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.