October 28, 2015

How to sort out the bus system: A "Circulator District"

The biggest "X Factor" in Governor Hogan's new proposed bus plan is the system's relationship to the circulator routes run by the city and others. And that's exactly how it should be.

The new MTA plan has a void in the city center. This calls for a completely different kind of planning and involvement by the various stakeholders, and recognition of the need for a whole new geographic entity - a "Circulator District".

Eliminating Redundancy

The MTA's new bus plan clearly recognizes that they should not continue flooding the congested downtown streets with slow inefficient long distance bus routes which are redundant to the city's "Charm City Circulator" system.

Operating short localized bus routes is a totally different proposition from the types of lengthy bus routes the MTA traditionally runs. The MTA has had decades of experience attempting to plan and operate short circulator routes, most of which have been failures.

While it's hard to say how much the MTA's failure with circulators differs from their overall track record of general failures at running any kind of bus service, what has happened fairly recently is that other institutions have taken up the mantle of operating circulators with greater success. This includes the city government's "Charm City Circulator" system along with various other institutions such as colleges and hospitals,

And in the blueprint for its new plan, the MTA has actually recognized the need to provide funding support for the Charm City Circulator, which the perpetually cash-strapped city has been struggling to pay for. While the MTA has long subsidized and contracted out services outside their traditional service area, such as for the DC suburbs, long distance commuter lines, small towns and rural areas, supporting service inside their core service area is new.

In fact, previous MTA attempts to run circulators have scrupulously avoided anything that would impact their own existing routes. The MTA's failed attempts to plan circulators in east and south Baltimore back in the 1990s even avoided running into downtown, just so the MTA would avoid competing with itself.

However, one of the apparent keys to the success of the Charm City Circulator is that it is very blatantly redundant with the MTA system - redundant but better. Being free helps too, of course, while the MTA system charges the same $1.70 "base fare" whether riding one mile or twenty.

The New MTA Inner City Plan

The new MTA plan calls for only seven "BaltimoreLink" bus routes to penetrate the heart of downtown, defined as the area bounded by Howard Street on the west, Franklin Street on the north, President Street on the east and Pratt Street on the south. (Five other major color keyed "Link" bus lines would not enter this central area at all.)

These are:

Blue - West: From US 40 (Edmondson Ave.) to East Baltimore Street
Red - North: From York Road/Charles/St. Paul
Green - Northeast: From Harford Road
Brown - Northeast: From Belair Road
Orange - East: From US 40 (Orleans Street)
Navy - Southeast: From Boston Street
Silver - South: From Key Highway/Hanover Street

Many corridor bus routes in the MTA system would no longer penetrate the center of downtown at all. These include from Washington Blvd, Wilkens Avenue, and Frederick Avenue to the southwest; Pennsylvania Avenue and Eutaw Street to the northwest; Howard Street and Greenmount Avenue to the north; and Eastern Avenue and Fayette Street to the east.

This group includes some notoriously bad bus lines, so if there's a better way, good riddance!

The new MTA plan recognizes that the center of downtown can get very slow, bogged down and congested. Still, it's a popular destination and since so many bus lines converge there, it has always been important for transfers.

There are three general ways to fill this void created by the diversion of traditional radial corridor bus lines away from the center city:

1 - Transfers to the Metro and Light Rail Lines - This is the ideal method. The Baltimore Metro, in particular is by far the fastest, highest capacity and most cost effective way to carry the most passengers. And the central light rail line has its place as well. It can provide very high capacity by using three car trains and not devoting too much service to its outer extremities.

2 - Express Commuter Bus Lines - These can get expensive for the amount of service provided, but they have a role as the MTA has shown. Their main distinguishing characteristics are a limited number of runs, infrequent or no off-peak service, and a lack of integration with the rest of the system, so we need not discuss them here.

3 - Circulator Bus Lines - Clearly, these must now have a greater role than ever. For shorter service on local inner city streets, slower and more circuitous routes are less of a problem than they are for longer distance bus lines.

A Proposed "Circulator Transit District" and Transit Hubs

The best way to fill the inner city void of the new MTA bus plan is to designate a "Circulator District" where short localized bus lines provide the bulk of all transit service.

Below is a map of a possible Circulator Transit District, based not on politics, but on physical and transit system geography. The key to its success is the location and operation of transit transfer hubs at its outer boundaries where the circulator bus lines would interface with the longer distance MTA bus lines and the regional rail system.

Proposed "Circulator District" and Transit Hubs to interface with the larger MTA system,
including the Metro (Green) and Light Rail (Blue).

The transit hubs need to be well located to facilitate transfers that encourage the greatest use of the most efficient transit services. Too many transit hubs would spread the transfers out too much, so that there wouldn't be enough of them at a given point. For example, Penn-North should not be encouraged as a transit hub because it would take away from the interface at nearby Mondawmin. Also, Penn Station does not make a good bus hub because it is along a corridor rather than at a transition point.

In fact, the Mondawmin Metro Station (shown below) is the prototype for what an efficient transit hub can be, linking bus lines from a wide arc, not only with the Metro which provides by far the fastest and best service, but with each of the other bus lines. Transfer options increase exponentially as the number of bus lines increase.

The Mondawmin hub is a nearly ideal off-street setting for all this, unlike many transit hubs envisioned either on-street or cramped into very small sites.

Mondawmin Metro Transit Hub: The best in the system by far.
The transit hubs envisioned for the periphery of this Circulator District are:

1 - Mondawmin Metro Station - The ideal setting (existing). An example of the kind of Circulator service that would be provided here is described in this post - splitting up the MTA #1 bus line into smaller localized routes including linking Mondawmin to Sandtown, Harlem Park and West Baltimore.

2 - West MARC Station - Sitting at the outer end of the "Highway to Nowhere" where efficient service to downtown can be provided, along with rail service to Washington, DC of course.

3 - Patapsco Light Rail Station - A very quick ride to downtown (existing).

4 - Baltimore Travel Plaza - Former Greyhound Bus Station, with very quick service to downtown via the I-95 Fort McHenry Tunnel (should have designated express lanes!)

5 - Hopkins Hospital Metro Station - This is the only hub which is not located on the periphery of the Circulator District. However, it is important to have a hub at the end of the Metro - all major modern urban transit lines need one! This would provide an east-side mirror image of the bus services provided at Mondawmin for the west-side. However, this is not an idea location, which is why an east/northeast Metro extension beyond Hopkins Hospital needs to be a high priority.

6 - Northwood Shopping Center - Now incorporated into the Morgan State University campus, this is a nearly ideal location for a transit hub. Travel time for thru service to to downtown can be improved significantly by using Loch Raven Boulevard instead of the existing routes via Waverly and Charles Village.

7 - Woodberry Light Rail Station - This station is located along the outer edge of higher density urban development, and so makes a good transit hub. (The Cold Spring Lane light rail station is also a possibility.)

In addition, a central transit hub should be provided at the Lexington Market Metro Station, as described in a previous post.

Organizing the System

It is not clear that the MTA plan provides the right amount of each kind of transit service, but it is a first step in that direction. The Circulator District and Transit Hubs would provide a strong impetus for resolving this.

Clearly, the Metro should carry the most passengers possible. It was designed to easily carry over 100,000 riders per day, but now carries barely half of that. The central light rail line should be second in the hierarchy.

Beyond that, how much service should be on traditional MTA bus routes and how much on circulators is an open question. But designating a "Circulator District" is a way of rationalizing the process to figuring it out. High density inner city areas work better with circulators, relative to spread out lower density outer city areas.

Then there is the question of who should operate the various services. Smaller and more localized services are more likely to be identiable with specific institutions such as colleges, hospitals or the Downtown Partnership. They have "skin in the game" and so may have a greater incentive to do a better or at least more personalized and tailored job of operating the service. They may also be able to run it less expensively, with lower wage rates, perhaps through contractors (although there is often contradictory talk about providing "living wages".)

It shouldn't necessarily be the city who runs the circulators, just as there is no magic formula for determining who should pay for it. The "Circulator District" should probably not be a formal tax authority "benefits" district.

Similarly, all services should be open to everyone. There should not be services targeted exclusively to tourists, college students, poor folks or any other specific group. That kind of marketing is what leads to inefficient redundancy.

The MTA has taken the first step, recognizing that they are not automatically the best at running these more localized routes. The next step is the creation of a "Circulator District".

October 23, 2015

Hogan's "Transformative Transitway"

Believe it or not, Governor Hogan's new bus plan actually has quite a bit in common with O'Malley's old dead Red Line light rail plan.

Setting aside the question of whether either of these transit plans actually makes sense, one must admit that as eye candy, Hogan's plan is pretty good. And since his predecessor Governor O'Malley sold his $3 billion Red Line plan almost exclusively on its hype value, one can't blame Hogan for also turning up the hype-meter a bit. But at a price tag of only $135 Million, it's much cheaper hype.

Hogan even copped one of the Red Line's key buzzwords - "transformative". So in looking for common ground between the two very disparate rival transit camps, finding a common element of "transformation" may be the way to do it.

Transitway Rendering
Governor Hogan's new plan released yesterday for a "transitway" with spiffy new buses
Transitway?

And to back up his hype, Hogan's MTA came up with a truly eye-catching "money shot" of what his plan's"transitway" would look like. It's an extremely attractive view of West Baltimore Street looking east toward Howard Street, closed to all traffic except the MTA's new spiffy looking buses with a spiffy "Link" logo, and with a pedestrian median populated by respectable relaxed denizens. I had to study this quite a while before I could even figure out that this was indeed the west side of downtown Baltimore.

Ah, but it's hype, of course. This scene would more likely end up looking like Howard Street right around the corner. Howard Street's bus mall and subsequent light rail mall look extremely ratty and even more forlorn 40 years after first being closed to auto traffic. Transformative indeed.

Moreover, Howard Street still moves very slow. Traffic signal priority for transit, another part of the Hogan plan, has so far proven to be a false promise, perhaps because the conflicting cross streets have as much transit and as much need for right-of-way as the transit priority street.

Another quibble: The median pedestrian refuge shown in Governor Hogan's "transformative" drawing is of no use to folks waiting for buses. The buses have their doors on the right, whereas the median could only access the left side. But it does look nice. And of course, one could replace all the buses with fancy models with left side doors, or replace the buses with light rail.

Around the corner from Hogan's vision for a transformative transitway on Baltimore Street
 is this moribund scene of light rail on Howard Street

Transformative?

The heavy rebuttal from the Red Line partisans is that Hogan's plan isn't transformative enough. Buses don't create transformations. Only rail transit creates transformations.

There's enough evidence around the country to indicate there's some validity to that. But then there's Howard Street, where rail transit has been a monumental flop at achieving a transformation.

Like Howard Street, it is extremely unlikely that the "culture" of Baltimore Street can be successfully transformed simply by closing it off to traffic and replacing it with a pedestrian and/or transit mall.

But there's a better and more foolproof catalyst for creating transformation: A great development plan with great urban design. Let's face it: As much as Baltimore needs better transit (bus or rail), most urban redevelopment has happened here in spite of having lousy transit, in places like Canton, Harbor East and Harbor Point.

Hogan's first step to the Red Line

So where is the best place in Baltimore to put a transitway? Aha! It's the west Red Line corridor! In the middle of the grossly unnecessary "Highway to Nowhere". From there it can connect into downtown in the Saratoga Street corridor adjacent to the huge abandoned Metro West complex and the Lexington Market Metro Station.

But should it be rail or buses? The Red Line light rail would have gone only 18 mph, slower than express buses, so it really doesn't matter all that much, even with traffic signal priority which is common to both plans (and would work better out in a corridor than downtown).

The real solution is providing superior urban design to foster successful "transformation".

The MTA studied "Bus Rapid Transit" as part of its Red Line federally required "Alternatives Analysis" and their conclusion was that rail was better, but that was before the price of the rail plan ballooned into the stratosphere. Buses do have more flexibility, but both rail and buses have enough flexibility that intelligent planning and design are what is really more important.

OK, rail is more attractive than buses. Although it's not $3 billion better. But buses should be "good enough" if we can dazzle with urban design. Or on the other hand, rail can certainly be built far cheaper than $3 billion without the Red Line's staggeringly expensive downtown tunnel that would contribute nothing to the surface transformation.

MTA's $3 Billion Red Line Plan in the "Highway to Nowhere" (bottom)
and a far more "transformative" alternative (on top) which could be built for buses until the rail is ready.

Look at Marc Szarkowski's "transformation" of the MTA's dreary Harlem Park Red Line station in the bowels of the "Highway to Nowhere" (I keep returning to this - Marc taught me the term, "money shot"). Now just imagine it with buses instead of rail - at least, low or non-polluting buses.

And a bus transitway could easily be designed as the first step to building a light rail Red Line.

A New Beginning

The real appeal of the Red Line is not that it's rail. It's that it is a new beginning, which is what the US 40 West Red Line corridor really needs.

The key is that it would start over with a clean slate to create an urban design environment that really works.

First, focus on the redevelopment of the vast vacant Metro West complex at the downtown end of the "Highway to Nowhere", which currently has horrendously dysfunctional urban design. The transitway could slice through the site, providing a justification to demolish the goliath of a building between Mulberry and Saratoga Street, and extend the transit way to Saratoga Street and then to the Lexington Market Metro Station and Howard Street.

Transitway from the "Highway to Nowhere" (upper left), over MLK Blvd. on the existing bridge, then slashing thru the Metro West site to Saratoga Street (lower right)

By going directly through the Metro West site, it would allow the transitway to use one of the existing highway bridges to go over MLK Boulevard, and thus would strengthen the transitway as a gateway to all of northwest Baltimore. One of the MTA's cutting criticisms of turning the Red Line directly from MLK to Saratoga is that it would cause "wheel squeal". Hmmm... the only real squeal here was the MTA's desperate attempt to try to save their dead $3 billion Red Line plan.

At the west end of the highway, the Hogan plan calls for a transit hub at the West Baltimore MARC Station, another place with great urban design potential, with or without the Red Line. The previous Red Line plan instead put most of the bus transfers at the Rosemont Station precariously along Edmondson Avenue.

Then proceeding west, not much "transformative" has been done in any plan within the constrained right of way of Edmondson Avenue, but it widens out at the historic Edmondson Village Shopping Center. The new Uplands development provides a motif that can be extended into the transitway station and across the street into the shopping center.

Station environments are always critical. What happens between the stations is less so. If really great station environments can be created, it will matter less whether they serve buses or rail.

All of this can be done in an entirely incremental manner, one piece and parcel at a time, now with the existing bus route network, then with a newly revised network, or ultimately with light rail. Planning incrementally is almost always the key. Planning is a process, not an end result.

Perhaps the very first step is for the MTA to change it's new color-coded bus routes so that its west bus line is designated "Code Red".

October 13, 2015

Paul Simon exhibit turns Jonestown into Graceland

The Jewish Museum of Maryland has "reason to believe, we all will be received, in Graceland." The reason is their new Paul Simon exhibit, which as expressed in one of his most famous songs, hopes to attract "poorboys and pilgrims with families... going to Graceland" - part of the museum's effort to create a new recognition of its community and heritage.

A big guitar on the roof of the Jewish Museum of Maryland signifies the Paul Simon exhibit.
One of hundreds of units of new "socially engineered" housing is to the left.
Attman's Deli with its Kibbutz Room is in the right foreground. Numerous vacant lots remain.

The museum is located in Jonestown, a neighborhood which has experienced tumultuous changes amid ongoing identity crises since the Lloyd Street Synagogue first opened in 1845.

The Jewish community dispersed long ago for promised lands elsewhere. In the 1950s, there was little enough remaining from various population flows that the area was almost totally rebuilt for low income high-rise public housing "projects".

The failure of these low income housing "projects" was then reflected in the social upheavals of the 1960s, intertwined with a musical revolution led in part by Paul Simon (and another Jewish-American Bob Dylan).

Paul Simon was looking to find himself in another of his most famous songs, "America", and Jonestown has also been looking.

The "projects" were blown up in 2001. They have now faded into history along with the open fields along the New Jersey Turnpike, hitchhiking and smoking cigarettes on a bus, as Simon sang as he "looked for America".
Last moments of the Jonestown low income high rise "projects" as implosion begins.
The Jonestown high rise low income "projects" were replaced by social engineering of a different sort - rowhouses whose mix of residents' incomes were carefully calibrated in a very calculated attempt at social unity.

Jonestown is now a neighborhood of static unearthly calm where the old Lloyd Street Synagogue stands out from the new rowhouses. It's right next to Baltimore's celebrated Inner Harbor, but in some sense, it's an eternity away.

Jonestown is also a marked contrast to "Little Italy", the neighborhood just to the south, which has tenaciously held on to its ethnic identity and historic housing over the decades, surviving a period when flaunting "ethnic purity" (as President Carter once called it) precipitated widespread backlash.

Such cultural identity is now treated like a brand. The main thing now perceived as Italian in Little Italy is the restaurants. Jonestown culture is now also relegated to the far more visible Reginald F. Lewis Museum of Maryland African American History and Culture. It now seems unlikely any neighborhood will be renamed something like "Little Israel" or "Little Africa".

Social engineering, whether good or bad, is like a brain transplant. It makes it easier to compartmentalize memories of history and where the city's people have been. As of now, people don't live in Jonestown because of the museum, synagogue, corned beef emporiums, Shot Tower, the old house where the "Star Spangled Banner" flag was stitched, or other organic urban institutions holding on, but simply because they had the right income to fit the socially engineered demographic parameters.
Jonestown "projects" implosion in 2001, with the Jewish Museum of Maryland engulfed inside the cloud of smoke. 
When the Jews moved out and then again when the low income housing residents moved out, and the newly pre-qualified residents meeting the demographic standards moved in, they were like shifting ingredients of an ongoing social experiment.

The Maryland Jewish Museum is still looking for Jonestown, just as Paul Simon was looking for America, and the entire City of Baltimore continues trying to find itself after its recent tumultuous Freddie Gray "unrest" and its subsequent curfew, first mandated and then self-imposed.

The Graceland that Paul Simon longed for was not the one that tourist hucksters created after Elvis Presley died. The musical revolution started by Elvis and others in the 1950s, setting the stage for Paul Simon, was a product of complex and seemingly magical social currents that we still can only partially explain. There was nothing calculated about it.

So is the Jonestown calm real or contrived, temporary or permanent, static or dynamic? In a sense, the most "real" part of Jonestown is now the vacant lots, the missing pieces through which the course of the neighborhood is still to be defined, and for which there is still no economic justification or impetus for development, in marked contrast to the nearby waterfront building boom.

Paul Simon described the calm as "Peace Like a River":

Peace like a river ran through the city
Long past the midnight curfew
We sat starry-eyed
Oh, we were satisfied
And I remember
Misinformation followed us like a plague
Nobody knew from time to time
If the plans where changed
Oh, if the plans were changed
You can beat us with wires
You can beat us with chains
You can run out your rules
But you know you can’t outrun the history train
I‘ve seen a glorious day...
Four in the morning
I woke up from out of my dreams
Nowhere to go but back to sleep
But I’m reconciled
Oh, oh, oh, I’m gonna be up for a while...

October 6, 2015

CPHA Postmortem Report: "The Red Line: what now?"

The report on the recent September 15th Citizens Planning and Housing Association Red Line "Summit" asks that question. The simple unspoken answer is this: Build a west-only Red Line.

The forum's inconclusive deliberations can be summed up by a comment from Brian O'Malley, repeating the "all or nothing" mantra which has plagued the transit plan throughout its 15 year history (page 8):

"Brian O’Malley noted that the state spent $280 million on just planning for the Red Line,
and it would not have made any sense to implement a parallel process as an alternative."

While it is shocking that the Maryland Transit Administration has already spent $280 Million (over a quarter of a billion !!!) on "just planning", without any shovels in the ground, it is also misleading. Although the lion's share of that astronomical sum went to study the Red Line, including a major portion of "final design", it also included the statewide planning process for the entire proposed rail transit system (including the Purple Line).

Any "parallel process" at any price would have been self-defeating. In planning, everything relates to everything else and must be analyzed together. Moreover, a comprehensive "Alternatives Analysis" was indeed a central element of the federally required transit planning process which the Red Line went through.

But since everything else was rejected at one stage or another, the proposed $3 Billion Red Line ultimately was forced to rise or fall on its own. As such, the Red Line became increasingly vulnerable as the years went on and on and on...

The basic mistake was that the MTA treated each of the various steps, starting with the 2002 regional rail plan, as a series of hoops to be jumped through. Their strategy was just to get through each hoop and don't look back.

Baltimore's rail planning history is recounted here from 1968-1998 and here from 1999-2015.

The simplest, best way to build the Red Line is to just replace its 3.4 mile downtown tunnel with a four-block leg
 on or partially under Saratoga Street, from MLK Boulevard into a Lexington Market Transit Hub,
which also serves the existing Green Line (Metro) and the Blue Line (Central Light Rail).

Each hoop was another iteration which changed the plan, but there was never any meaningful feedback to determine if the evolving plan still made sense in its overall context. Thus it became an "all or nothing" plan, which is how it has been characterized by both the Red Line's planning professionals and by its political leaders, both before and after it was cancelled by Governor Hogan and his Transportation Secretary Pete Rahn.

In effect, the MTA allowed the Red Line to design itself. They couldn't figure out how to run it without impacts through downtown, so that required a tunnel. They couldn't figure out how to tie it into the Metro, so that required a separate two-block long pedestrian tunnel (although its engineering was apparently postponed). They only found one tunnel portal location that would work at each end, on Boston Street and inside the "Highway to Nowhere", so that defined the tunnel. They couldn't cram the line into the middle of Boston Street or Edmondson Avenue, so that required reducing street traffic capacity by a third to a half, thus greatly increasing congestion and traffic spillover to other routes. They never did test the Red Line as part of any subsequent future system.

Another statement made by Brian O’Malley, Director of the Central Maryland Transportation Alliance (and brother of the previous governor who had supported the Red Line), was that "the Red Line was never meant to be a standalone project." (page 6)

But by killing the rest of the projects which would make up the system, first the Metro extension to Morgan State and the "Mini-MARC" rail project, then later the "BNIP" bus system plan which Governors O'Malley and Hogan both squelched, all due to perceived lack of feasibility, the Red Line became just that - a standalone project.

Meanwhile, the cost of the Red Line exploded from about $1 to $3 Billion, with no real evidence that the rise would stop there. Who would pay what share of this rising cost was very uncertain. The open-ended 10-percent local city and county share was shrouded in smoke and mirrors. The "Public-Private Partnership" (3P) was just a convoluted house of cards. Even the vaunted $900 Million federal share was illusory, as demonstrated by how a similar sum for the committed DC Purple Line seems to have vanished in the ongoing federal budget process.

In a real sense, the Red Line actually died to avoid its funding threat to the DC-suburban Purple Line, whose 3P and local funding shares seem to have at least some basis in reality. One multi-billion dollar rail transit project was clearly all the state could get, and clearly the Purple Line was better poised than the Baltimore Red Line.

Back to Square One?

This CPHA summit was essentially the fulfillment of the MTA's ongoing threat - which continued unabated under both the O'Malley and Hogan administrations - that their $3 Billion Red Line plan was "all or nothing" and the region was now forced to go back to Square One.

The MTA planners even went so far as to infer throughout their planning process that building only a piece of their Red Line plan was not even feasible. That assertion goes against every other rail plan the region ever had, other than the 2002 plan with the Red Line.

As if to demonstrate this, CPHA polled the participants of their preference for the next "Regional Scale Project" (page 11). Of the five options given to choose from, the only one which represented a remnant of the Red Line included the segment which had been specifically noted as being "fatally flawed" because it included the billion-plus dollar downtown tunnel - "West Baltimore MARC to Bayview MARC".

A vote either way on CPHA's poll confirmed this. Over 70% voted against that alternative in favor of something less expensive and more modest with buses and commuter rail, while the remaining group of less than 30% decided to vote for it anyway despite it already being continuously rejected throughout the decade long planning process.

In sum, nearly 30% wanted to save part of the Red Line, while the other 70% wanted something less expensive and more buildable. So let's give all 100% what they want.

The Simple Incremental Solution

Every regional transit plan since the 1960s has had a rail line in the US 40 West corridor. Virtually no one is against that in some form and no one has identified any fatal flaws to it. So here is the simple inexpensive Red Line solution:

1 - Build the Red Line as already planned and designed (with tweaks of course) west of the downtown tunnel for some distance, as determined by practical and economic factors. The rest of the west end to CMS/Woodlawn can be built later if so desired.

2 - Reinstate the previous MTA "Locally Preferred Alternative" plan to run the Red Line from the west tunnel portal location of the current plan (near the Mulberry/Fremont intersection) in a surface alignment to MLK Boulevard. This plan had only previously been eliminated because a tunnel portal on MLK Boulevard had engineering problems which emerged after it had already been approved.

3 - Develop a new plan for the short portion of the Red Line between MLK Boulevard into downtown. Three possible options are:

a - A short four-block connection along Saratoga Street from MLK Boulevard to Eutaw Street into a Lexington Market Metro Station Hub, which would include a two-block long "cut and cover" tunnel into the station's mezzanine (non-track) level.

b - A short five-block all-surface connection along Saratoga Street from MLK Boulevard to Howard Street, connecting into the existing light rail line, sharing its Lexington Market Station.

c - A slightly longer all-surface connection from MLK Boulevard to the Inner Harbor, terminating at Pier 6 next to Harbor East, with various options in a manner similar to the MTA's all-surface "Alternative 4A" in the Red Line's Draft Environmental Impact Statement.

A mostly surface plan has the advantage of future integration with a streetcar system which could include more than one connection into downtown and elsewhere, and far better connectivity to major downtown locations such as the University of Maryland campus and the now-vacant Social Security "Metro West" site which urgently needs a redevelopment plan. (See this 2013 Baltimore Brew article.)

Anyone totally against a light rail Red Line can focus on re-opening the planning for extending the Metro beyond Hopkins Hospital (which should never have been closed because it affects the Red Line), although the CPHA poll didn't recognize that option.

There is no reason whatsoever to start over at "Square One" on the Red Line, and the CPHA "Summit" certainly did not provide one.