Thursday, October 23, 2014

Maryland's Transportation Bucket List - Part 1

Here is a great example to prove that I do not tow the Republican Party line.  It seems as if Republicans want to pull the plug on all public transportation projects and focus on building wider roads and more roads to eliviate the traffic problems that are plaguing the Baltimore and Washington suburbs.  I think Maryland should actually be investing in more public transportation.

When you think of the great cities of the world, you think of New York City, London, Paris, Berlin, Tokyo, Washington, D.C., and Cleveland.  What do these cities all have in common?  They have excellent public transportation systems.

In Baltimore, we have a disjointed collection of transportation options.  There is the light rail system (commonly referred to as the Fright Rail) that runs north and south with a key connection at the airport with the longest name in history, the Thurgood Marshall Friendship Baltimore Washington International Airport.  Then there is the Metro subway, also known as the Mugger Mover, which runs from the northwest corner of the suburbs to the business center and mysteriously ends at Johns Hopkins Hospital with no other throughput to another side of the metropolitan area.

Baltimore also boasts MTA commuter buses that scurry city-fearing suburbanites from their offices jobs to their cozy colonials on cul-de-sacs.  And then there are the ever-present MTA buses that run the routes throughout the city.

Baltimore subway train in Owings Mills, MD at I-795

I'm not as familiar with all of the transportation options in the D.C. suburbs, but who can argue with the D.C. Metro with its maze of blue, green, orange, red, silver, and yellow lines that criss-cross the entire metro area through 2 states and the District?  It's the second busiest subway system in the United States with over 270 million riders annually.  This compares to 15 million riders of Baltimore's single subway line.

So where do we need improvements?  Everyone will holler that they don't want public transportation near their house.  People will rob us and commute back to the city.  Well, there is some truth to that, but I think you need to balance that with managing transportation.

Let's start with Baltimore.  The existing subway line needs to be extended to the northeast suburbs.  I think that's a no-brainer.  By extending the line, two sections of the county can benefit from a lot of the existing infrastructure.

Baltimore's Light Rail train near Camden Yards.

Then there is the infamous Red Line that has been proposed for several generations.  I even recall Martin O'Malley blithering that this will not be 'your father's light rail'.  Why are we building another light rail?  The light rail mucks up the existing traffic infrastructure in the city.  Ever been on Pratt Street when a light rail car is going by?  Traffic's already backed up for blocks and now you have to wait for the train.  Additionally, O'Malley has suggested a new type of train.  Why are we targeting ANOTHER type of train?  That would create a 5th type of train in the state, if you don't include the proposed D.C. purple light rail line.  These trains are all incompatible.  Shouldn't we be pursuing some sort of economies of scale?  Buy more of the same thing and you get a better deal.  Buy 5 different things that don't operate together and the taxpayers pay more money.  That's not investing in the future.  That's wasteful spending.

For those of you trying to figure out the 5 different rail lines, 1) Baltimore metro heavy rail, 2) MARC train & Amtrak, 3) Baltimore light rail, 4) D.C. Metro, and 5) Baltimore Red Line light rail.  That's just stupid! Make the Red Line a subway that actually connects with the existing subway line and have it snake through the city and dump out either in East Point or go all the way to White Marsh. I used to live in Bel Air, so I know what I-95 is like at White Marsh.

Here's another crazy idea.  Figure out how to connect the existing Baltimore Light rail to the existing Baltimore Subway.  Nutty, right?  Connect that with the new Red Line Subway and now you have a useful transportation system in Baltimore.  Let's not keep pushing for a transportation system that looks like it was developed by a politician.

In Washington, the politicians (here they go again) are pushing for an incompatible Purple Line that will snake down congested streets.  They plan to solve the congestion by removing existing lanes of traffic and planting a big lumbering train in the middle of it.  Problem solved bureaucracy-style!

Wouldn't it be great if there was a subway line that traversed the D.C. Beltway?  With the current grid, you have to go into the city, then come back out to get to another part of the suburbs. Tie the suburbs together with a big loop!  Please let me know where I can pick up my award for that idea.

That is my rail transportation pontification.  Stay tuned for my highway spiel.  This may come as a surprise, but I'm in favor of the middle ground more often than you think!

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