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.

August 10, 2007



Back in the early 19th century, Baltimore was the birthplace of American railroading, and it's time to do it again. The old technology has served the Baltimore region well for the past 170 odd years, but we are overdue to create a brand new clean technological slate. We cannot ride into the future on the overtaxed MARC commuter rail system, or even on Amtrak's over-hyped Acela.

Just recently, the Maryland Transit Administration completed a study that concluded that a MagLev line between Baltimore and Washington could return an astounding 500% of its operating costs from farebox revenue, which is about ten times as much as the approximate 50% rate of return from MARC.

So why hasn't MagLev been universally embraced by planners and the public? Why hasn't the prospect of getting from Downtown Baltimore to Washington DC in only 18 minutes met with unanimous excitement, especially considering the way that the two metropolitan areas have been rapidly merging together in recent years?

Mainly because the MagLev system studied by the MTA was targeted narrowly at high priced business travellers rather than as transportation for the masses. But with a projected farebox return of 500%, the system would actually MAKE MONEY for every rider who switched from MARC to MagLev. The return on investment was set so that MagLev would look attractive to private investors who would underwrite much of the capital cost, something that is extremely rare in the transit business.

And yet any private entrepreneur knows that one does not maximize profits by maximizing the percentage rate of return on operating cost. If the MagLev fares were reduced so that it would appeal to a larger number of riders, including car and MARC commuters, both profits and ridership could increase dramatically even if the farebox recovery rate went down to "only" somewhat over 100%.


I'm not enough of a technology expert to know that magnetic levitation is the absolute best technology for high speed ground transport, but MagLev has been demonstrated successfully in limited applications in China and Germany, and it has the right raw ingredients - it is fast (200 to 300 mph), it is clean and efficient and it most of all, it lends itself to convergence with other new technologies.

The primary reason MagLev is so potentially attractive is its high speed of 200 to 300 mph. But it is not the speed itself which is most crucial - it's what can be done with such high speeds. It means that the system must be fully automated, because human operators cannot hope to negotiate a fixed guideway at such a high speed. High speed also means that stations need to be off-line so that a train stopped at one station does not clog up the line to prevent trains from passing to get to any other station.

Automation, in turn, means that the operating cost of the system will not depend on the frequency of trains. With an automated system, there is no longer any significant reason to run long trains with a single locomotive set and a single operating crew. Many smaller and more frequent MagLev trains will be just as economical to operate as the traditional bigger and less frequent trains.

Smaller and more frequent trains also mean smaller stations with smaller platforms and smaller guideways. This will hopefully mean that the very tight railroad tunnel under Howard Street in Downtown Baltimore can be used for Maglev. This ancient tunnel is so obsolete for conventional trains that one of the two tracks had to be removed a long time ago so that freight trains could fit, and even so, modern double stack freight trains must still avoid it and detour through Pennsylvania.

Perhaps the greatest benefit of automation would be in real-time scheduling and dispatching of MagLev trains, which could respond instantaneously to passenger demand. Trains would be small enough so that as soon as a sufficient number of passengers were present who wanted to go to a given destination, a train would whisk into place to take them there. Inefficient revenue-robbing empty seats would be a thing of the past. Supply and demand would be perfectly synchronized.


Automated dispatching and off-line stations would also mean that there would be no reason to limit MagLev service to long distance trips between central cities. MagLev would provide service between downtown and suburbs, just like a conventional light or heavy rail transit system, as well as between suburbs.

Using the old Howard Street tunnel for MagLev would mean that service could be provided up through the Jones Falls valley, perhaps providing service from Downtown to Towson that would take about 8 minutes or so. An ideal location for the Downtown station could be the old Baltimore Arena site at Howard and Baltimore Streets, where direct connections could be created to the heavy and light rail systems.

The Towson MagLev station should be located so that the central light rail line can be adjusted to serve it, and thus provide a rail transit connection to Timonium and Hunt Valley.

The high speed of MagLev would also mean that a route could be relatively circuitous but still efficient. The same line that travels between Downtown and Towson could proceed along the Beltway and White Marsh Boulevard to White Marsh (the additional trip distance taking perhaps five more minutes) and then on to Aberdeen where it would join in with Amtrak and MARC and serve the new expanded military base there.

Between Baltimore and Washington, there would be no need to limit stops to just the airport or New Carrollton. Additional stations could be provided on branch lines to Fort Meade/Odenton, Columbia and perhaps other places. The location of all stations on branches would preserve the speed and capacity of the trunk line, to facilitate its eventual expansion to Philadelphia, New York and elsewhere.

Off-line stations also mean that the branch lines could be located where the stations could be most intimately connected with local destinations and development. MagLev would certainly be a sufficient lure so that every station could support a very high density. Land would certainly become too valuable near any MagLev station to support parking except for very highest priced commuters.

This in turn would further increase the value of MagLev in getting cars off the highways. MagLev would be fast and attractive enough so that riders would be willing to ride feeder buses to stations. Right now, feeder bus service is of limited value to MARC riders because most people do not want to take a 30 minute bus ride on top of a 45 minute train ride. But if the train ride was reduced to 15 or 18 minutes, a 30 minute bus ride wouldn't seem so onerous for the average commuter.

The key word here is the AVERAGE commuter. Contrary to the MTA targeting of MagLev to affluent business riders, the whole concept behind MagLev lends itself more to use by average mainstream commuters, where it could have a huge impact on development and travel patterns throughout the region.

This draws a strong parallel to air travel. Back in the 1950s and 1960s, airlines catered almost exclusively to affluent riders. Then at first gradually, and then suddenly with deregulation, airlines discovered the mainstream mass market. Nowadays, the ridership of most jet flights has more in common with the average commuter bus than it does with the clientele of fifty years ago, when ironically, commuter buses were also more in the mainstream than they are now.

Then when air travel had become mainstreamed, the supersonic Concorde was introduced as the new travel mode of the affluent few. As we now know, this did not work. Concorde never caught on because the affluent few are just too few, and Concorde had no economies of scale.

Similarly, the MTA has attempted to plan for MagLev as another Concorde, and that simply would not work. Perhaps it could start out that way if technical constraints limited its capacity in its early years. But in order for MagLev to be truly effective, it must become a mainstream mode of travel, just as jet airliners have become. All signs point in that direction.

MagLev needs to attract major private investment, which would be recovered through its inherent efficiency and economies of scale, and also by the increased land values at its stations. The era of billions in up-front public funding for transit or highways is just about over.

To do all this, MagLev would need to be a truly mainstream travel mode. It should be able to replace commuter rail for many trips in the MARC corridor. It should also replace many of the trips now envisioned for the Towson and White Marsh corridors in the MTA's ill-fated 2002 regional rail transit plan. MagLev stations should all become regional growth centers and hubs for a comprehensive feeder bus network.

And finally, the Maryland MagLev system should be the first link in a comprehensive new inter-regional rail system which would serve the entire northeastern United States, bringing Baltimore into the national forefront, much as it was 170 years ago as the birthplace of American railroading.

August 2, 2007

Regional Transportation Plan


That is not a rhetorical question. There really is a simple answer.

It is not simply political inertia and bureaucratic bungling. Or political bungling and bureaucratic inertia, even if there are large measures of all that in the process.

But there can be no denying that the new plan prepared by the Baltimore Metropolitan Council is a total stiff for anyone who believes that Baltimore City needs to be the heart and soul around which the region's future growth takes place.

The following are the significant transportation projects in the City Baltimore which are listed in the plan to be built over the next 30 years:

First, there is a portion of the transit Red Line between Woodlawn and Patterson Park. Then there is an East Baltimore MARC commuter rail station, currently envisioned to be north of either Hopkins Bayview Medical Campus or the Hopkins Biotech Park, with no regional rail transit connections in the plan at either location.

There are five city road projects in the plan: 1-Boston Street railroad overpass (to eliminate freight train conflicts), 2-Keith Avenue/Broening Highway interchange (serving the General Motors site), 3-Upgrading the JFX/Northern Parkway interchange, 4-Widening the Baltimore Washington Parkway with new ramps (to support the Westport project), and 5-A new highway connection from MLK Boulevard to the Jones Falls Expressway (from Howard Street through the University of Baltimore Bolton Yard parcel?)

There are also short pieces of two hike-bike trails into west Baltimore, one at Caton-Loudon and the other along the Gwynns Falls.

That's it. That is the entire sum total of what is in store for the city over the next 30 years. (Obviously, these people don't pay attention to my blog.)

The plan can be downloaded from


The reason the regional plan is so pathetic is very simple: There is a federal requirement that all regional metropolitan plans must be based on real actual funding projections. Regional plans must not be mere "wish lists".

This is actually a good rule. It requires that regions actually set priorities and not simply produce a bloated list of everything that everyone wants. It is also good because it lays out the real intent of the regional leaders as clearly and starkly as possible, allowing readers to see beyond any flowery rhetoric.

But real financial constraints can be a real downer. This is especially true for transit. The plan must account not only for the potentially huge cost of transit construction, especially for tunnels, but the plan also needs to consider operating costs as well. Operating costs are an ongoing year-after-year expense which eats into the potential budget for capital construction of new transit lines.

Transit's dwindling farebox recovery rate is a major issue. The MTA used to recover 50% of its operating costs from the farebox, and that is now down to about 40%, and if the region was going to make an honest projection, it would probably be projected to go even lower over the next 30 years.

Transit operating deficits are such a major issue that it is questionable as to whether the region could even AFFORD to gain a significant increase of the region's trips via transit. As it stands, the regional projection is that the percentage of trips by transit is anticipated to stay the same over the next three decades. No progress at all.

Such is not a great aspiring vision for the future of the Baltimore Region. The plan projects that peak period congestion will increase over 30 years by 258%, using the technical definition based on the region's travel simulation computer model. And that projection is in spite of the overwhelming share of the capital budget going for expansion of the suburban highway system rather than for transit.

So here is the trap the region is in: More and wider highways can't solve our congestion problems and we can't afford the kind of transit that requires huge subsidies and doesn't go where the new jobs and development are anyway.


We normally think of great urban plans as being sweeping visions by men such as Daniel Burnham (Chicago) or Pierre L'Enfant (Washington, DC) or Frederick Olmstead (all over the place). Maybe that kind of planning can still be done. I know I've given it my best shot, and others have too. But Burnham and his ilk did not have to deal with 21st century political and fiscal realities.

What we need now is a plan that responds to the current cold heartless bureaucratic rules of metropolitan plan making. Here are the steps:

1- EMBRACE EXPRESS TOLL LANES NOW - The State has already made a billion dollar commitment on Interstate 95, but what is really needed is not a futile excuse to build more and bigger roads. What is needed is a way to manage our limited transportation resources. Congestion pricing must be applied when and where we have congestion, which is NOW on EXISTING HIGHWAYS, not after the construction ordeal is completed. We need to apply variable electronic tolls on existing highway lanes, in order to adjust traffic demand to maintain the highest possible flow rate (clogged roads carry LESS traffic, not more) and to shift excess demand to off-peak times and to transit and carpools. This will increase the ability of our EXISTING transportation system to actually carry PEOPLE, not clogged cars.

To deal with the political fallout, the State should pledge that a certain amount of the revenue will be returned to the local jurisdictions to fulfill any desired local need, including tax relief, so that motorists will realize that this is not just a excuse for the State to make money.

2- INCLUDE MAGLEV IN THE 30 YEAR YEAR PLAN - Maybe you might think that a transit line based on magnetic levitation is just pie-in-the-sky dreaming, but the Maryland Transit Administration has already done a detailed study that says that it can actually pay for itself and attract rich private sector investors, unlike every other form of transit we have. Even if you don't believe it, future technological advancement should be plugged into the equation of the 30 year plan. Could anyone 30 years ago have imagined the kind of digital technology revolution we would be experiencing now? Technology is the great wildcard of the future and no one should deny that it can bring great changes. The long range plan should not simply assume that there will be no major technological advancements in the next 30 years. If we don't plan for future change, we are doomed to repeat the mistakes of the past.

The same MagLev assumptions that were justifiable in the MTA's report are justifiable in the 30 year long range plan, but the long range plan should have a wider vision. There is no reason in theory why MagLev could not provide the same advantages on an 8 minute trip from Towson or Columbia to Downtown Baltimore as it can provide for an 18 minute trip from Downtown Baltimore to Washington DC. The region is expanding to include both, and MagLev, in concept at least if not technological execution, can provide an appropriate and exciting future scenario to reflect this.

3- EMPHASIZE LOCAL TRANSIT TO EXPAND RIDERSHIP AND REDUCE DEFICITS - The current "business model" of the MTA transit system has doomed them to losing large amounts of money. The MTA charges the same fare for expensive long trips as for short ones, and short trips are the ones least likely to be captured because of poor transit reliability and long wait times relative to trip times. What is needed is really good local transit, but not the meandering loops of "shuttle bugs" like in Mondawmin and Hampden which have very poor farebox recovery rates because they combine the disadvantages of short distance and long distance transit.

A streetcar system could be an example of how a really high quality short-distance transit system in high density transit-friendly areas could be built on a "clean slate" from the ground up, which would justify reasonably high fares for short trips. Such a network would not cost an inordinate amount of money to build and would unlock the greatest untapped transit market available.

4- REALLY TRULY RESTRUCTURE THE MTA TRANSIT SYSTEM - The operative word is STRUCTURE. Every change should be integral to the entire system to minimize redundancy and maximize clarity. Comprehensive transit hubs should be established to ensure that anyone can get from any one place to any other place in the entire system.

5 - REGIONAL RAIL SHOULD BE A BACKBONE, NOT A CIRCULATION SYSTEM - It is absurd for the Red Line to end anywhere near Patterson Park. The purpose of regional rail transit must be to haul huge numbers of people on the highest density trunk of the network. That can't be done to a quiet residential and park area with no geographic setting for a large transit feeder hub. It is particularly absurd since there is no place near Patterson Park for a fast reasonable cost surface transit alignment. The function of regional rail transit is extremely important, but it is limited to the highest volume, highest connectivity corridors. Longer distance suburban trips should take place by buses, MARC Commuter Rail and eventually perhaps by MagLev, while shorter trips should be by feeder buses, shuttles run by institutions and perhaps by streetcars.

Following these concepts, the long range plan could be converted into a plan that could radically change the transportation complexion of the region. What's more, the system would stack up well by the rules and scoring system that are already in place for the evaluation of regional transportation projects. We could beat the mindless status quo at its own game.