November 8, 2013

Druid Hill Park: Eutaw Gateway (from The Brew)

Druid Lake rebuild offers chance to reconnect gateway street to premier park

Let’s not repeat the narrow-mindedness of big projects past, says a former city transportation planner.
Above: THE BARRIER: Car-cluttered Druid Park Lake Drive (background) cuts off Eutaw Place from the lake and park.
Druid Hill Park urgently needs a gateway – at precisely the location of the city’s $130 million Druid Lake fill-in plan.
The city’s biggest park has suffered acutely from this need for decades and the city’s lake plan, announced two weeks ago, only re-emphasizes its importance.
The plan focuses on the portion of the park directly north of Eutaw Place, which numerous homeowners have been painstakingly attempting to restore to its former splendor.
It is unfathomable that Baltimore’s grand Victorian avenue has no direct linkage to Baltimore’s grand Victorian park. Druid Hill Park needs the strongest possible connection, mentally as much as physically, as the culmination of elegant Eutaw Place emanating from downtown.
The Brew’s Mark Reutter reports that such a linkage has been “discarded as irrelevant” under the Bureau of Water’s plan to build underground storage tanks at Druid Lake to meet federal clean water standards.
Roads over Parks
The city obviously thought the same thing back in the 1950s when the park was mercilessly cut off from its surrounding neighborhoods by Druid Park Lake Drive and the Jones Falls Expressway. One need only observe the disembodied park gateway on Madison Avenue to see the result.
A plan for a reconfigured Eutaw Place entrance to Druid Hill Park. (Marc Szarkowski)
A plan for a Eutaw Place entrance into Druid Hill Park. (Marc Szarkowski)
Druid Hill Park was considered a “hot area” at the time. Mondawmin Mall was a brand new showplace and the city even contemplated putting the Baltimore Arena (originally called the Civic Center) inside the park. Wouldn’t that have been far out?
Even when the city finally repaired some of the damage from the roadways, it also made it worse.
The original alignment of Druid Park Lake Drive unconscionably cut off Druid Lake’s 1.5 mile loop track. When I was with the City Planning Department circa 1980, I sketched up a plan to restore the loop by realigning the road, but it took two decades to actually happen.
But at the very time the city finally restored the loop for people and bikes, they inexplicably eliminated the park entrance at Eutaw Place – not just for cars, which would be understandable, but for bikes and people, too.
The result is that today the intersection of Druid Park Lake Drive and Eutaw Place has no sidewalks, no crosswalks, no pedestrian signals and not even a hint of a suggestion that people might want to enter the huge adjacent park.
So the new lake plan’s lack of a gateway is as consistent with the present as it is with the past.
New Opportunities
Druid Park Lake Drive is such a vicious automotive intrusion that concentrated focal points of human activity are needed on both sides of the intersection, all carefully coordinated and designed to make the park as alluring as possible.
On the park side, the $130 million lake project presents virtually limitless opportunities to create such a gateway. The critical requirement should be that all of the new active park features, such as the proposed boat house and perhaps a park welcome center, should be oriented to the Eutaw Place spine.
A drawing of a pedestrian-oriented entranceway from Eutaw Place into the park. A street portico where traffic goes through is also possible. (Marc Szarkowski)
A drawing of a pedestrian-oriented entranceway from Eutaw Place into the park. A street portico where traffic goes through is also possible. (Marc Szarkowski)
On the community side, the opportunities are more constrained. What can be done there will therefore set much of the overall tone.
Fortunately, the intersection of Druid Park Lake Drive and Eutaw Place itself can be redesigned and downsized to greatly expand these possibilities.
On Druid Park Lake Drive, there are no left turns to justify the additional third lane in either direction at this point. On Eutaw Place, there is no reason for the “free-flow” right turn lane. The intersection can thus be narrowed significantly with no reduction in traffic capacity.
The four remaining lanes of Druid Park Lake Drive can be pushed up to the north curb, which along with the narrowing of Eutaw Place can create a far safer, more attractive and more spacious pedestrian crossing befitting a gateway.
Extending into Reservoir Hill
The new space created by the roadway narrowings can also effectively extend Druid Hill Park itself into the Reservoir Hill community.
A wide attractive pedestrian/bike promenade can be provided on both sides of the intersection to provide the best possible linkage and maintain the longer distance view corridor between the park and the rest of the Reservoir Hill Eutaw Place community.
Restored townhouses along Eutaw Place. (Photo by Gerald Neily)
Restored townhouses along Eutaw Place. (Photo by Gerald Neily)
Unlike the vestige of an old portico on Madison Avenue which really is no longer a gateway to anything, and merely calls attention to its anomaly, the theme of a Eutaw Place gateway can clearly be designed to focus attraction onto the huge beautiful park itself.
Providing a similar portico on Eutaw Place which echoes the Madison Avenue portico would help unify the whole area. The sketch provided here shows yet another portico variation for pedestrians-only for another location.
Design Possibilities
The sloping topography between Druid Park Lake Drive and the neighborhood is such that a distinctive terrace could be created which hovers above and hides the traffic, diverting one’s attention toward the park beyond. Unfortunately, the topo does not lend itself to a pedestrian tunnel or bridge.
The result should be that the park and the community can be truly unified at the appropriate human scale.
This Eutaw Place gateway should be highly visible, memorable and iconic, with design motifs shared between the park and neighborhood. Proposed natural elements of the city plan such as the “bioswale” must be secondary and complimentary to the human orientation not focal points in and of themselves.
In sum, the roadway narrowings and the new treatment on the Reservoir Hill side can be done independently of the lake project, but the design as a whole should be thought out comprehensively to avoid repeating the narrow-mindedness of the big projects past.
The Eutaw Place gateway should be the first step in long-term improvements of all of Druid Hill Park connections, from the city’s long-proposed resurrection of the Park Circle roundabout (here) to a promenade from Mondawmin to the Zoo with an enhanced Auchentoroly Terrace (here).
Anyone walking about in the local communities ought to be able to slip effortlessly into Baltimore’s premier park.
Gerald Neily was transportation planner for the city Department of Planning from 1977 to 1996. Marc Szarkowski creates plans, models, and illustrations of urban design, planning, and architecture proposals, and is a graduate of Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute’s School of Architecture.

September 5, 2013

Integrating Light Rail and Streetcars

How the Red Line and streetcars can live well and affordably together

Baltimore can have a rail transit system that accommodates light-rail and streetcar vehicles on the same lines, if not always in the same places, to take advantage of the best of both.

Modern streetcars and light-rail vehicles have evolved to become practically one and the same. The conflicts and confusion between them arise only because of their design flexibility.

State transportation planners has abused that flexibility in an effort to cram the Red Line into places where it just doesn’t belong and can’t work well. But the same flexibility could be used to integrate light-rail and streetcar systems to work well and affordably together, tailoring them to their specific environments.

Why the Red Line Fails

The proposed Red Line fails because the three-mile-long tunnel from West Baltimore to Boston Street through downtown will consume so much money – $1.2 billion and rising – that it puts the whole project out of reach.

To deal with the extraordinary cost of the tunnel, Maryland Transit Administration planners have shrunk the station platforms to handle only two-car trains. This despite higher projected ridership than the Baltimore Metro carries on its six-car subway trains.

The Red Line route – from Woodlawn in Baltimore County to the Johns Hopkins Bayview Campus – is far too slow for a regional system. Regardless of how prospective riders react to its less than 20-mph average speed, the lengthy 45 minute end-to-end travel time with only two-car trains would result in very poor productivity. Feeding bus routes into the line would have very limited benefit.

As presently designed, the Red Line is an expensive, slow, low-capacity “money pit” that is also facing citizen opposition in Canton and elsewhere.

The downtown tunnel isolates the line from the existing Metro subway, requiring a dysfunctional two-block-long pedestrian tunnel for transfers. It also isolates the line from street activity and major destinations it purports to serve, like the Inner Harbor, Harbor East and Fells Point.

Harbor East developer John Paterakis has gone on record as opposing a station at Central Avenue, which would serve his development and Harbor Point, the adjoining office-apartment complex set to receive $107 million in city TIF financing bonds.

Across town, the two stations that were going to serve the University of Maryland’s downtown campus and Medical Center – at Lombard and Greene streets and Martin Luther King Blvd. at Lexington – have had to be eliminated due to cost and engineering problems with the tunnel.

Adding Streetcars to the Mix

Streetcars are the solution. Not only are they far less expensive and more convenient than light rail, but because using surface streetcars for a portion of the Red Line corridor can enable the rest of the line to be built in a far more effective and integrated way – and at a far more reasonable price.

The Red Line’s route is not the major issue here. Much of the planning and design work already done can be salvaged. The main question is which segment of the Red Line should be designed to accommodate high-capacity light-rail trains and which should be designed to handle only single-unit streetcars.

These segments can overlap for greater connectivity and flexibility, since streetcars can be accommodated virtually anywhere (with some adjustments to its overhead electrical system and car-body design).

The potential for streetcars in the Red Line corridor should have been clearly suggested when the Draft Environmental Impact Statement/Alternatives Analysis by the MTA concluded that the all-surface option had by far the highest cost effectiveness.

Streetcars were not studied but would cost even less than the all-surface option, since they don’t need the kind of dedicated right-of-way which has worked so poorly on Howard Street. Inexplicably, the MTA rejected the surface option despite its numerical superiority in favor of the tunnel option.

Here’s how a combined light rail/streetcar Red Line could work: The west leg of the Red Line from downtown to Woodlawn, serving the Social Security complex and the Security Square shopping mall, should be designed to accommodate the longest light-rail trains possible, at least three cars, rather than the two-car trains currently proposed.

This west leg constitutes the longest portion of the line, where peak capacity and economies of scale are critical. Accommodating three-car trains (or perhaps four shorter cars) should pose no problem as long as they don’t need to go into the currently proposed downtown tunnel with its expensive underground stations.
Surface streetcars should be used through downtown and the southeast waterfront from the Inner Harbor to Harbor East, Fells Point and Canton.

That will enable the line to fit in well with the existing 19th century streetscape environments of the waterfront and allow stations to be located as close to the most active areas as possible without unseemly disruption. John Paterakis should be far more pleased if his station is nestled along an existing sidewalk near the heart of Harbor East.

Providing additional stations would also become feasible. Harbor East and Central Avenue (the gateway to Harbor Point) should each have separate stations. The Inner Harbor could easily have separate stations adjacent to Harborplace, the Aquarium, and Piers 5 and 6 – rather than just one station hidden 70 feet underneath Lombard Street.

The Greene Street station serving the University of Maryland Medical Center could then be restored.

Let the Metro Prevail

The next question is where multi-car light-rail service should end and single-car streetcar service should begin.

Streetcar service could go as far west as operationally viable, but a logical terminus would be the West Baltimore MARC station, which has long been touted as an important destination for downtown Red Line trips. Streetcar and light-rail service would thus overlap between there and downtown.

As for how best to terminate west leg light-rail service, many options and factors should be weighed, but here is one very clearly beneficial way to go:

A short light-rail spur can be built along Saratoga Street from MLK Blvd. directly into the Lexington Market Metro station mezzanine, terminating with a two-block tunnel from Greene to Eutaw Street.

Saratoga is very wide and has a nice hill just west of Greene Street where a tunnel portal can be tucked in. The MTA says that running a new transit line into the Metro itself is infeasible, despite being proposed since the 1960s. But adding a Red Line “west wing” to the Lexington Market station is the next best thing – and far better than the proposed two-block long pedestrian passageway.

Another surface Red Line station on Saratoga for UMB and the redeveloped Metro West complex could also easily be provided near Pine Street.
The Lexington Market station could be enhanced to transform it into the comprehensive downtown transit hub the visionaries have been dreaming about for decades.
A short escalator connection from the mezzanine could lead directly up to the Howard Street light-rail line, and the adjacent existing MTA employee parking lot on Eutaw Street could be converted into a bus transfer hub.
The biggest advantage of this set-up, however, is that it would maximize use of the underutilized Metro, which is by far Baltimore’s fastest, most efficient, and highest capacity transit mode, and provide a far more efficient eastward backbone connection for the Red Line than the proposed expensive Red Line tunnel.
Extending the Metro East
Accordingly, building a short eastward Metro extension from Johns Hopkins Hospital to Hopkins Bayview along the Amtrak right of way (there’s plenty of room on the south side) would be the ideal complement to this plan.
The route should include a comprehensive bus/rail/streetcar transit hub, with a MARC commuter rail station at Edison Highway near Monument Street. This is a far better location for a MARC-Red Line connection than the present isolated site  inside the Norfolk Southern freight rail yard at Bayview.
Even more importantly, the Edison Highway site would have a far larger rider “catchment area” encompassing most of east and northeast Baltimore and Baltimore County, enabling a far more efficient feeder bus network.
Another huge advantage of a Metro extension is that it could easily accommodate future branches to White Marsh, Dundalk, Middle River and other places.
The extended Metro would instantly become the “Hopkins Corridor,” with a six-minute ride reinforcing the strong synergy between the two health campuses, and stations for East Baltimore Development’s Biotech Park and the MARC station to Washington in between.

Goal: Service Flexibility

An integrated light rail/streetcar/Metro system would provide far superior transit for less than the $2.6 billion pricetag of the MTA Red Line.
It could be built in as many phases as the funding flow allows, unlike the Red Line that can only be built in one unaffordable $2.6 billion chunk in order to conform to its cost effectiveness claim.
This system would provide tremendous service flexibility, such as:
• Red Line A from Woodlawn to Lexington Market Metro Station.
• Red Line B from Woodlawn to Inner Harbor via surface streetcar route.
• Streetcar A from the West Baltimore MARC station via Inner Harbor to Canton.
• Streetcar B from Lexington Market Metro station via Inner Harbor and Canton to East MARC station.
• Metro from Owings Mills via downtown and East MARC station to Bayview.
(And not to mention a Lexington Market connection to the Howard Street light-rail line for north-south travel, and potential streetcar lines along Charles Street, the southwest Mount Clare corridor and other places.)
By adopting an integrated approach, Baltimore could have the true rail transit system it has wanted for decades and would follow the innovative systems now being built in places like Los Angeles, Portland, San Francisco and neighboring Washington, D.C.

February 19, 2013

Red Line: All things to all people

The Red Line on the east and west sides are at fundamental odds with each other, so that neither can be built right. The solution is to split the Red Line in two to build what's best for everyone.
The MTA and their co-conspirators have actually attempted to use the proposed Red Line's absurd lack of focus to their advantage. The MTA is using its modest attributes - being slow, small, and tucked away - to argue that the Red Line would also simultaneously do all the things that the very biggest, fastest, highest powered and most connected urban rail transit lines can do.

But rail transit lines are wildly different. The Washington Metro has huge eight-car platforms, is highly connected, easily goes faster than competing automobile traffic, and dominates its urban environment. In contrast, Baltimore's Red Line has only been designed with skinny two-car platforms, isn't connected to much of anything, and would be slower than even some buses, much less cars. So some Red Line supporters have conjured very attractive images of a nice benign little rail transit line going through neighborhoods, while others encouraged people to believe it would work like the DC Metro.
The attribute which most dictates what a rail transit line ought to do is its length. At 14 miles, the Red Line needs to be able to accommodate long city-to-suburban trips, which means it ought to be fast and big. Which the Red Line is not. And in pretending to be fast and big, it will fail to live up to its expectations and image.

The solution is to quit pretending the Red Line can be something it can't be - a high-speed regional rail line spanning east and west Baltimore. And turn it into what it can be - an attractive, modest, civilized short-distance mode in East Baltimore and something else entirely in West Baltimore and its suburbs.

Case in Point: Highlandtown

In 2009, the Southeast and Greektown Community Development Corporations prepared a really outstanding "vision plan" which focused on transforming Highlandtown's largely underused old industrial district into a vibrant new urban community. And very logically, the proposed Red Line would be a centerpiece of this community. Their concept of what the Red Line should look like in their new community is shown in the illustration above (from page 31).

But this would not be a regional Red Line of the type that would provide high capacity, rapid rail service across the entire width of the city into the western suburbs, as promoted by the MTA. The Highlandtown plan shows a vision of a small, slow civilized Red Line that would wind along a quiet intimate urban street.

The city and MTA rejected the Highlandtown plan. The MTA Red Line "preferred alternative" was already slow enough at 45 minutes from end to end, and its two car trains were already barely big enough to accommodate the promised ridership needed to justify its $2.5 billion price tag. The MTA could not afford to make it any smaller or slower in order to fit on the proposed streets of the Highlandtown plan.
The MTA also needed a large "park and ride" lot at the Canton Crossing/Brewer's Hill Station to attract riders who couldn't be projected to use feeder buses. That meant that the surrounding development had to be of the faux "transit oriented" type, rather than the real thing shown in the Highlandtown plan. The new housing nearing completion (shown above) had to be of the veneer style that wraps around a massive parking garage, and the new retail center under construction had to be one of those Potemkin movie-set "main streets" rather than the real thing.

This area, just south of Highlandtown, is situated just beyond the existing fringe of urban development. To the west and north, there is Canton and Highlandtown, traditional urban rowhouse neighborhoods, while to the east and south, there is Interstate 95 amid sprawling industrial areas. New growth in this area can go either way, transit-oriented urban or auto-oriented sprawl.

What is actually happening is development that attempts to portray an urban image while still being auto-oriented. The proposed Red Line is part of that contradictory illusion. It is what is sometimes referred to as "symbolic transit", an empty but visible trapping to superficially portray urbanity.
But transit is a powerful symbol. That's why the Highlandtown, Brewer's Hill and Canton Crossing folks will all support the Red Line even if it really won't end up doing much for them. Or at least far less than it could have done. The image shown above from the Highlandtown plan can serve as an "iconic image" to promote their proposed development. Visually, it's really everything anyone could ask for - a nice rail transit line on an old freight rail right-of-way going over the existing major street, Eastern Avenue, surrounded by attractive new development. Of the entire 14 miles of the Red Line, this could become Image #1, just as Camden Yards is used to depict the existing light rail line.

East Baltimore's Big Losers: Canton

West of there, the Red Line would turn into Boston Street and Canton. This area has already been fully redeveloped, and Boston Street serves as its attractive but somewhat congested spine. Again, the Red Line would go as fast as it can, which would be too fast but not fast enough. Fitting the Red Line onto Boston Street would be a massive undertaking, requiring cutting it down from two lanes to one in each direction which would make it by far the highest volume-per-lane surface street in the central city area and perhaps the region. Traffic engineering will have to be drastically focused on making both the Red Line and the surrounding traffic flow as continuously as possible.

There are no opportunities here to make the Red Line an iconic centerpiece of the Boston Street corridor, as the Highlandtown folks have ingeniously done. Unfortunately, Canton has to deal with existing realities. The biggest problem physically would be accommodating the huge portal into the expensive tunnel under Fells Point, Downtown and Poppleton.

The solution: Splitting the Red Line

Since the Red Line has been sold as being all things to all people, big and small, fast and slow, transformative and benign, it should be split into two so that it really can fulfill these promises. This will also make it far, far more affordable - which is a particularly acute problem since there is no money to build it.

By splitting the Red Line in two, the shorter end east of downtown can be built as a far less expensive surface streetcar line. This is exactly what the Highlandtown plan shows in their "vision" of rail transit flanking a civilized high density urban street. Similarly, it would fit well on Boston Street in Canton, using the existing street rather than jamming a new rail right-of-way into the median.

A streetcar line would also fit perfectly into Fells Point and Harbor East, on Eastern Avenue and/or Fleet Street, with more and smaller stops conveniently located right along the street next to the shops rather than isolated in unmanned stations 70 feet underground. Alternately, the line could use Eastern and Fleet all the way to Highlandtown, which B'more Mobile has demonstrated would serve a greater ridership than the MTA's fantasy population projections.

Best of all, a streetcar line could run directly and prominently into the Inner Harbor via Piers 5 and 6, instead of isolated far underneath Lombard Street as the Red Line must do. It could then link to the already proposed Charles Street streetcar line for direct connections to the existing Metro and Penn Station, as well as perhaps other future streetcar lines to Federal Hill, Port Covington, Mount Clare and Carroll Park.

A streetcar system connecting all these places is feasible because the average trip length would be short - only several miles. So speed would be far less important than convenience and user-friendliness, which are the two greatest attributes of streetcars.

The Inner Harbor is Baltimore's front yard. Streetcars running through it would be a powerful symbol indeed of the importance of transit.

Upgrading the West Side too

By optimizing the east side of downtown for streetcars, the longer west side can then be optimized for its longer trips, which extend into the suburbs.

The proposed lengthy east side tunnel to Canton is what drags the Red Line down financially. Because it would be so expensive, the rest of the west side Red Line must be built as cheaply as possible. And since the tunnel must be built all at once, everything else must be built at the same time to create the necessary ridership to support it, in one impossible to swallow $2.5 billion gulp.

Getting rid of that tunnel would allow the entire west side Red Line to be built to a far higher standard, either all at once or in manageable affordable segments.

With streetcars serving the Inner Harbor and the Charles Street corridor, the west side Red Line could be built with a far shorter, less expensive and more usable tunnel under Fayette Street which would serve the existing Charles Center and Lexington Market Metro Stations far better and more conveniently than the proposed two block long pedestrian passageway under Light Street.

Alternately, the west side Red Line could be merged into the existing Metro north of Lexington Market, creating connections on the same Metro platforms. This would eliminate the need for all new tunneling in central downtown and allow the Red Line to fully leverage the entire Metro, even if only a small segment of it is built initially - say, to a West MARC station transit hub. 

The overall Red Line plan as described in the Final Environmental Impact Statement (see previous blog articles) is fraught with contradictions and inconsistencies. So it's far better to build less than to build wrong. Its not too late to focus on quality over quantity.

Perhaps what is most desperately needed on the west side is longer station platforms to accommodate longer trains. The MTA Red Line's pathetically inadequate two-car platforms are the penny-pinching result of the excessive east side tunneling. The money saved on less tunneling can be used to provide longer platforms and trains so that west side riders won't have to be packed in like sardines or passed over altogether.

It's all a simple matter of building the right transit line for each part of the system, rather than pretending to make it all things to all people. The Red Line needs to be fast and accommodating for its regionally-oriented west side, and slow and small for its the locally-oriented east side.

February 1, 2013

Ten Sample Red Line Environmental Impact Delusions

10 - The MTA estimates the Red Line travel time from Edmondson Village to Downtown as 16 minutes, while the existing #150 bus takes only 11 minutes.

9 - Red Line ridership projections are based on the premise of over 60% of the region’s population growth (the city and five suburban counties) taking place within the narrow Red Line Corridor, over the thirty year period from 2005 to 2035.

8 - The FEIS report says that at the east end Bayview MARC station, 2923 riders would get on the Red Line throughout the day but only 504 riders would get off - less than one-fifth as many. The daily westbound ridership from the Bayview MARC station to the Bayview medical campus station is given as 277, but the eastbound return volume is given as a grand total of ZERO per day.

7 - However, for the system as a whole, ridership is lopsided in the other direction, with the Red Line projected to carry nearly 3000 more total daily riders eastbound than westbound. The report does not reveal how or why all these riders would forgo the Red Line to make their westbound trips.

6 - The Rosemont station on Edmondson Avenue near Poplar Grove and Franklin Streets is projected to have only 36 daily walk-in riders.

5 - The Inner Harbor station would have a gigantic 9010 boardings per day, but less than 20 percent (1742) would be local walk-in riders from the surrounding Downtown, Inner Harbor and vicinity. The vast majority (6062) would be subway transfers from the Charles Center Metro station to the Red Line via the proposed two block long pedestrian tunnel. As a comparison, the total current ridership at this Metro station is only about 6500 boardings (and 6500 de-boardings) per day.

4 - With the Red Line, Boston Street in Canton is projected to have a peak traffic lane volume of 1575 vehicles per hour. (By comparison, President Street and MLK Boulevard each currently carry less than 900 vehicles per lane in the peak hour and peak direction.) Even with this huge traffic volume, many more vehicles are assumed to be forced to divert off of Boston Street into the communities to the north in order to avoid congestion.

3 - A Red Line train would a maximum seating capacity of 136 riders, with about 200 standees for a total of 336. Even though the Red Line is projected to carry more riders than Metro, the capacity of a Metro train is over four times more - 456 sitting and 996 standing for a total of 1452.

2 - An end-to-end Red Line trip is projected to take 45 minutes to go 14 miles. An end-to-end Metro trip takes 29 minutes to go 15.5 miles. So considering both travel time and rider capacity, the Metro is over six times more efficient in terms of passenger capacity per hour than the Red Line.

1 - Most unbelievable of all: Even though the multi-billion dollar Red Line is currently completely unfunded, the MTA anticipates construction to begin in two years, 2015, and be completed by 2021.

January 25, 2013

Red Line FEIS - Part 3

Red Line FEIS "Traffic and parking technical report" - Utter failure


The Red Line corridor's assumed gigantic share of regional population growth pumps up the Final Environmental Impact Statement ridership numbers (discussed in Part 1 of this analysis), but to an even greater extent, it pumps up auto traffic volume numbers. At the same time, Boston Street and Edmondson Avenue would be narrowed with no viable place for the excess traffic to go.

As a result, Boston Street would be forced to attempt to carry almost twice as much peak traffic on a per-lane basis as other major roadways in the corridor such as President Street and MLK Boulevard.

The huge population and traffic volume projection for this narrow corridor is assumed whether the Red Line is built or not - far more growth than for the rest of the city and five-county metropolitan area combined. As previously discussed, this growth and congestion is used to increase estimated traffic delays for autos and buses to make the Red Line appear better.

But despite the improbable focus of all this population, travel growth and delays in the two mile wide Red Line corridor, only a small amount of it would actually be captured by the Red Line itself. The rest would only translate to the increased automobile traffic. And as Part 2 explains, the Red Line itself would not have the passenger capacity to handle this growth anyway.

Traffic in Canton

The FEIS "Traffic and Parking Technical Report", Section 5.1.3, breaks down the Red Line's future year 2035 peak hour single-direction traffic volume impact on Boston Street in Canton as follows:

Total diversion away from Boston St. due to Red Line = 2000 "No Build" - 1300 with Red Line = 700
Diversion to Red Line stations = 150 to 200
Diversion to Fleet Street and Eastern Avenue = 400
Diversion to other traffic routes = 100 to 150

Percent travel volume growth = 2000/1500 = 33%
Percent of future Boston Street travel demand captured by Red Line = 150 to 200/2000 = 7.5% to 10%
Share of growth accommodated by Red Line = 150 to 200/(2000-1500) = 30% to 40%
Share of growth not accommodated by Red Line = 300 to 350/(2000-1500) = 60% to 70% 

This greatly understates the amount of growth which would not be accommodated by the Red Line, because it does not include traffic diverted away from Boston Street by the increased traffic congestion which would occur anyway even without the narrowing to one lane for the Red Line. It also does not consider the fact that the farther away from Boston Street and the Red Line, the less likely it is for people to use the Red Line, so the greater the proportion of the traffic growth that would be non-Red Line travel.

The bottom line is that creating a better overall transit system, not just one transit line, is what could actually enable population growth to be accommodated. The vast majority of any increase in population and travel would not be absorbed by the Red Line. On a systemwide basis, the Red Line would be a failure.
Huge new First Mariner Bank parking garage illustrates how Canton developers are banking on cars rather than the Red Line for their access needs.

Traffic congestion in Canton

The FEIS uses the "Synchro" computer model to evaluate the traffic congestion impact of the Red line and the assumed growth in traffic demand in the corridor. However, the FEIS "Traffic and Parking Technical Report" begins with a non-technical overview, stating: "These arterials tend to experience congestion at numerous signalized intersections due to the increase in regional developmental growth."

In simplified empirical terms, traffic congestion is a function of peak traffic volume per lane, signal timing and traffic conflicts due to cross-traffic, turns, pedestrians, other urban street friction. Of these factors, the FEIS consistently documents only traffic volumes and lanes, but since they are the most important and most variable factors, they will suffice to summarize the results.

Boston Street's peak hour traffic volume from Table 16.1 is:

Current traffic volume in two lanes = 1545 = 770 per lane
Future "no build" traffic volume = 2305 = 1150 per lane
Future volume with Red Line and only one lane = 1575 per lane

The FEIS thus asserts that Boston Street with the Red Line would carry more traffic in one lane than it now carries in two lanes. It would thus carry more than double its current per-lane traffic volume.

To gain perspective on this claim, compare Boston Street's future 1575 vehicle per lane peak volume with the current peak hour traffic volumes per lane on the other streets shown in the FEIS tables:

AM Peak Hour - Current per lane traffic volumes (derived from Table 16.1)

Security Boulevard, from Rolling Road to I-695  1,940 (WB)/3 = 650
Rolling Road, south of Security Blvd. 1,295 (NB)/2 = 650
Security Boulevard, from I-695 to Woodlawn Drive 1,865 (EB)/3 = 620
Cooks Lane, east of Forest Park Ave. 955 (EB)/1 = 955
US 40, from Winters Lane to Cooks Lane 2,600 (EB)/3 = 870
Edmondson Avenue, from Cooks Lane to Franklin Street 2,625 (EB)/3 = 875
Franklin Street, from Edmondson Avenue to Pulaski Street 2,585 (EB)/3 = 860
Fleet Street, from Wolfe Street to Boston Street 855 (WB)/1 = 855
Boston Street, from Aliceanna Street to Conkling Street 1,510 (NB)/2 = 755
President Street Lombard St. to Fleet Street 2,225 (NB)/3 = 740
Lombard St., from MLK Jr. Blvd. to President St. 2,085 (WB)/4 = 520
MLK Jr. Blvd., from Mulberry St. to Lombard St. 2,555 (SB)/3 = 850
Bayview Boulevard, from Lombard St. to Eastern Ave. 280 (SB)/2 = 140

PM Peak Hour - Current per lane volumes (from Table 16.2)

Security Boulevard, from Rolling Road to I-695  2,250 (EB)/3 = 750
Rolling Road, south of Security Boulevard 1,335 (NB)/2 = 670
Security Boulevard, from I-695 to Woodlawn Drive 1,905(WB)/3 = 635
Cooks Lane, east of Forest Park Avenue 1,200 (WB)/1 = 1200
US 40, from Winters Lane to Cooks Lane 2,475 (WB)/3 = 825
Edmondson Avenue, from Cooks Lane to Franklin Street 2,535 (WB)/3 = 845
Franklin Street, from Edmondson Avenue to Pulaski Street 1,885 (WB)/3 = 630
Fleet Street, from Wolfe Street to Boston Street 810 (EB)/1 = 810
Boston Street, from Aliceanna Street to Conkling Street 1,195 (SB)/2 = 600
President Street, from Lombard Street to Fleet Street 2,545 (NB)/3 = 850
Lombard St., from MLK Jr. Blvd. to President St. 2,345 (WB)/4 = 585
MLK Jr. Blvd., from Mulberry St. to Lombard St. 2,585 (NB)/3 = 860
Bayview Boulevard, from Lombard St. to Eastern Ave. 280 (SB)/2 = 140

Bottom line: With the Red Line, the FEIS claims that Boston Street would carry nearly twice the volume per lane as virtually any other street in the corridor currently carries, notably including primary regional arterials, MLK Boulevard, President Street, and Edmondson Avenue (US 40) all with less than 900 per lane in the peak hour.

Cooks Lane would come closest to Boston Street at 1200, due to its almost constant free-flow right turn flow off US 40 and lack of conflicts. 

But Boston Street's projected 1575 per lane volume leaves all comparisons in the dust.

Traffic on Edmondson Avenue

The FEIS does not furnish a breakdown of diversions from Edmondson Avenue as it does from Boston Street. Here are Edmondson Avenue's westbound peak hour traffic volumes per lane:

Current traffic volume = 2535 in 3 lanes = 845 per lane
Future no-build = 3120 in 3 lanes = 1040 per lane
Future with Red Line = 2535 in 2 lanes = 1270 per lane

Future diversion to Red Line and other routes = 3120 - 2535 = 585

As with Boston Street, the diversion volume is probably much higher than this because it does not include traffic that would divert regardless of whether the Red Line is built.

The future per lane volume with the Red Line, at 1270 per hour, would still be far higher than currently on any other comparable urban street such as the 860 per lane currently on MLK Boulevard or President Street, though not as stratospheric as the future 1575 per lane on Boston Street. 

The impacts could be even worse, however, because there are absolutely no other divertable through routes anywhere near Edmondson Avenue. The closest ones are Frederick Avenue to the south and Franklintown Road, Windsor Mill Road, Clifton Avenue and Gwynns Falls Parkway to the north - all in totally separate corridors. But there would have to be a huge amount of congestion to induce motorists to divert that far away.

Common Red Line factors on Boston Street and Edmondson Avenue

To attempt to accommodate vehicular and Red Line traffic on both Boston Street and Edmondson Avenue, there would have to be extremely long green traffic signal phases. Signal phases to stop through traffic and allow pedestrian crossings and conflicting cross traffic would need to be few and far between. All cross movements would be consolidated only at signalized median openings, which will further concentrate conflicts and increase their inconvenience and impact. Many local motorists and pedestrians would have to take very roundabout ways to get from one side of the street to the other. On-street parking would be greatly reduced and heavy full-time traffic lanes would be pushed up against the sidewalks.

All of the same traffic engineering measures which would facilitate the Red Line would also promote through traffic on the adjacent lanes. While through traffic would be very congested due to its extreme volume during peak periods, through traffic would fly along both Boston Street and Edmondson Avenue in off-peak periods, making the overall street environment even worse. And while the MTA would be able to force Red Line operators to observe the speed limit, little can be done to prevent the rest of the off-peak traffic from whizzing by them.

Red Line stations would be isolated in the median strips sandwiched between through traffic in both directions. In sum, there would be nothing "transit friendly" about the Red Line on Edmondson Avenue or Boston Street.

In sum, the traffic data provide yet another reason why the Red Line simply would not work.