport to West Baltimore that building the entire Red Line out into the suburbs hardly seems to matter anymore.

September 18, 2007

Westport: Edge City #1


Patrick Turner's billion dollar-plus Westport project should be fundamentally different from other recent mega-developments in Baltimore, and not just because of its size and its planned 65 story anchor, but because of the way it points out how things will need to be done in the future.

The fundamental difference is that Westport will absolutely need to be fully oriented to its adjacent station on the central light rail line, and not just because its there, but because the development will simply be too large and dense to provide sufficient access from its limited network of narrow local streets. New Westport residents, workers and visitors will need to rely on the light rail line to get them to and from the airport, downtown and Camden Station, to provide them with their lifeline to the world.

Looking west on Wenburn Street from underneath the light rail line toward the Baltimore-Washington Parkway. Narrow little Wenburn is the only street which connects directly from the future edge city of Westport to the B-W Parkway.

This points to a little recognized transit truth. Most people do not use transit because they want to. They use transit because they need to. Most New Yorkers and Londoners would not use their local subways if they had easy highway access to work and subsidized free parking. They would become like Baltimoreans and stay in their cars.

Transit advocates like to soft-peddle transit as providing an "option" or a "choice". But when transit really is a mere matter of choice, it is usually a choice not taken. And when transit is merely a choice, there is no thundering demand from the travelling public to make it a GOOD choice, so it becomes the travel mode of last resort by folks whose lives have gotten down to last resorts.

That is the current situation in Baltimore. It is commonly accepted that we have a lousy transit system, and everyone either grins and bears it, shakes their fist at whomever, or else stays as far away from transit as they can, whenever they can.

But the denizens of the new Westport will demand that their transit be good, because it will not be a choice. And the developers of the new Westport will demand that their transit be good, because if it isn't, they won't be able to sell their community. Westport will be like Manhattan.

Part of the future edge city of Westport as seen from the Westport light rail station. Port Covington and the Hanover Street Bridge are shown in the background beyond the Middle Branch.

This is in marked contrast to other major recent developments around Baltimore. It is ironic that the areas of Baltimore that are truly booming are the areas that have the poorest transit. Harbor East, Fells Point, Canton and the Key Highway corridor all have wretched transit access, but they have ample and mostly free parking, and this has carried them to success. Key Highway has excellent access to Interstate 95 and downtown. Canton has also excellent access to I-95 as well as I-895. Harbor East and Fells Point are becoming congested messes, but it is still far better to shuttle from your easy parking space up President Street to I-83 in air conditioned stereophonic splendor than to consider riding a bus.

On the other hand, the west side of downtown has more bus and rail transit than any other place in the region, but its redevelopment has been slow and tedious. All that transit looks like a strong asset on paper, but not where the rubber hits the road.

The whole recently identified concept of a "greater downtown" which extends all the way around the harbor and up to Charles Village is very much a response to the greater automobile orientation of downtown, which is no longer a compact place because collectively we want to drive there.

Westport must be different. Westport must use transit. There is no choice.


Planning for Westport should be a model for future planning, and expose the deficiencies in the way we conduct transit planning to bring it more into alignment with reality as normal people see it.

Building rail transit is actually a highly regarded endeavor among taxpayers in the Baltimore region. Most people seem to like the idea of building snazzy new non-polluting rail transit systems. But Joe Taxpayer wants to build transit so that it can be used by "the other guy", not himself. He wants to build transit so that other people will get out of their cars and leave the roads, gasoline supply and carbon allotments free for him.

This is not hypocrisy. It's rational freedom of choice - the very virtue that transit advocates extol. But the transit advocates have not translated this very rational attitude into transit planning. Transit advocates still try to sell transit as something that everyone everywhere should use. We should all jump on the bandwagon of the "transit lifestyle".

The Maryland Transit Administration's 2002 rail plan introduction in the first paragraph illustrates just how little resonance this concept really has: "Imagine being able to go just about everywhere you really need to go... on the train. 21 colleges, 18 hospitals, 16 museums, 13 malls, 8 theaters, 8 parks, 2 stadiums, and one fabulous inner harbor."

This statement exploits the wishful thinking that somehow if we had ENOUGH rail transit woven throughout our entire city, that people everywhere would spontaneously liberate themselves from their cars and dedicate themselves to the transit lifestyle. But it just hasn't worked and there is no reason to believe there is a critical mass transit "tipping point" whence it will work.

For example, take the three malls that just happen to be located along the existing Metro Green Line. Mondawmin is at the point in the region's transit system that has the very best transit access of any non-downtown location, and yet its degree of transit orientation has barely been an issue in its recent major redevelopment, which will include a Target, Marshall's and many other new stores. Reisterstown Plaza has undergone similar redevelopment, and yet is as disoriented to the transit line as ever. Owings Mills was developed in tandem with the Metro from the outset, with Rouse Company's successful goal to intentionally keep the mall as isolated from the transit line as possible. There is no way these three malls are going to be anything but automobile-oriented. Because they can.

Similarly, how can a Metro extension be any kind of agent for change to the north of Hopkins Hospital toward Morgan State and/or the Good Samaritan Hospital? Being heavy rail, this line would have to be either underground, which would be expensive out of all proportion to its use, or elevated, which would be a major blight on the community. At the same time, there is no evidence that the established communities along such a line would be at all willing to undergo the necessary transformation to greater transit orientation. Where could new high density development be located in the Harford/Hillen/Perring/Loch Raven corridor? The Morgan State University campus? The little Northwood Shopping Center? The vacant woodland around Good Samaritan Hospital?

Rail transit needs Westport-type developments to ensure that the transit service is indispensable. There is no place for a Westport-style development along a Metro extension from Hopkins Hospital toward Morgan State. So this corridor will not be transit oriented. Most of the people who live, work, shop, visit and go to school there will continue to drive, even if we spend a huge amount of money and attempt to turn the community upside down to build a Metro extension.

Meanwhile, regional growth has not just stood around and waited for us during the half century that we have spent talking about building a comprehensive rail transit system, and the region will not wait for us during the coming decades either. The Baltimore region now extends far outside the Beltway, and just about all of it was built by and for the automobile.

The good news is that it is much easier to build a transit system that is focused on the areas where the majority of people will really use it. All we need to do is identify those areas.

To summarize: It is futile to plan a transit system that attempts to be all things to all people, because that will simply give more people the ability to ignore it. We must plan the transit system for major new developments like Westport, where people will use it because otherwise, there will be no Westport.


Here's some good news: It is much easier and less expensive to plan a rail transit system around edge cities than it is to attempt to build the kind of comprehensive system that we have failed to build (or even specifically plan for) in the past fifty years.

Attempting to successfully weave a rail transit system into existing communities is extremely difficult. In contrast, planning a rail transit system around new communities, that can be oriented to the transit system from the start, is a much more straight forward task.

In Westport, the light rail station will be the front door to the community, just as surely as the front door on a house. There is no agonizing over how to design a house to get inside it. You need a front doorway. Even in the auto-oriented post-modern world where people enter their houses intravenously though the garage and seldom have contact with their surrounding neighbors, the front door is still a very important ceremonial element. Even if two-thirds of the trips to Westport still take place via the automobile, a one-third mode share for transit would still be a quantum leap over other new developments.

Compare this to the existing communities along the MTA's two high priority rail transit lines. Route 40 (Edmondson Avenue) suffers from a major identity crisis as it cuts through the Red Line neighborhoods. It carries an ungodly amount of traffic, making the houses upon which it impinges the least least desirable in the neighborhood. Rognel Heights, Edmondson Village and the other neighborhoods in the Route 40 West corridor are actually very attractive, but you would never know it by the front that is presented on Route 40. Its like a very nice house with a very repugnant front doorway.

Building an attractive rail transit line along Route 40 through such a community is almost impossible. Most obviously, with seven lanes devoted to overwhelming traffic, there simply isn't enough room to fit it in and build it right. The plan will probably call for widening the street still more, placing it even closer to the houses that are already far too close to the road for comfort. The transit line would then be stuck into the median strip, where riders would have to confront the traffic to get there, and then feel like they are drowning on a tiny lifeboat in a sea of traffic while waiting for the train.

Edmondson Avenue (Route 40) looking east, proposed MTA location for the Red Line. Obviously, the four foot median strip is not wide enough for a rail transit line, so widening would have to take place. The houses to the right are right on the sidewalk, so the widening would have to cut into the small hill on the left which separates those houses from the seven lanes full of traffic. The current relationship between the houses and the congested traffic is bad, and adding a rail transit line wouldn't make it any better.

The existing situation is actually much better for residents, most of whom live on the side streets away from Route 40. They can at least wait for the bus along the sidewalk where there is at least a tenuous connection to the community. Many of the buses turn off of Route 40 onto Wildwood, Woodington, Old Frederick and Caton Avenue, where patrons are able to wait for the bus in quieter, more civilized and more convenient locations. Or, for those residents with access to a car, the preferred alternative is simply to drive.

Many residents of the Route 40 neighborhoods believe that the Red Line is being planned for "somebody else", not for them. As previously discussed, this is common to transit planning - let the other guy take transit, not me.

The situation is even worse in the Green Line corridor extension north of Hopkins Hospital. Here the transit planners must deal with the straitjacket imposed by the fact that the line must be heavy rail, with absolutely no contact with its surrounding environment. Heavy rail employs an electric "third rail" which must be kept away from everyone at all times, necessitating that the transit line be either underground (unthinkably expensive and disruptive), fully fenced off (impossibly impractical, especially at intersections), or elevated (very ugly and inconvenient).

No one has come out and promoted any these bad alternatives.

Meanwhile, we are talking about a community that has already existed without a rail transit line for about 60 to 70 years and has already fully developed all its ways of moving around without rail transit. Sure, there will be some people who will embrace the new "choice". But like any other choice, rail transit will be a "take it or leave it" proposition, and most people will leave it, because they can and already have.

Transit planning around new edge cities is far easier and more straightforward. There is no imperative to provide transit everywhere, because development can be focused on the "front doorway" that is the transit station. In contrast, there will be pressure to maintain the existing costly bus service on Red Line streets like Wildwood Parkway and Green Line streets like Loch Raven Boulevard, thus creating redundant service that will undermine the ridership and efficiency of the new rail line.

Development can be organized and designed in such a manner to strengthen the front door transit station. Unlike the Red Line's Edmondson Avenue, which is home to the least desirable housing, and the Green Line's Hillen Road, where most of the houses and Morgan State campus turn inward away from the street, edge cities along transit lines can be oriented with a "clean slate" to create the optimum relationship between development and transit.

View Larger Map Click on this web link or on the controls above to zoom and pan on this map to see details of this rail transit plan and its satellite image.
Here is a Google Map showing a very modest expansion of the regional rail transit system, much less than what the MTA proposed in their 2002 plan as being "high priority". This plan is oriented around two more major new edge cities in Baltimore City, along with intimate new connections to the rest of the regional rail and MARC commuter rail systems, as described below.


The Canton-Bayview corridor in East Baltimore is already booming with new construction, although right now it is almost totally automobile oriented, with easy access to I-95 and I-895 and huge acreages for parking reclaimed from former industrial wastelands. If we want to make sure that the future is oriented to transit and not cars, we'd better act fast. If we do not act soon, the future will be limited to the amount of traffic that can be accommodated on the local streets and much of the growth potential will be used to maintain the space for cars instead of people.

The southern and northern anchors of Canton-Bayview are already in place, but there is a huge amount of development potential in between. Anchoring the south end, we have the First Mariner Tower on Boston Street in Canton Crossing. At the north end, we have the National Institute of Health on Lombard Street in the Hopkins Bayview Research Park. In between is a huge swath of developable land and three extremely charming neighborhoods - Brewers Hill, Highlandtown and Greektown. Lots is already happening, the Brewers Hill Natty Boh complex being the most significant. The Crown Cork and Seal Building appears to have the most architectural potential. It is located right next to Ed Hale's trucking company which is already slated for high density housing.

Another key parcel is the Maryland Transit Administration bus storage and maintenance facility, located squarely between Greektown and Bayview on Oldham Street. What could be more fitting than putting transit-oriented development on a parcel of land owned by the transit company?

Running along the entire north-south length of the Canton-Bayview edge city is an unused railroad right of way that would be perfectly suitable for an extension of the Green Line Metro from Hopkins Hospital. At the north end of this right of way, a MARC commuter rail station could be built to connect to the Green Line for commuting to and from Washington, DC, Aberdeen, Fort Meade and points in between.

But planning for such a Metro extension needs to begin very quickly so that development of the edge city does not get too far ahead of the transit planning. Once too much of the new development becomes tailored to automobile access, it will be very difficult to retrofit it for a transit orientation.

The very begining of the skyline of the future Canton-Bayview edge city, looking west from the Hopkins Bayview Research Park. In the left background is the First Mariner Tower at Boston and Conkling Streets, proposed terminus of the Green Line Metro extension from Hopkins Hospital. In the center background is the Natty Boh Tower in Brewers Hill. The more horizontal building to the right of that is the Crown Building. The Highlandtown Metro Station would be just behind that. Greektown is in the foreground, with a small bit of the MTA bus storage yard on the right.

Unfortunately, the MTA seems to think this whole idea of a Metro Green Line extension to Canton-Bayview is dumb. They prefer an extension to Morgan State and/or Good Samaritan, which would be far more expensive, far more physically disruptive, and have a much lower ridership potential. The MTA appears to be oblivious to the potential in Canton-Bayview for billions of dollars in new development tailored specifically to transit, and they prefer the idea of building a transit line to Canton on slow local surface streets amid all the existing traffic congestion.


While the proposed Red Line is fraught with problems along and beyond the Edmondson Avenue corridor as discussed above, it can work perfectly in the Franklin-Mulberry Corridor between downtown and the West Baltimore MARC station. This is where it would intimately serve the proposed Franklin-Mulberry edge city.

Looking east from the West Baltimore MARC Station along Franklin Street. The Franklin-Mulberry edge city would extend for approximately 1.4 miles eastward from this point. All the Route 40 expressway traffic could be consolidated to the south edge (toward the right in this photo) of this corridor, in the area now used only for the eastbound expressway lanes, without any overall decrease in traffic capacity or increase in delay. This would leave plenty of room for the new transit line connected directly to transit-oriented development in what is now the westbound expressway lanes, connected to Franklin Street. The building shown to the left is the Ice House, a perfect structure for adaptive re-use once the MARC station is upgraded and Franklin is converted into a local street.

Building only this portion of the Red Line which serves the 1.4 mile long edge city would have numerous benefits. The edge city would essentially be an extension of downtown and provide a huge anchor for the greatly needed redevelopment of the west side. The new development would also be extremely accessible to the MARC line for connections to and from Washington, DC, the military base relocations at Aberdeen and Fort Meade and intervening points.

Concentrating the dense new development in the Franklin-Mulberry corridor would also allow the surrounding communities such as Lafayette Square, Harlem Park, Rosemont, Penrose and Franklin Square to attain stability based on retaining and renovating the existing housing stock.

The MARC Station and Red Line terminus would also be an ideal location for a comprehensive transit hub serving all the bus routes in the west side of the region.

A very short rail transit line would thus have very large benefits, in creating development opportunities and organizing the structure of the regional transit system. The success of the Franklin-Mulberry edge city could demonstrate the power of transit-oriented development in an area that has seen very little development for decades, and provide an impetus for further extensions of the transit system and more transit-oriented edge cities.

September 6, 2007

Inner Harbor Red Line Transit Terminal


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The Red Line should be built in such a way that it transforms Baltimore's odd collection of fragmented rail transit lines into a true system. The Red Line needs to intimately connect to both the surface light rail line and the underground Metro line, and it needs to do it in a way that is visible and cannot be ignored. The Red Line needs to dominate the streetscape and penetrate the psyches of as many people as possible.

So the downtown Red Line needs to be underground with an intimate congestion-free connection to the existing Metro subway. But it also needs to be above ground, so that it can connect to the existing light rail line, achieve maximum visibility, and not cost a fortune. And it needs to do all this without getting mired in traffic congestion.

The Red Line as proposed in the 2002 transit plan fails on all counts. If it is built underground, it will still be at least a block or two away from the existing subway, it will be just as invisible, and it will probably be horribly expensive. If it is a surface line, it will not connect to the existing subway and will be mired in congestion. No one is even considering an elevated line, because it would be presumably unspeakably ugly.

Believe it or not, there is a way to design the Red Line to achieve all the advantages of both a surface and an underground alignment.

The advantage of surface transit in being seen should not be underestimated. It allows transit to become an integral part of the streetscape, and thus an integral part of urban activity and travel patterns. Underground transit is out of sight, and thus out of mind. Elevated transit may be visible, but it can be hard to get to, requiring escalators and all that. Surface transit can become ingrained in the urban fabric.

Planners have gradually, and sometimes painfully, learned how crucial the dynamics of street activity are to urban success. Planners in Baltimore have made the whole gamut of mistakes. They've built elaborate elevated walkway networks in Charles Center that weren't used and had to be dismantled. And even where they were used, they simply sucked the life off the street where it is badly needed. Planners have also built and unbuilt pedestrian malls such as on Lexington Street, creating artificial car-free zones. They've done and undone the same thing on a transit mall on Howard Street, which relegated transit activity into its own segregated zone where car users were able to ignore them, and thus ignore and abandon the entire retail district.

Now the planners' pendulum has swung into an overreaction to the other extreme. Planners who once railed against the automobile as the root of all urban ills have lauded the proposed widening of Pratt Street into a huge auto-dominated boulevard. Some actually say that congestion caused by clogged traffic can be a good thing, because it creates "vitality". They say that a huge asphalt Pratt Boulevard would evoke the Champs Elysees, but it would really evoke Detroit (pronounce it: De-twah, s'il vous plait).

Conclusion: What Baltimore REALLY needs is a rail transit system that has all the advantages of an environment with a minimum of traffic conflicts and a maximum of connections, but is still right there in the center spotlight of the urban stage where no one can avoid it, where it becomes an irresistible vehicle for urban mobility.


Downtown Baltimore has one street that is so excessively wide that cars cannot possibly need all of it, is so fully visible that almost everyone knows about it, and yet is so conflict-free that it has only one major intersection along a length of nearly half a mile. This is the perfect location for a Rail Transit Terminal for the Red Line.

The street is Light Street, between Pratt Street and Key Highway, immediately adjacent to the west shore of the Inner Harbor, the foremost icon and "people place" in the entire region. This segment of Light Street is ten lanes wide, but with only one major intervening intersection at Conway. It is currently utterly dysfunctional - Harborplace, the Science Center and the rest of the Inner Harbor totally turn their backs to it.

Between Pratt and Key Highway (shown here at Conway) is one of the most visible yet most oppressive environments in the entire city - the perfect place for a makeover to bring the entire regional rail transit system together so that it must be reckoned with.

Light Street is the perfect place to bring as much of the entire regional transit system as possible together to create an integrated whole. At the same time, it begs to be made into a people place, to be integrated with the west shore of the Inner Harbor which is regularly populated by thousands of touristas, oglers, scenesters and normal people too.

Part of the excessive width of Light Street should be devoted to the Red Line, in plain sight of the Inner Harbor. There should be a tunnel portal at the north end just south of Pratt Street, so the Red Line can then proceed underground north of Pratt to tie into the existing Charles Center subway station underneath Baltimore Street. North of that station, it should turn westward underneath Saratoga Street and tie into the existing Lexington Market subway station, with a new escalator portal at the intersection of Howard and Saratoga to connect to the light rail line. The Red Line should then come back out of the ground in the Franklin-Mulberry corridor west of MLK Boulevard.

Thus, the Red Line would be exposed to the world and the blue sky in all its flesh-and-blood glory on Light Street in the Inner Harbor between Pratt Street and Key Highway. And yet it would be underground away from downtown traffic as necessary to create intimate right angle connections to the existing subway line.

This Inner Harbor Rail Transit Terminal on Light Street would then become a perfect place to create intimate cheek-by-jowl connections between the Red Line and a streetcar system, including the proposed Charles Street line, the oughta-be proposed Fells Point streetcar line, and perhaps streetcars to Montgomery Park and Port Covington as well. All these lines could share the same platforms and probably even share the same tracks.

Light Street could also have a seamless connection to the existing light rail system. Another tunnel portal could be built at the south end of the Inner Harbor Rail Transit Terminal at Key Highway. The Red Line could then proceed underneath Light Street south of Key Highway, swing under Henrietta Street and come back out of the ground three blocks west at the Hamburg Street/Ravens Stadium light rail station.

Thus, the Red Line could extend all the way to BWI-M Airport and Glen Burnie, avoiding the nasty light rail bottlenecks on the surface of Howard Street. The existing south light rail line thus could actually be made into a real full-fledged regional rail line connecting with a minimum of conflicts to the Inner Harbor and the rest of the regional rail system.

Many years ago, the MTA tried to plan an Inner Harbor transit hub in this same location along Light Street, but got shot down by a pervasive case of bus bigotry. (You know: buses are smelly, declasse, etc.) Now here is an opportunity to do it the right way - redesigning the street from the ground up around the feel-good image of RAIL transit. The difference between rail and bus transit is like the difference between a Yugo and a Mercedes. They'll both get you from Point A to B, but you'd like to have one of them in your driveway alot more than the other.

Rebuilding Light Street also presents some long overdue design opportunities. All ten lanes of Light Street are absolutely NOT needed for traffic flow. And there is only one conflicting intersection to speak of, at Conway Street, to prevent the efficient flow of transit vehicles and pedestrians. This can easily be resolved by good design.

The intersection of Light and Conway is currently a hell-hole for pedestrians, who have been banned from the more popular but dangerous north leg across Light Street. The problem is that this banishment leaves the south leg of the same intersection as the ONLY place for pedestrians to cross for four long blocks. Obnoxious barrier median strips prevent crossing anywhere else.

The solution to the Conway pedestrian crossing problem is simply to create more pedestrian crossings along Light Street. Almost anywhere else would be a safer and less disruptive location for pedestrians than where they previously crossed.

The tunnel portals at either end of Light Street, at Pratt and Key Highway could be special opportunities for creative design, integrating form with function. Both of these intersections are also badly in need of pedestrian-friendly makeovers.Light Street simply cries out to be brought into the Inner Harbor environment. And transit needs to be brought into the mainstream.

In sum, an Inner Harbor Red Line Transit Terminal, in plain sight on the surface of Light Street, would be the single element that would make Downtown Baltimore a transit and pedestrian dominated environment. And it could be built without burying a fortune underground, and without creating a congestion stalemate between transit and traffic.

August 29, 2007

Port Covington


Port Covington is a perfect example of the problem that urban planners have with timing. Back in the 1980s, the huge old Western Maryland railroad yard on the north shore of the Middle Branch near I-95 was carved up by the CSX Corporation for redevelopment. City planners recognized this as a fantastic site for a huge bustling high density urban development, with a great waterfront, strong proximity to downtown and excellent access to Interstate 95. But a recession, a savings and loan scandal, and ongoing urban malaise made for lousy timing for any kind of grand ambitious vision.

But there was one business organization that was still thinking big - the Baltimore Sun. The Sun was talking about building a huge new headquarters out in the suburbs. They wanted to convey their optimism for the growth of their newspaper by elbowing their way into Washington Post territory.

This was viewed as a dire threat by Baltimore boosters. What could be worse than losing your hometown newspaper to suburban flight?

So a big complicated land deal was worked out between the Sun, the City and CSX to provide the Sun with a huge parcel in Port Covington. The Sun built a sprawling state-of-the-art printing press on one part of the land (see photo above), but they had plenty left over, including virtually the entire vacant plot shown above, and an even bigger parcel on the other side of the building. The Sun's original stated intention was to save the rest of the land for the eventual relocation of the entire business, editorial and other offices that are still located in their longtime downtown headquarters. The Sun's Port Covington compound was so big that they even gave it its own name - Sun Park - which sounds vaguely Korean, perhaps suggesting the perceived remoteness of it all. But the name doesn't seem to have caught on.

The Sun printing press set the tone for the rest of Port Covington - a huge horizontal structure that seems almost insignificant on a piece of land that is very much larger, surrounded by vast open spaces which in turn are surrounded by a security fence and gates that give it a forbidding feeling.

It is hard to say how potent the Sun's suburban threat ever was. Wouldn't the Sun lose its very identity if they moved away from their city home? Two decades later, the Sun's editorial headquarters is still downtown and Port Covington remains merely a remote adjunct for printing. It's not in the suburbs but it might as well be. Meanwhile, the newspaper business as a whole is suffering from a deepening identity crisis as "professional journalists" are getting increasingly defensive about the threats from other media, especially the internet.

But the vast Sun compound did establish the course for Port Covington's further development as a huge otherworldly enclave that still seems oblivious to the surrounding city. The only other significant project in the ensuing time has been a Wal-Mart and Sam's Club - two brands of the same retail empire.

Wal-Mart and Sam's Club were built straight from the suburban mold - sprawling one story buildings next to a vast sea of parking and situated so that they totally turned their backs to the adjacent waterfront. This is astonishing in a city that is seen as a pioneer and leader in the whole concept of waterfront-oriented development.

Here's a photo of Sam's Club, blocking the waterfront behind it. There's also lots of land left over.

It is hard to say whether the Sun complex or Wal-Mart/Sam's Club has been the worst drag on achieving Port Covington's urban potential. They each have their own iconic value. Wal-Mart, of course, is almost universally perceived by "progressives" to represent all that is wrong with capitalism, America, the globalism conspiracy, etc., etc. Similarly, bigtime newspapers are perceived by "the vast right wing conspiracy" as the source for liberal propaganda and the creeping march toward pinko socialism, etc., etc. But politics makes strange bedfellows, and the Sun must cater to Wal-Mart to attract advertising. The Sun also defended Wal-Mart against State legislation aimed at forcing them to pay more employee health care benefits.

Whatever way you look at it, the Sun and Wal-Mart are two huge blotches against the previously vast potential of Port Covington as a productive urban area.


The good news is that neither Wal-Mart or the Sun are doing very well at Port Covington, so they should both be amenable to change. It has recently been announced that Sam's Club is closing up the Port Covington store, so it should be interesting to see what takes its place. Will it be an obviously marginal business of some sort, chosen as a short-run space filler? That would probably be the best-case scenario, because in the long run, the Sam's Club building must go - it occupies and sqaunders one of Port Covington's choicest waterfront sites.

Here is a look at a waterfront view from the rear of Sam's Club that hardly anyone gets to see.

Meanwhile, the Sun has a dwindling circulation and so they probably realize that the huge swaths of land that surround their Port Covington printing press should not be held for future newspaper expansion, but should instead be treated as an economic asset for future development.

Other good news is that the rest of the South Baltimore peninsula is almost totally built-out now, and Port Covington is the final frontier. There is still more pent-up demand for the type of urban environment enjoyed by people in Federal Hill, Riverside Park and Locust Point. So the challenge will be to make Port Covington the next phase in the growth of South Baltimore, rather than the isolated wasteland that it is now. Planners have notoriously bad timing, but perhaps now is finally the time for the urbanization of Port Covington.

Finally, there is the fact that Port Covington is so huge that even with a couple of giant blotches like the Sun and Wal-Mart, there is still plenty of space to work with. The security fence surrounding the Sun printing plant site can be significantly tightened up, essentially treating it as a buffer in a manner similar to the very secure Federal Reserve Bank compound in Otterbein. This would free up a vast amount of new acreage for development.

Wal-Mart should be retained and treated as an anomaly. In the post modern era, irony is an accepted sign of the times. Wal-Mart is as image conscious as any other big retail business and they should relish the opportunity to adapt themselves to a real urban environment. They should realize by now that the old suburban paradigm certainly does not work at Port Covington, so in order to thrive, they should be ready for something new. On the other hand, Wal-Mart is already right next to the huge Locke Insulator complex which predates everything else around it, so the scale of the buildings can be worked with. Wal-Mart can thus be a transition between old heavy industry - no longer an aggressive threat in the post-modern world - and the new urban world of Port Covington.

The entrance to Wal-Mart has a great perpendicular view of the waterfront, so that can be exploited. Wal-Mart's parking lot is the key to creating an urban environment. It is now essentially a "land bank" for creating a new urbanism out of the old asphalt wasteland. With Sam's Club out of the way, this will become valuable waterfront land with real streets, buildings oriented to the streets and the water, and decked parking.


If we could turn back the clock to the 1980s and convince everyone that there would indeed be a time in the not too distant future when the demand for a South Baltimore style urban environment could overflow into Port Covington, then obviously the Sun, Sam's Club and Wal-Mart as we know them could have been averted. We would now have a blank canvas on which to construct the ideal Port Covington urban utopia.

But we don't, which may be OK. Urban planners often seem to do better when they have constraints anyway. The sensation of unlimited space is a major part of what got us into trouble in Port Covington in the first place, just as it often tarnished suburbia and the wild western frontier. The reasoning was: Port Covington had a huge amount of land, so why not just give huge amounts of it to the Sun and Wal-Mart? It was the modern version of 40 acres and a mule.
But urban space often is more successful with a context and a legacy than it is with a blank canvas. At Port Covington, we'll probably need both. We need all the help we can get.

Even Wal-Mart is a start. The City would love to have an urban Wal-Mart. Well, maybe the yuppies would hate it, but even they need to have something to rag about, and contrary to statements from some quarters, the entire city has not yet turned totally yuppie and there are still some people who live in houses worth under $200,000 and on down to about $2,000. These people need Wal-Mart products even if the vocal urbanistas don't.

So since the City has been unable to attract Wal-Mart to downtown or any other urbanized area, the City needs to try to extend its urbanized area to Wal-Mart.

There are a few other themes to work with. There is the new cruise ship terminal at the east end of Port Covington near the south end of Key Highway. Putting the cruise ships at Canton Crossing or Allied/Harbor Point was previously contemplated, but the conclusion was that they weren't really all that appropriate for a high density urban area after all, so they ended up at Port Covington. So what we have here isn't really an urban activity generator, but just another icon - a pleasant reminder of Gopher, Julie, Issac, and Doc on the "Love Boat". We'll take what we can get.

On the other end of Port Covington west of Hanover Street, there is a new non-museum complex being built by our National Aquarium. No, it's not an Inner Harbor-style activity generator, but it should be nice to look at.

Then there is Nick's Fish House (pictured above), wedged on a very isolated piece of the waterfront between the Locke Insulator complex and the Hanover Street Bridge. It's oldie and moldy enough so that some legends could be written about it, and these legends could serve the purposes for creating human interest whether they are true or not. Currently, HBO's "The Wire" is using Nick's Fish House as a production staging area, so maybe the legends are being written up right now. The next step would be to adapt the legends for the new development marketing campaigns.

So perhaps there is enough life in Port Covington so that an urban scene could spontaneously erupt, lit by the spark of big developers' money.

Besides South Baltimore, there is also much anticipated zillion dollar activity in Westport that could wash over to the Port Covington side of the Middle Branch. The photo above looks west at Westport (in the background) from Port Covington. There is talk of rebuilding the old Western Maryland Railroad bridge between the two sides for pedestrians and bikes. But it would probably have to wait until enough new "critical mass" was built in Westport to give it a good reason to be built and not a bridge from nowhere, much less a bridge to nowhere.

All of this would be great, but it is probably not enough.


Vast open spaces are not the only asset of Port Covington which could also be a liability. The excellent highway access is also a double edged sword. The big Interstate 95 overpass with McComas Street underneath creates a formidable barrier on the north side of Port Covington, and Hanover Street is also a barrier on the west side. The ramps, the loops, and the "jughandle" at Hanover and Cromwell help to preserve the traffic carrying capacity of the road system but add to the confusion. Hanover Street also bisects Port Covington into two pieces.

Not much can be done about the traffic. This road system channels traffic so that the traffic patterns in the rest of the South Baltimore are tolerable. Before the I-95/395 system was built, traffic on Hanover Street was intolerable all the way northward to Montgomery Street and the Inner Harbor, but now much of the traffic is channeled away and Hanover Street north of Port Covington is fairly livable (although not as livable as it should be.)

The "jughandle" at the intersection of Hanover and Cromwell Streets cannot carry much more traffic than it does now, and converting it to a normal intersection with left turn lanes would be much worse, especially for traffic coming off of I-95. It would also be exceedingly expensive to widen the Hanover Street bridge to add capacity.

The original Port Covington plan from the 1980s called for new roads to be built north of Cromwell Street, including an underpass under Hanover Street where railroad tracks used to go (see photo above taken from Dickman Street west of Hanover). This would create a new unimpeded connection between the portions of Port Covington on either side of Hanover Street, and provide a route for traffic to divert away from the jughandle.

The land for the road that would connect from this underpass to Cromwell Boulevard was reserved and never sold to the Sun. This right of way is shown above, looking northward from Cromwell. Hanover Street is just up the embankment to the left, while the Sun property is delineated by the white fence to the right.

Building these streets would allow the traffic jughandle to be eliminated and replaced with a street grid with more uniform urban design standards. Creating these new streets would be a way to open up a large amount of land to intense development on the western portion of the Sun property just to the east of Hanover Street and to the west of Hanover near Dickman Street.

This could be a strong impetus to reconfigure much of the Sun site to make it more amenable to urban development, from Hanover Street all the way eastward to the Wal-Mart site. The key is to make all of Port Covington flow in an integrated manner, to create a perception of a large waterfront community. Right now, the Sun property does not feel like waterfront land. It does not even feel like it is attached to anything, for that matter. But geographically, the Sun property is at the heart of all of Port Covington. A new urban grid street system that flows from the waterfront across Cromwell Boulevard into the Sun site and then proceeds under Hanover Street to the west will truly integrate everything. The Sun land will then become far more valuable for something new, rather than simply part of a long vain wait for another golden age of newsprint.

The street built in the grass shown above can be given special significance by giving it one of Baltimore's most venerable names - Charles Street.


It indeed appears to be feasible to build an extension of either Light or Charles Street, or even both, southward from the Riverside Park neighborhood of South Baltimore into Port Covington. Both streets are slightly higher than the CSX freight tracks just beyond where the streets now end south of Wells Street, and there is sufficient room to build overpasses over the tracks.

The photo above shows the current south end of Charles Street looking north from McComas Street. The Interstate 95 structure is at the top of the photo and the CSX Locust Point Branch is at the bottom. A southern extension of Charles Street into Port Covington could weave on a bridge between these two layers.

This would allow the urban texture of South Baltimore to weave into Port Covington as well. In the photo above, the cool crenulated tower of the former Pabst Brewing Company is shown on the left side of Charles in the near background, and could serve as a symbolic transition point to South Baltimore from Port Covington.

This photo shows where such a new Charles Street extension would go as it enters Port Covington, just south of I-95. It could use either an existing underpass under McComas Street (shown above at left) or it could intersect McComas at-grade. The underpass is now occupied by a railroad track which once connected from the Western Maryland yard to the CSX Locust Point Branch. The track is still usable but does not look like it is much used, if ever. The Sun plant has a freight siding (shown above at right), just as the downtown Sun plant once had on Guilford Street. The new southward extension of Charles Street, Light Street (or the combination of both) could easily share the McComas underpass with the freight track.

There are many options for urbanizing McComas Street, which weaves around the catacombs under I-95. It does not carry a huge amount of traffic and therefore can be tailored to suit new development. The space under I-95 could be used for parking or even for a farmers market, like the downtown space under the Jones Falls Expressway. Urban development fosters such creativity.
As a result of all this, the existing urban fabric of South Baltimore could essentially be extended into Port Covington. This would be an umbilical cord for an instant sense of unity and extend South Baltimore's urban identity into Port Covington.

It would then be easy to walk or ride a bike between South Baltimore, or even downtown, and Port Covington, while never letting go of the urban connection. A local bus line would naturally follow, providing a far better alternative than the convoluted branches of the #27 and #64 lines that serve Port Covington now.

To provide maximum stimulation for new development, a streetcar line could be built down Charles and/or Light Street to Port Covington, as an extension of the line now being studied by the Charles Street Development Corporation. The full extent of the streetcar line would be from Hopkins University and Charles Village through downtown to Federal Hill to Port Covington.
A streetcar line would be the ultimate unifier for Port Covington.

We will know that Port Covington has really arrived when the same yuppies who go to the Port Covington farmer's market to buy their organic dolphin-safe vegan products then proceed onward to the reborn politically correct Wal-Mart to buy crafts for world peace made by non-sweat shop adult artisans.