November 16, 2015

Rail "Value Menu": 25 projects for "Maximize 2040"

The Baltimore Metropolitan Council calls its latest long-term regional transportation plan, "Maximize 2040". That sounds like the old McDonald's ad: "Super Size Me !!"

But federal regulations require that the plan use real-world budgetable costs, so it must have a modicum of self-restraint.

So instead the proposed 25 year plan includes no new regional rail transit whatsoever. "Maximize 2040" has been minimized. That's pathetic.
New rail transit graphic - September 2017 - showing heavy rail Metro extensions (green) eastward from Hopkins Hospital to Sparrow's Point and White Marsh, and light rail branches (red) westward Woodlawn/CMS and southward to Port Covington/Brooklyn. I thought I'd try my hand with Lucidchart software, which isn't really the best thing to use.

The now-deceased MTA Red Line was like a Double Quarter Pounder with Cheese, forced to be available only in a combo meal bundled with the super-sized fries and giant empty-calories soft drink: $3 Billion for the Red Line, take it or leave it, with no options. No wonder it was ultimately indigestible.

So now at the other extreme, the proposed "Maximize 2040" plan deletes all new regional rail projects for the next 25 years - just MARC commuter rail improvements so Baltimore can engage vicariously with Washington DC's far more successful rail transit system.

For the last decade, the MTA has been saying that it was the Red Line or nothing, so now with "Maximize 2040" they've given us nothing. We've gone from Red Line gluttony to regional rail starvation. Binge and purge.

"Value Menu" to the rescue...

But over on the fast-food side wall is the Value Menu. Here are 25 rail projects priced "as low as" (to use typical ad parlance) around $100 Million each, if we go easy on the bigger ticket items. We could probably get away with calling this the "Dollar Menu and More", as McDonald's now does to finesse the fact that one dollar really doesn't buy much anymore. At least its still cheap compared to those overpriced Quarter Pounders and that malnutritious Red Line meal the MTA originally tried to cram down our throats.

As MDOT Secretary Pete Rahn said, the Red Line's fatal flaw was its downtown tunnel. The tunnel was not only staggeringly expensive, but it required the entire Red Line to be built at once to justify that expense, and yet it prevented any semblance of a growable system from ever being built to augment it. So it was both too much and not enough.

In contrast, this "Value Menu" consists of three basic affordable rail transit projects which form the foundation upon which an expandable system can be built, one step at a time - a starter Red Line for the west side and a minimal but effective Metro extension for the east side, at perhaps half a billion dollars apiece, and an East MARC station at the optimal location for somewhat less than $100 million. This is just enough to connect these rail lines to comprehensive transit hubs with east and west side MARC stations, which is just what Baltimore needs to call its rail transit a true system.

Then there are 22 additional projects which can affordably build upon this foundation. All of this is described in greater detail in articles throughout this blog. Listing over two dozen projects is a way to take "Maximize 2040" literally at its word.
A possible system scenario, with the west Red Line and east Metro projects listed below,
 integrated with some streetcar lines (2015 graphic by Marty Taylor and Art Cohen)

So here we present...




The following three projects are the foundation of a full rail system for Baltimore, basically following the model of the 2002 plan before the Red Line crowded the other projects out. A starter west-only segment of the Red Line can be built quickly because it leaves out the downtown tunnel and much of the engineering has already been done. The east Metro extension is the shortest, least expensive extension that allows a proper terminus hub that allows the entire Metro to function properly, replacing the defunct north extension to Morgan State. And the East MARC station is already included in the "Maximize 2040" plan, but should be moved to a location where it can serve all of east Baltimore.

1 - Red Line: Lexington Market Metro Station to West MARC Station
This does what the Red Line absolutely needs to do - connect to the far superior backbone Metro and the West Baltimore MARC Station/Transit Hub, located near the proposed rail yard, with transit oriented development opportunities throughout, and no more. Most of the engineering has already been done.

2 - Metro Extension: Hopkins Hospital to East MARC Station
The current Hopkins Hospital Station is a terrible place for a Metro terminus, and the proposed north extension under Broadway is dead. The best and easiest way to extend the line is to bring it to the surface in the Amtrak corridor, to a great terminal station location at nearby Edison Highway. This segment of slightly over a mile is the most important rail project in the entire transit system, but since the west Red Line has already been planned and designed, it should probably come first.

3 - East MARC Commuter Rail Station at Edison Highway/Monument Street
This station is included in the draft regional plan, but there's no reason anymore to put it in a landlocked site the middle of the Norfolk-Southern Bayview freight yard, especially since the plan has also eliminated the additional proposed MARC station at Broadway to serve Hopkins Hospital (which Amtrak as landlord would have never allowed anyway). The far superior place to put the station is on a far larger and non-isolated site half way in between, where it can be part of a comprehensive Metro/and bus hub. It would even make a great Amtrak station.


These are the west extensions of the Red Line which have already been designed, but would now make economic and functional sense to build as separate projects, if necessary, because the core segment from Lexington Market to the West MARC Station makes sense.

4 - Red Line: West MARC to Hilton Hub
A very short Red Line extension beyond the MARC station can bring it to one of the best development sites in all of West Baltimore, the obsolete Hilton/Edmondson interchange. A development there could be a Red Line terminal, parking, a community gateway to Leakin and Gwynns Falls Parks and additional multi-use space.

5 - Red Line: Hilton Hub to Edmondson Village
Edmondson Village is also an excellent place for converting the shopping center and the stalled Uplands community project into transit oriented development.

6 - Red Line: Edmondson Village to Woodlawn/CMS
This would provide the final segment of the west Red Line. Because of the Cooks Lane tunnel, it would be more expensive, but since it has no underground stations, it would not be prohibitive.


Both sides of the streetcar debate are right. The anti-streetcar faction is correct that buses can do virtually everything streetcars can do at a lower cost. The pro-streetcar faction is right to say that they can stimulate development in a way that buses don't. Like BMWs and Kias, streetcars and buses can both get you from point A to B. But design matters.

The issue can be resolved by planning streetcar lines as branches of the light rail lines, rather than stand-alone lines, linking them to the transportation advantages of light rail, while capturing the conspicuous urban design advantages all rail has over buses.

Montgomery Park streetcar line looking east from new North Carroll Park development toward B&O Railroad Museum
7 - Streetcar Line: MLK Blvd. to Montgomery Park
Streetcars would branch off from the Red Line at Martin Luther King Boulevard and proceed southwest along the historic "First Mile" B&O Railroad corridor to Carroll and Montgomery Park.

8 - Streetcar Line: MLK Blvd. to Inner Harbor Pier 6
Also from MLK Boulevard, a streetcar line could replicate the Red Line's downtown surface alternative, from its Draft Environmental Impact Statement, southeastward to the Inner Harbor and Pier 6, adjacent to Harbor East.

9 - Streetcar Loop: Camden Yards > Charles Street > Penn Station
Streetcars could also be integrated with the downtown portion of the existing central light rail line, in a loop northbound on Charles Street to Penn Station, then southbound on Howard Street along the existing track (with a potential additional stop at Antique Row), then completing the loop between Camden Yards and the Inner Harbor, and perhaps to Port Covington (see below).

10 - Streetcar Line: Westport to Port Covington ("Plank Line")
This would start at a new North Westport Station along the existing light rail line, just south of the casino, then proceed over the Middle Branch to Wal-Mart and Under Armour. It could also connect to the Charles Street streetcar loop described directly above for access to South Baltimore and the Inner Harbor, but should probably be built to full multi-vehicle light rail standards rather than just for streetcars.


Unlike the Red Line, the Metro has sufficient capacity and speed to actually make it worth significantly expanding, both to the northeast and southeast (and perhaps eventually northwest to Westminster).

11 - Metro Extension: East MARC to Bayview
This is the core extension, east to Bayview along the Amtrak tracks and Interstate 895 right-of-way, where it could be used to bridge the development gap between the Hopkins Bayview Biotech Park and the Greektown community.

12 - Metro Extension: Bayview to Baltimore Travel Plaza
This would run southward along Interstate 895 for a short distance to a transit hub and park-and-ride lot at the Baltimore Travel Plaza, which was originally so-named because it included these facilities and a Greyhound Bus terminal. It is still by far the best location for them in Southeast Baltimore.

13 - Metro Extension: Travel Plaza to Dundalk
This segment would travel southeast along a railroad right of way through the Holabird industrial area, including the new Amazon facility, to the Baltimore County Community College near Merritt Boulevard.

14 - Metro Extension: Dundalk to Sparrows Point
From Merritt Boulevard, its just a short distance to the massive new development site at Sparrows Point.

15 - Metro Extension: East MARC to Middle River
This would run eastward along the Amtrak tracks from north of Bayview, with intermediate stations at Eastpoint, Rosedale, Rossville and Essex.

16 - Metro Extension: Middle River to White Marsh
This would run northward along White Marsh Boulevard from the Martin Airport MARC Station to the White Marsh town center.
Overlay of Sept 2017 diagram of heavy rail (green) and light rail (red) showing a streetcar system (in blue) to serve shorter trips. This scenario shows the streetcars sharing the light rail tracks into the Lexington Market Hub,
 then curling around to a Mount Clare Branch to Montgomery Park, an Inner Harbor/Perkins Line (I call the proposed Perkins development "Perkins Point" north of Fells Point), then northward on Broadway to North Avenue.


Once the "starter" streetcar system is started, as described above, it could take on a mind of its own. Keep in mind that streetcars are not just a way to get from Point A to B, but a way of presenting the city. Here are some examples of streetcar lines that could make sense in helping to accomplish this. Use your imagination with all this, in conjunction with larger development plans and goals.

17 - Streetcar Line: Pier 6 to Harbor Point
Do the developer and the city really know what they're doing as far as providing access to this mega-project isolated on a peninsula? They rejected a Red Line station that would best serve Harbor Point at Central Avenue. Would a streetcar line that went straight into Harbor Point and terminated at Thames Street on the west end of Fells Point fulfill the access requirements?

18 - Streetcar Line: Pier 6 to Hopkins Broadway to North Avenue
If extending the Metro northward under Broadway is far too expensive for what it would accomplish, perhaps a streetcar line would make more sense. The first phase could be to connect it to the "Great Blacks in Wax" Museum at Broadway and North Avenue.

19 - Streetcar Line: North Avenue to Morgan State
This could be the second phase of the above, running through Clifton Park (along Rose Street) as a centerpiece in its revitalization.

20 - Streetcar Line: North Avenue to Coppin State/Mondawmin
Every few years, there was an effort to "brand" North Avenue as a tool in its revitalization. Can we really get warm cuddly thoughts about old decrepit North Avenue? If its possible, streetcars might be the way to do it. It could be cool to run a streetcar line right through the Coppin campus and create a streetcar "Main Street" in the Mondwamin Mall parking lot. How Philadelphia fares with streetcars on Girard Avenue (its North Avenue) is worth watching.

21 - Streetcar Line: Coppin State to West MARC
This line would complete the streetcar loop between the Red Line and North Avenue, via portions of Fulton Avenue and Pulaski Street.

22 - Streetcar Line: West MARC to Montgomery Park
Similarly to the above, this line would complete a loop from the Red Line to the southwest. Bon Secours Hospital would be a primary intermediate stop.

23 - Streetcar Line: Montgomery Park to Westport
Further extending this loop to the south along Monroe Street would tie it into the "Plank Line" to Port Covington (see #10 above).

24 - Streetcar Line: Penn Station to Charles Village
This is the proposed Charles Street project that got Jimmy Rouse's the Baltimore Streetcar Campaign going a few years ago. It probably makes more sense as icing on the cake than as a core system project.

25 - Streetcar Line: Mondawmin to Pimlico Racetrack
Park Heights Avenue is physically perhaps the best street in Baltimore for streetcars - nice and wide, not too much traffic, with attractive old rowhouses that desperately need tender loving care, along with a great old city landmark at the end that urgently needs to be brought into the mainstream. Pimlico Racetrack needs to be an all-year attraction - perhaps as the state fairgrounds and an exhibition center, with the Preakness and horse racing as a still-effective theme. Moreover, the Baltimore Zoo at the south end of this corridor has the same needs, to which streetcars may be just the way to fill the bill.

And here's a slide show I produced back in 2015 for the Right Rail Coalition to show various scenes where streetcar lines could fit in:

November 12, 2015

Gentriphobia and other housing bugaboos

Time for some straight talk on housing policy.

Gentrification is just the concentration of "yuppies" in a few small areas instead of spreading them throughout the city. As such, gentrification is as much of a ghetto-ization as any other kind of discrimination. In the end, it doesn't even matter whether the yuppies are ghetto-izing themselves or are somehow being manipulated into just a few areas like Federal Hill, Hampden and Canton. It's up to them.

Most obviously, gentrification has been an overwhelmingly white phenomenon. If gentrification was somehow bad, then black neighborhoods where people have somehow felt threatened by gentrification would be better off for it. Is Upton better off because whites seldom stray west of Eutaw Place and Bolton Hill? Is Franklin Square better off because not many whites stray north of Baltimore Street from Union Square?

These neighborhoods need to be brought as much into the mainstream as possible. Upton in particular has an extremely important history that needs to be disseminated to everyone - black, white or racially ambiguous. Yuppies, buppies, hipsters, bo-hos, bo-bos, or some other kind of people.

Let's invent some new typecasts, based on identity and pride in other neighborhoods - Uptonites, Franklin Squares, Mount Clarities, Irvingtonians, etc. They might already exist. They just need to be brought out.

Property Values

High property value is another major housing bugaboo. The catchphrase "affordable housing" has been tossed around so much that it has become meaningless. What's affordable to one person is unaffordable to another.

All housing has a threshold value which it must attain so that it is economically worth maintaining. Affordability is too often achieved by deferring maintenance, often indefinitely or even forever. Low property values are the cause of Baltimore's rampant vacancy and abandonment problem. If values are too low to make it worthwhile to maintain a house, it will ultimately be abandoned.

The city's high tax rate is part of this equation. High taxes drive down property values. When taxes are high, the price of houses must be reduced to attract buyers. High tax rates are even an incentive to make houses look shabby in order to thus lower the assessments.

Subsidies just make it worse, enabling housing values which are too low to support sustainable maintenance.

People talk out of both sides of their mouths about this. Both high values and low values are spoken of in negative terms, often to the extent that the allegedly "ideal" property value is too high to be "affordable" but simultaneously too low to be maintainable - an untenable situation.

To make matters even worse, subsidies often have stipulations which cripple homeowners. For example, subsidies might be forfeited if they sell or if their income increases. These are prescriptions for a permanent underclass living in ghetto-ized neighborhoods.

The most widespread subsidy is the "Homestead Tax Credit" which subsidizes people who cling to houses they would otherwise be better off selling. Old homeowners' property taxes are "capped" while new lifeblood homeowners would have to pay through the nose for the same property.

All housing needs to have a goal property value level at which it is maintainable. Policies should then be defined to achieve this value.

A mansion facing Lafayette Square - This is an old photo but the weather is too bad today to go out and take a new one.
I'll check it out and replace this photo if it's in even worse shape now.

And let's stop beating around the bush: Neighborhoods with particularly grandiose architecture like Lafayette Square, Auchentoroly and Walbrook need high property values in order to be maintained. Basically attractive but more architecturally modest neighborhoods like Belair-Edison and Poppleton can be maintained at somewhat lower values.

The racial problem

Much has been said about how housing is no longer the great investment it once was. Statistically this is true in the aggregate, but it's not inherent.

In particular, the lack of capital appreciation for housing in black neighborhoods has recently been publicized. The problem with some neighborhoods is that they've been treated like risky sociology experiments. Sandtown-Winchester comes to mind, where money poured in without a sound economic basis. Then it produced the Freddie Gray tragedy.

In the 1960s, blacks lost out on the housing boom because they were discriminated against by being given too few loans. By the 2000s, it was just the opposite: Many blacks lost out because they were indiscriminately given too many economically reckless loans that resulted in foreclosures. Of course, the same thing happened to some whites before the housing bubble burst, but not in as geographically concentrated a way.

When the low income "projects" were finally blown up in the 1990s, pundits claimed it was their high-rise design that was the big problem. Yes, it was a problem, but the bigger problem is simply forcing people into somebody else's idea of what they ought to be.

The lesson is clear: Respect the laws of economics and support people as people, not as occupants of social housing experiments.

"Inclusive Zoning"

Another counterproductive type of subsidy is to force developers to include low income housing in high income developments - so called "inclusive zoning".

Baltimore has blocks and blocks of abandoned neighborhoods which we need to repopulate. Why would we want to attract even more people to live in the city's small high income veneer?

The rationale is generally expressed as a desire to allow more "disadvantaged" people to enjoy the advantages of high income areas. But these advantages, though nice, are really rather insubstantial - things like waterfront views, nearby overpriced cafes and boutiques and being able to get away from that "Other Baltimore".

The problems of subsidizing lower income people in high income areas are the same as any other subsidy for high income areas - it diverts attention away from Baltimore's real problems. If the city's most valuable real estate like Harbor Point gets maximum subsidies, it simply increases the handicap imposed on all the other less desirable neighborhoods.

City leaders recognize the futility of "Inclusive Zoning", which is why they've rendered Baltimore's law as toothless as possible, using it only for its hype and grandstanding value. The argument that rich counties like Montgomery have had a modicum of success with this only reinforces the point.

The basic answer is to avoid all housing subsidies as much as possible. Subsidies to landlords are even worse than to developers. Instead, subsidize deserving people directly, particularly to encourage them to engage in productive activities.

Housing speculation

Another "BS" topic is speculation. Speculators are chastised when they "flip" a property to make a quick profit, but they're also chastised when they sit on a property for the long run without cashing out.

Time is of the essence. Quick flipping means quick progress and resolution. That's good if it gets houses into the hands of residents who will carefully nurture them! OK, some speculators do only superficial cosmetic improvements which hide bigger problems in order to make easy money. Buyers need to beware.

But any kind of improvement is good. All responsible property owners try to do small fixes to keep the plumbing working rather than expensive cataclysmic renovations. And even substantial renovations can go down the tubes if property values are not sufficient to warrant subsequent long term maintenance, as discussed above.

One of the surest signs of a healthy city is when basically run-down buildings have been lovingly made to look nice and functional with paint, flower boxes and other small but largely superficial niceties. On the other hand, distressed cities often have perfectly restored or brand new buildings lavished with somebody's money in proximity to total wrecks.

Most problems can be traced to the overall causes of distorted economics and sociology. Hate the game of high tax rates, polarization, bad economic climate and bad regulations, but don't hate the "playas".

Housing policy

The city's housing policy must be grounded in reality. The city can't just pour unlimited dollars into neighborhoods without commensurate increases in inherent property values. That's called a "money pit".

The city's policy catchphrase, "Vacants to Value" is pretty good, but it gives too much emphasis on the city's engagement in the painful and painstaking process of rescuing particular problem plagued properties (oooops, too many p's). They even "celebrate" demolition, which is nothing to celebrate.

Here are the basics: Strive for sufficiently high and sustainable property values. Keep tax rates low. Subsidize people, not buildings, and especially not rents. If this encourages displacement, learn from it to cushion the impact.

Promote neighborhoods of value and choice throughout the city, not just near the waterfront. If the waterfront gets overpriced so only the rich can afford it, fine! Other neighborhoods will then look like bargains by comparison.

Housing drives commercial development. Having people with disposable income nearby is what creates a market and image for the promotion of retail and jobs and a perception that the schools are good (whether they are or not).

And cut out the gentriphobia...

November 3, 2015

Station East: Where's the Station?

"Picture yourself in a train in a station, with plasticine porters, with looking glass ties..."
-John Lennon, The Beatles, Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds

If you don't have a station, perhaps the best thing to do is pretend.

That's what's happening in the neighborhood a few blocks east of the Hopkins Hospital "campus" and north of Patterson Park, previously best known as the desolate post-apocalyptic scene Amtrak riders complained about from their windows. Now after years of cataclysmic abandonment, demolition and new development swirling around them, community leaders have decided it's now time to take control of their destiny.

So the Historic East Baltimore Community Action Coalition (HEBCAC) has decided to name the neighborhood closest to the Amtrak tracks, "Station East" even though there is no station.

"Station East" houses for sale on Milton Avenue looking north toward the Amtrak overpass -
along which an actual Metro station could be built, thus fulfilling the prophesy of "Station East".

Station East's station in life

Calling it "Station East" may be the first step in actually getting a station. It just so happens that Station East would be the best place to locate the next Metro station beyond Hopkins Hospital, if and when the Metro is ever extended, which it should be.

Currently, the future of transit beyond the Hopkins Hospital Metro station is extremely muddled. That station is a terrible location for a rail terminus, having been previously rejected for the kind of feeder bus hub which is essential to any major modern urban rail-based system. The Maryland Transit Administration studied extending the Metro northward as part of its 2002 regional plan, and found it to be utterly infeasible from a cost effectiveness standpoint, so they pulled the plug.

The 2002 plan also called for two new MARC "commuter rail" stations only about two miles away from each other in East Baltimore, one serving the defunct Metro extension on Broadway and one for the defunct Red Line north of Bayview. Both are also terrible locations from almost every perspective (impact on rail operations, access, siting, community benefit, etc.), so trying to build even one of them is futile, much less both.

But there's a far better, less expensive and more cost effective solution: The Metro should be extended eastward rather than northward, along the Amtrak tracks, in a shallow "cut and cover" tunnel that would emerge from its deeper bored tunnel at a station somewhere in Station East along Eager Street. There's your station in Station East.

Then once the Metro climbs to the surface somewhere near Station East, the next station eastward beyond be a comprehensive MARC/Metro/bus and (possibly) Amtrak hub on the large vacant parcel at Edison Highway and Monument Street. That's yet another station for Station East.

The Metro could then eventually be extended in a surface and elevated alignment to Bayview, Dundalk, Middle River and/or White Marsh - making Station East as much the center of things as is Station North.

Station East's neighborhood vision has come first. Then comes the station itself.

Modeled after "Station North"

Naming a neighborhood "Station" may become the 21st century equivalent of the "Hills" of the 20th century - Bolton, Reservoir, Federal, Butchers, Brewers. The first was "Station North", which became a popular name for the area north of Penn Station after decades of failure as "Penn North Charles".

Ironically, Station North's renewal ultimately has been less due to the Amtrak station and more to the community leadership with schools like the Maryland Institute College of Art (MICA) and Johns Hopkins. But even the proposed shopping center a mile to the north (originally to have included a Wal-Mart and Lowe's) was dubbed "25th Street Station".

So the "station" theme caught on. In Station East, MICA has partnered with Hopkins again to create a community-oriented arts graduate education program in "Station East" in an old church just south of the new Henderson Hopkins school which itself is supposed to be a model for education innovation.

Neighborhood branding and identity

The first step in creating a new real estate marketing identity for "Station East" was probably the recognition that all that multi-billion dollar mass destruction and new building around Hopkins Hospital was a given, and they need to run with it rather than try to fight it. A basic Baltimore rule is that you can't fight Hopkins.

The neighborhoods east of Hopkins Hospital, north of Orleans Street and south of the Amtrak tracks (in yellow). "Station East" is now only the northwest (upper left) portion, but real estate agents and developers may decide to expand it.

Secondly, contrary to earlier expectations, the neighborhood renewal north of Patterson Park has indeed now jumped beyond the heavily trafficked Orleans Street (US 40), through McElderry Park and right to the door of Station East. That highly successful renewal was first led by Neighborhood Housing Services under Ed Rutkowski.

Real estate marketers and agents are ultimately who determines how neighborhoods are defined. It's a process of establishing landmarks, creating brand identities and then waiting for peripheral areas to latch onto successful ones within geographic boundaries.

As such, it appears that "Station East" (if the popularity of that name catches on) could ultimately become applied to more of the area south of the Amtrak tracks, east of Patterson Park Avenue, north of Orleans Street, and west of Edison Highway and Linwood Avenue.

Dissolution of the Orleans Street traffic barrier

While Ed Rutkowski's organization successfully focused on the three block strip anchored by Patterson Park to the south and bound-in by Orleans Street to the north, he realized that making Orleans a barrier was not good. Along with Bill Henry (before being elected to the City Council), they even looked at ways to soften the barrier effect of Orleans Street.

But as it turned out, Orleans has not been all that much of a problem. It never was a physical barrier, unlike many parts of the Hopkins' so-called "campus" as well as the Amtrak tracks to the north. Hopkins has used these barriers to help define and reinforce their empire. Hopkins even cut themselves off from the "good" neighborhoods directly to the south, Washington Hill and Fells Point, by replacing the Ann Street corridor with a massive parking garage and loading facility.

In Station East, the closest example of Hopkins' fortress building is the new Henderson Hopkins School, which was a product of maximum demolition and the closure of Eager Street to reinforce the barrier along the Amtrak tracks and Patterson Park Avenue.

The lesson on Orleans Street is that traffic is not an insurmountable barrier to neighborhood development. Orleans is about the same width and physical configuration as any of the other streets in the area which have had successful renewal. All housing choices involve compromises.While it is indeed nasty to have no on-street parking and whizzing traffic ten feet in front of your house, many people don't have cars and have more important housing priorities such as overall location for access to good jobs and schools. Houses on busy streets can now play the role of providing "worker housing" the same way that small alley houses originally did back in the 19th century.

The kinds of socially-engineered mixed-income housing which has been placed in innately high value locations like Broadway Overlook in Washington Hill and Albemarle Square in Jonestown would be better off put in critical lower value corridors like Orleans Street, where it would actually blend in better. Slowly this seems to be happening. Of course, low income folks need the flexibility of a variety of options just like everyone else.

Station East's future station identity

That still leaves the need for a strong neighborhood identity landmark. Patterson Park has served this need exquisitely well for the area south of Orleans, but the Station East area is just a bit too remote to pull that off. But even Patterson Park's identity had to be shaped by the neighborhood, rather than vice-versa. Patterson Park had a bad though undeserved reputation until into the 1980s when it became associated with quickly improving neighborhoods surrounding it, which in turn drove the renewal of the park.

So it isn't even essential that there be a station at Station East, except in our collective vision, as the real estate marketers apparently realize. Vision of the future is what drives it.