So the Red Line has been discussed to death, but I thought Car Free Baltimore should have a say. I often think how much easier my life would be if there were an east/west rail line in Baltimore. While riding the bus has its charms (eh hum), the predictability and speed of fixed rail transit makes it the standard all over the world. The arguments for and against the Red Line have been discussed ad nauseum, but here are a few more things to consider:
- The private sector and downtown: The recent report by Downtown Partnership and news of high downtown vacancy rates indicate a need to bring more residents and businesses downtown. Lack of a comprehensive rail transit system is part of the problem. Last I checked, a garage costs about $10,000-$12,000 per parking space – a huge cost to companies who want to locate downtown. Many older office buildings may already have garages, but perhaps not enough spaces for new tenants. Creating better transit options can reduce the need to build new parking spaces, reducing costs to new businesses looking to relocate downtown. Creating better commuting alternatives from the counties can also go a long way in attracting businesses and new employees. In other words, a comprehensive rail system in the city can lower the cost of doing business here.
- Residential conversions: The aforementioned Downtown Partnership report calls for older office building to be converted into residential uses. This strategy has been very effective in Lower Manhattan, but most new residents in Manhattan don’t have to bring their cars when they move. I know paying $100-$200 a month for a parking space would discourage a lot of new downtown residents. An east-west transit route is the missing link for many of these folks, and may tip the scale toward downtown Baltimore becoming a vibrant, 24-7 transit accessible collection of neighborhoods where driving is considered an option and not a necessity. The Red Line can make living in the city more affordable, and subsequently more competitive with the Maryland suburbs.
- Planning and inter-agency coordination: Years of planning work and public involvement have created concepts for proposed Red Line station areas with an eye towards neighborhood improvement. While no alignment will make every resident happy, it’s safe to say there has been more outreach, input from neighborhoods, and inter-agency coordination for the Red Line than any other local transportation project in recent history, including the existing Metro and light rail systems.
- Less tangible, long term benefits: This is a long one, so I’ll just link to the new Victoria Transport Policy Institute’s report on the benefits of comprehensive rail transit systems in major U.S. cities. A run down:
- Higher per capita transit ridership
- Lower per capita vehicle ownership
- Less traffic congestion
- Lower traffic death rates
- Lower consumer spending on transportation
- Higher transit service cost recovery
This ends the obligatory I Support The Red Line post.