Maryland Governor Hogan makes decision on Light rail: No for Baltimore City and County and yes for Montgomery and Prince George's County
In December, I predicted the decision that Governor Hogan announced yesterday ("Hogan Says No to Red Line, Yes to Purple," "Hogan goes off the rails," editorial, Baltimore Sun, to continue moving forward with the Purple Line in suburban Washington and shutting down planning for the Red Line in Baltimore City and County.
From the files: transit planning in Baltimore County."
I figured that Gov. Hogan would make such a determination because the business case for the Red Line was never as good, adding one more and different type of fixed rail transit to a mix that includes a truncated subway line and a "heavy" version of light rail that mostly follows the alignment of an old industrial railroad.
Plus, even though Baltimore County Executive Kamenetz was quoted in the Sun article as being disappointed, heretofore the County hasn't been willing to provide much in the way of supplemental funding.
Baltimore lost out when the federal government stopped funding new generation transit systems--that funding initiative supported BART, MARTA, Miami Metrorail, and WMATA. The DC area got the most money and was able to develop a true network, constructing a five line subway system (a sixth line opened last year).
-- Design as a city branding strategy: transit edition
-- Hip design for tram/light rail
The difference between having a transit network versus a couple of transit lines is seen in the widely disparate ridership numbers between DC and Baltimore. According to the National Transit Database, the DC Metrorail system had almost 870,000 daily trips in the first quarter of 2015, while ridership in Baltimore was about 45,000 daily riders on the subway line, with an additional 19,000 riders on light rail.
The Baltimore light rail vehicles were jokingly referred to as "heavy rail" by revitalization experts from Hamburg at a presentation a couple years ago. I think they have a kind of old industrial charm, but they are clunky and likely generate more derision than appreciation from a design standpoint.
Likely this is one element that contributes to lack of support for transit among outstate constituencies visiting Baltimore.
Bilbao Straßenbahn und U-Bahn."
In large part because it will inter-connect within the existing subway network, providing east-west links to both the east and west legs of the Red Line, the north leg of the Green Line, and the west end point of the Orange Line, as of its first day of operation, the Purple Line is likely to be the most successful light rail line in the US.
Phoenix has about the highest ridership of any single line system, with about 48,000 daily riders. The Purple Line will greatly exceed that level of ridership by at least 25%. The two lines will be about the same length, but the Phoenix system has 32 stations, while the Purple Line will have 20 stations.
I imagine to come up with the local match, which now will have to be $500 million higher, Montgomery and Prince George's County will create the kind of bi-county funding authority that I suggested first last year:
-- Purple line planning in suburban Maryland as an opportunity to integrate place and people focused initiatives into delivery of new transit systems
-- Quick follow up to the Purple Line piece about creating a Transportation Renewal District and selling bonds to fund equitable development
and re-mentioned a few weeks ago.
-- To build the Purple Line perhaps Montgomery and Prince George's Counties will have to create a "Transportation Renewal District" and Development Authority
I had intended to write an op-ed about the topic in the Gazette, but the Gazette shut down as I was dealing with their editors.
One of the problems in promoting transit as a key element of economic success and quality of life is the reality that so few center cities in the United States have robust transit systems that generate these kinds of benefits.
New York City, Boston, parts of New Jersey abutting New York City, Chicago, Philadelphia, DC, and San Francisco have the biggest heavy rail systems, while Portland has the most extensive and widely used light rail system. SF's system is complemented by light rail and streetcars run by the city.
Cities like Los Angeles, Denver, Dallas, Seattle, Salt Lake City, San Diego, and Minneapolis are building and expanding systems, mostly of light rail, although LA, Philadelphia, and Boston have a combination of heavy and light rail.
While there are many other communities that have commuter railroad or light rail lines, the lines don't have the kind of collective impact present in cities such as Boston, Chicago, San Francisco, DC, etc.
The fact is that most people in the US drive and most areas of the country don't have great transit options, and as a result, the average person sees transit as a social service provided to people who can't afford to own cars.
This also becomes an issue between cities and outer suburban rural areas within states. State legislatures are districted in ways that favor rural and exurban interests, even though the economic engines of states tend to be the center city-anchored metropolitan areas. Rural land use form doesn't make transit a logical and effective mode. Combine that with other resentments and you have what's happening in Maryland.
What is frustrating about these discussions in the Baltimore-Washington region is that we do have perhaps the best examples--good and bad--about what works and what doesn't work and why. Yet we proceed in these discussions without referencing this experience both in practice and theoretically.