Reflecting on Baltimore’s Light Rail Line

The Baltimore Sun has an article on the failure of Baltimore’s Light Rail line to live up to what so many of its boosters hoped it could be. The article discusses how the line is great for getting fans to ball games at Camden Yards, one of the reasons the line was built in the first place, but is otherwise lightly used. Even during rush hour, the light rail is described as being only “somewhat busy”. The line was projected to have 33,100 riders by 2010 but in 2015 only had a ridership of 29,000.

The Sun points out that part of the problem is that the light rail is not part of an interconnected system. Indeed, there is not even a direct connection to the metro subway line. The Red Line would have gone a long way towards creating a more interconnected system. However, after years of planning and hundreds of millions of dollars spent on design, Governor Hogan canceled the Red Line, temporarily dashing hopes for an integrated transit system in the Baltimore region.

However, recent developments have shown up along the light rail line–even without a comprehensive transit network. Development has sprung up around the Woodberry stop and new apartments are planned at the Coldspring light rail station. When McCormick moved its headquarters it chose a location in Hunt Valley in part because it was accessible to the light rail. Plans for Port Covington call for a light spur.

The underperformance of our light rail line is just one part of the Baltimore area’s difficult history when it comes to transit. Most transit buffs are familiar with the original plan for a comprehensive metro system first proposed in 1968 but that never came to fruition. The 2002 rail plan is in danger of suffering the same fate. However, this is no reason to stop fighting for better transit. For those who’d like to get involved in improving the situation, the Central Maryland Transit Alliance and Get Maryland Moving are doing excellent work mobilizing Baltimore area decision-makers in pursuit of a better transit system. The Baltimore Transit Equity Coalition is working to resurrect the Red Line.

We don’t need to accept Baltimore’s transit past as future but citizen engagement is a necessary condition to move support for new projects forward.

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Gregory Friedman

Gregory Friedman

This article was written by Gregory Friedman. Click here to meet our writing team.

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