May 5, 2008

The Baltimore InnerSpace Transit Plan


Every transit system worth its salt needs an "icon map" that should be plastered everywhere in the system, like pictures of Chairman Mao in China. My first attempt at such a map is the crudely drawn amateur graphics version shown above. You can get almost anywhere in this system from either the Charles Center or Lexington Market Metro Stations, and anywhere at all from one station or the other.

This system relies on the heavy rail Metro Green Line and the almost-heavy rail Red Line to do all the heavy lifting. The Blue and Orange lines are the existing quasi-regional light rail lines.

The Yellow, Brown , Purple and Gray lines are for streetcars, which serve all inner city destinations in a manner that is in harmony with their streetscapes, but which fully connect to the system inside the two major downtown Metro subway stations.

The key to a successful transit system is downtown connectivity, and the key to this connectivity is a comprehensive downtown transit hub built into the "Down Under" parking garage.

The "Down Under" parking garage puts the comprehensive downtown transit hub right where it should be - underneath the middle of downtown, where it can connect to everything. It also allows the portals that bring the transit lines from underground up to the surface to be located as close to the hub as possible.

This maximizes the advantages of an underground transit hub which serves the existing Metro, while allowing the maximum amount of the rail transit system to be built on the urban surface. This saves a huge amount of money on tunneling, while linking the transit lines as intimitely as possible with the surface street activities.

The portals would be located at:

1. South, East and West: Lombard at Hanover Street - just south of Charles Center at an existing parking garage entrance.

2. West: MLK Boulevard at the Franklin-Mulberry Expressway - just west of downtown where it would connect directly to the 16 block Franklin-Mulberry "Edge City" development.

3. North: St. Paul Street near Saratoga - built into a southern extension of the wall that defines Preston Gardens.

To make this comprehensive "Down Under" transit hub as fully functional as possible, it simply needs to be built as part of a relatively inexpensive rail transit system which includes:

1. A short Red Line westward through the Franklin-Mulberry corridor to the existing West MARC Station - approximately two miles.

2. A short Green Line Metro extension east of Hopkins Hospital to a new East MARC Station - approximately two miles.

3. A streetcar system that serves the inner city in all directions -

(a) northward toward Charles Village and possibly Northwood/Morgan State
(b) southward toward Federal Hill and possibly Port Covington
(c) eastward toward Fells Point and possibly Canton
(d) westward toward the Mount Clare B&O Museum and possibly Montgomery Park.

4. New bus transit hubs located at three key locations:

(a) West MARC Station - Franklin at Pulaski Street
(b) East MARC Station - Edison Highway at Monument Street
(c) Lexington Market Metro Station - Eutaw at Saratoga Street

Many intermediate destinations would also be served as well as possible by this arrangement, on the street surfaces and not underground. These most notably include the Inner Harbor along the sections of both Pratt and Light Streets which are to be rebuilt in a manner which is optimum for streetcars, as well as Harbor East, Camden Station and Penn Station.

There are several other keys to making this plan work in the most flexible possible manner: The Red Line should be built to work with either light rail or streetcar vehicles between Downtown and the West MARC station. South of Downtown, the Red Line should then connect to the existing central light rail line toward Camden Station and beyond.

It may also be worthwhile to make the streetcars and the central light rail line compatible, at least in key inner city locations.

Both of the downtown hubs under this plan, at Charles Center and Lexington Market, would provide direct connections between the Metro, light rail and streetcar systems. The Lexington Market hub would also connect directly to the bus system. The Metro would provide connections to the west and east MARC stations, while the light rail and streetcar lines would connect to the Camden and Penn MARC Stations.


This hub would operate on two levels crossing at a right angle, connected by escalators, similarly to the way most modern downtown rail transit terminals operate, such as MetroCenter, Gallery Place and L'Enfant Plaza in Washington DC.

The existing Metro line running east-west under Baltimore Street would be on one level. The other level would incorporate both the light rail Red Line and the various streetcar lines running north-south approximately under what was once Hanover Street in the "Down Under" garage.

The light rail Red Line would extend through this station from under Lexington Street to the west to the Lombard/Hanover portal to the south.

The streetcar lines would make the same connections as the Red Line, and would also run eastward under Lexington Street to the Preston Gardens portal where it would proceed northward along St. Paul Street.


The Red Line, which would accommodate both light rail and streetcars, would be built under Lexington Street through the Lexington Market Rail/Bus Transit Hub. The east end of the station would be under the intersection of Howard Street, and would incorporate escalators up to the surface of Howard Street to connect directly to the existing central light rail line.

Accommodations should also be made for a future connection to the Howard Street CSX tunnel, in the event that this freight tunnel is ever to converted to passenger use.

The west end of the new Red Line station would be under Eutaw Street for a connection to the existing Lexington Market Metro Station, either at the mezzanine level of that station, or via a new escalator linkage.

The north end of the existing Metro station, along Eutaw between Saratoga and Mulberry Streets, would be a new bus transit terminal. This would be on State-owned land immediately adjacent to the existing Metro escalators. The Red Line station under Lexington would be accessible via the existing mezzanine under Eutaw. Thus, the Lexington Market Rail/Bus Transit Hub would be shaped like an "L" under Eutaw Street (Metro) and Lexington Street (Red Line). The top (north end) of the "L" would be the bus terminal, linking directly to the existing Metro. The bottom (south end) of the "L" would be the Red Line, linking directly to the existing Howard Street light rail line.


To illustrate the high degree of connectivity which this plan offers, here is one of the many ways that such a system could be operated.

I have not included the extension of the Red Line westward from the West MARC Station to Social Security, because I have not seen a way in which it can really work. (I don't like to discuss ideas unless I believe they are do-able). When a viable Red Line plan for Edmondson Avenue and Cooks Lane, or anywhere else, is presented by the MTA or whomever, I will jump on board.

In any event, a westward Red Line extension to Security can be built as a later stage.

For similar reasons, an eastward Green Line Metro extension to Middle River is also possible, but not shown here.

However, an additional Green Line Metro extension southeastward along the Haven Street corridor to Bayview, Highlandtown, Greektown, Brewers Hill and Canton Crossing is included, because it appears to be inexpensive and emminently feasible as the first subsequent extension to the basic plan.

The sample operating plan is as follows. Not all stations are listed.


Owings Mills
State Center
Lexington Market - bus terminal - transfer to Red, Purple, Blue and Orange Lines
Charles Center - transfer to Red, Purple, Yellow and Brown Lines
Hopkins Hospital
Berea/Biotech Park
East MARC Station - bus terminal
Brewers Hill
Canton Crossing


BWI-M Airport
Camden Station - MARC - transfer to Blue and Orange Lines
Convention Center - transfer to Gray and Brown Lines
Charles Center - transfer to Green, Purple, Brown and Yellow Lines
Lexington Market - bus terminal and transfer to Green, Blue and Orange Lines
Heritage Crossing
Franklin Square
West MARC Station - bus terminal


Glen Burnie/Cromwell
Camden Station - MARC - transfer to Orange and Red Lines
Baltimore Arena
Lexington Market - bus terminal and transfer to Green, Red, Orange and Purple Lines
Centre Street
State Center
University of Baltimore
Hunt Valley


BWI-M Airport
Camden Station - MARC - transfer to Red and Blue Lines
Baltimore Arena
Lexington Market - bus terminal and transfer to Red, Green, Blue and Purple Lines
Centre Street
State Center
University of Baltimore
Penn Station - MARC - transfer to Brown and Yellow Lines


Northwood/Morgan State
Memorial Stadium
Charles Village
Penn Station - MARC - transfer to Orange Line
Mount Vernon
Preston Gardens
Charles Center - transfer to Green, Red, Brown and Purple Lines
Inner Harbor/Light Street
Federal Hill
South Baltimore
Port Covington


West MARC - bus terminal
Franklin Square
Heritage Crossing
Lexington Market - bus terminal and transfer to Green, Red, Blue and Orange Lines
Charles Center - transfer to Green, Red, Brown and Yellow Lines
Inner Harbor/Pratt Street
Harbor East
Fells Point


Montgomery Park
Mount Clare
University of Maryland
Camden Yards - transfer to Red, Blue and Orange Lines
Convention Center
Inner Harbor/Pratt Street - transfer to Purple and Yellow Lines
Harbor East
Fells Point


Northwood/Morgan State
Memorial Stadium
Charles Village
Penn Station - MARC - transfer to Orange Line
Mount Vernon
Preston Gardens
Charles Center - transfer to Green, Red, Yellow and Purple Line
Convention Center - transfer to Red, Orange, Gray and Blue Line
Camden Yards

University of Maryland
Mount Clare
Montgomery Park

And I think I've run out of colors so I'll quit now...


  1. I'm actually sad to see every rail transit plan leave out Hampden. I know we have the light rail stop nearby in Woodberry but it is far removed from the main part of Hampden.

    On a completely different not since the state has decided to squander a billion or two on the ICC we won't have any money to effectively improve our transit system which would really help with congestion.

  2. Hampden's kind of tough to run rail through. Viva la "Shuttlebug"

    Interesting reading the thinking behind this transit plan as it developed.

    Running the Yellow Line straight down Light to Port Covington probably makes the most sense: less trackage, more residents than looping it down Key, around the Conrail ROW to Ft. McHenry, past the cruise ship terminal, and thence to Port C. But the latter route would be well used by tourists (600,000 a year at FtMac ... it'd almost be the equivalent of the amusement parks at the ends of the old lines).

    And, must concede: the Charles Street line is supportable in this configuration (especially as it avoids Mt. Vernon Place!) Plus an extension linking Hopkins, City College, and Morgan: brilliant.

  3. Ah, right: the caveat:

    Not sure who owns Down Under parking. Mullen Contracting owns the chunk under the Charles Towers. David Hillman of Southern Management had a devil of a time getting them to play ball when he was trying to redevelop Charles Plaza (the new SuperFresh, et al) above it. Similarly, rebuilding Center Plaza above another segment of it took a lot o' lawyering.

    Of course, the state can use eminent domain for some of the Down Under parking. Can you use ED to run under a federal building, though? Would the feds allow something like that under their building?

  4. Jamie, it's way to soon to be thinking the kinds of things that you're thinking.

    Unless, you somehow think that the State has already decided that the "Down Under" Red Line plan is just so brilliant that they've already become fully engaged in serious lawyering with the landowners and the Feds and have already figured out that those darn parking spaces are just so much more valuable than a transit line and/or that all possible alternative alignments have been fully investigated and exhausted which would steer around the top secret national security issues under the Fallon Federal Building that we mortals can only start to imagine.

    More likely, the State either thinks that any plan conceived by Gerry Neily just has to be dumb, or that any plan that is not a product of their own super expensive mega-consultant planning process can't possibly be any good, and can safely be dismissed out of hand. Or some combination thereof.

  5. GN wrote:
    "Jamie, it's way to soon to be thinking the kinds of things that you're thinking. ... "

    Right. That's 25 years of figuring out how to execute other people's good, creative ideas talking.

    It's a living.

    At any rate, wouldn't mind seeing the Federal Building and the Garmatz courthouse decamp for Oldtown or State Center, allowing their current sites to be redeveloped in concert (so to speak) with the arena site and your "Down Under" hub. This could be huge. The trolley corridor through Preston Gardens alone is way cool. Patients at Mercy would get a real buzz watching the trolleys roll by from the fifth floor roof garden on its new (under construction) building. Seriously.

    Hmmmm. If those two guys can get grant dough for a feasibility study of gondolas, gotta be someone who'll pay up to flesh this out. Man, I can't wait to move back to Baltimore. This is the sort of rear-guard, bureaucracy busting action I live for.

    Carry on.

  6. On second thought, Jamie, you're right about that. After I wrote my response, I was reminded of the saying, "you're always too soon until you're too late."

    I think some of us planners tend to suffer from notoriously bad timing. We link the present and future in such a fluid way that its hard to tell where we are.

    Yes indeed, you should get back to Baltimore as soon as possible, Jamie. Baltimore needs you and your rear-guard bureaucracy busting action!!!!!

    As for me, I confess that I really think more like a bureaucrat and thus can't wrap myself around the bureaucracy busting. By the time you get back to B'more, I'll probably be off on some other visionary tangent, but hopefully you can reel me back in.

    And yes, your idea to pack up the Garmatz and Fallon Federal buildings sounds excellent, since they certianly don't work very well where they are.

  7. I'm only now catching up on my internets for the week, but I love your work. Creative and pragmatic solutions. The Charles Center "Down Under" transit hub is particularly inspired. Let's hope the momentum builds behind your plan.

  8. I'm sure I need to read some more - on your ideas of trollies and streetcars - these are physically running on the roads of Baltimore?

    What is the issue with creating a Subway system? Or underground Metro system for Baltimore? I don't see how streetcars would benefit the city, only clog the streets. Is creating an underground system so hard?

    I'll admit - I am an out of towner, I grew up in NY and spent college in College Park. The NYC subway system and Metro North (trains) into the city were great, and I always found the underground systems to be much better than those on the surface. In addition, after spending 4 years outside of DC, I also felt that the DC metro was yet another great system.

    If Baltimore had any system even remotely like DCs, I would be much happier riding a metro to work in Fells Point in the morning instead of driving from Owings Mills.

    That's all I have, maybe it makes sense, maybe has friend my brain.

  9. The City Paper directed me to your blog this mroning. I have to admit that I love what I am reading so far.

    I too have though about a trolley system in baltimore. My ideas are slightly different than your, but also capture alot of the areas you cover.

    1) The Charles Street trolley is a good idea. I would somehow like to see it expanded to go up York Road to Belvedere Market.

    2) I would propose running a trolley from the foot of Broadway in Fells Point at the Markets up Broadway to Harford Road and then the Alameda and across 33rd Street and out University Parkway to Northern Parkway. Too much for one sentence, but I'm sure you get my drift.

    2) Run a trolley line across the length of North Avenue. The light rail stop at North Avenue, The Metro stop at North Avenue and the Charles Village Trolley would give you connectivty with downtown and Penn Station.

    3) Run a trolley line out to Joppa Road along Loch Raven BLVD from 33rd Street

    4) Run a line from Druid Hill Park to the MARC station on the West side of the City.

  10. Thanks, Fred. In planning for streetcars, we need to keep the lines fairly short because of their limitations. They're rather slow, so long trips take too long. They are exposed to traffic congestion, so long trips can also be unreliable. Also, the land density of outlying areas is often not high enough to support building fixed rail. A streetcar line on North Avenue would satisfy these criteria, though, and may be a good idea. I wonder how well the new streetcar line is doing on Girard Avenue, which is basically Philadelphia's North Avenue.