+ Reply to Thread
Results 1 to 15 of 16
02-21-2012 11:35 AM #1
A waterfront trolley in Baltimore?
This is an idea of mine, based on the recent stories that the city is looking for a project to draw more people (locals especially) to the Inner Harbor. Ideas kicked around have been a Ferris Wheel and a skyride line that could connect various parts of the waterfront, both of which, IMO, are lame.
Here is my planned route for the trolley.
It would connect several popular neighborhoods and areas of the city that are lacking in reliable transit: Ft McHenry, Locust Point, Federal Hill, Inner Harbor, Harbor East, Fells Point and Canton. People who work in Federal Hill, Fells Point, and Canton work Downtown or in Harbor East could get there in about 10 mins. My sister makes the commute from Federal Hill to Harbor East daily and drives. It takes her around 30 mins to drive less than 2 miles.
Currently, the Charm City Circulator is enjoying success, however a connection is needed to get from Federal Hill to Harbor East/Fells Point. Despite it being free, the bus still has a negative connotation in Baltimore and transfers are always a pain, especially in bad weather. MTA buses, however, run at 30 min headways and can be dicey based on their unreliability and the people who use them. There are no singular routes that connect these neighborhoods, involving transfers as well.
The Red Line, a planned east-west LRT line is hung up in planning stages and resistance from Edmonson Village and Canton, place that will be impacted by its construction and the road space it will take up. Other critics complain about the street-level path it will take through those neighborhoods which will make it nothing more than a slower bus on tracks. A tunnel through downtown will be expensive and the failure to use the Charles Center platform that was built for a second transit line are also routinely cited. Add to that an estimated $2 billion price-tag that is bound to increase as most transit projects go over budget.
Streetcars have more than charm and romance going for them, however. At $10 million to $15 million per mile to build, they are 20 percent cheaper than light-rail and are scaled down to serve city centers or specific neighborhoods.
Read more: Return of the streetcar - Pittsburgh Tribune-Review http://www.pittsburghlive.com/x/pittsbu ... z1n1vTkKBg
A trolley could serve the tourist and local market of Baltimore. Especially if it's a classic trolley, similar to what is used in New Orleans or San Francisco. If not, a modern trolley similar to what Portland has would suffice.
The question, as always, is who would pay for it? Based on the calculations above, it would cost $75-100 million (even that sounds low) just to lay the tracks, not including the costs for equipment and upkeep. However, if a private company could foot the bill, and charge $1-2 dollars a ride, I think this could be a huge success.
Cities like Washington DC, Portland, and Little Rock, are either building streetcar lines or maintaining lines. In Europe, cities like Lisbon, Vienna and Prague are jam-packed with trams and trolleys that are always crowded.
If Baltimore is looking for ways to revitalize it's downtown area and the Inner Harbor, why not build a streetcar line to take advantage of not only the tourist market, but the local market as well?
02-23-2012 10:19 AM #2
Hey Sean, I really like this discussion. I have been meaning to respond for days, it's unfortunate that no one has said anything yet. I went to college in New Orleans so I have a good feel for the trolley system there. First off, I love your idea of the route for the trolley. I think it would be an awesome idea to install a trolley going around the Inner Harbor from a tourist stand point. Tourists who are looking to get around the city would get the best use out of the trolley as it would take them through the most important parts of Baltimore. There is easy access from major hotels to the bars. The trolley also has a more classic feel to it. Trolleys are very nice to look at, not overly obstructive. There was nothing like talking a walk on a Sunday afternoon in New Orleans uptown and seeing the trolley running. It had a very classic feel. A classic trolley would look very aesthetically pleasing in older neighborhoods such as Fed Hill and Canton.
I also love your route stops. It would be a huge boost to nightlife in Baltimore I believe. People who live in Harbor East who want to hit the bars in Fed Hill can simply take the trolley to and from the bars. Cuts down on drunk driving, and would certainly be less expensive than a cab. This is what I used the trolleys most for in New Orleans. Getting downtown to hit the bars then back home uptown. The trolleys in New Orleans were open very late, so it worked well.
With all that said, here's why I prefer the Red Line greatly to a trolley system. I am not sure if a trolley is ideal for everyday work commuters. I know your route connects the major neighborhoods in Baltimore, and ideally it would get you from one side of the harbor to the other in 10 minutes. In New Orleans, trolley times were very unpredictable. Trolleys are often late. And if you miss your trolley, you can wait as long as 30 minutes for the next trolley. Not to mention if a trolley is full, it's not stopping and you're waiting for the next train. In comparison, the Red Line is claiming a maximum weight of eight minutes between trains. Metros are much more reliable on a consistent basis.
A trolley would not alleviate your problem of transportation during bad weather. In New Orleans, having to wait for a trolley in the rain was miserable. The area around the tracks gets very muddy, and the inside of the trains is often wet during the rain. The New Orleans trolley also had very frequent maintenance work. And if one trolley needs maintenance work, it delays the whole trolley schedule. Whereas a metro might have higher maintenance costs you can always simply switch out a car. Now I am not familiar with the modern trolley systems, such as the one in Portland you mentioned. Maybe these cars are more efficient with the problems I mentioned.
I think what makes the Red Line so attractive is how it connects the suburbs. I live in Owings Mills and my wife commutes to Fells Point every morning for work. A short twenty mile drive takes about an hour to make in the morning and sometimes as long an hour and a half to get home during rush hour. If I make this drive on the weekend it takes no more than 25 minutes. With the Red Line, that commute would be about 30 min consistently everyday day. Additionally it takes the stress away from having to drive through rush hour traffic and saves gas costs. The bottom line is that Baltimore is now a city run by the financial services industry. More and more people are living in the suburbs commuting to the city. There is a huge problem with traffic leaving the city at rush hour trying to get onto 83/95. You would have to think the Red Line would help with this problem at least a little bit, especially with the I-70 park and ride.
Going back to what I said about nightlife: Having lived in the DC area for most of my life, one of the big draws about the DC metro is being able to reach the city from the suburbs and not having to drive back. Once again, living in Owings Mills, I would love to be able to take a metro down to Fed Hill to then take the metro back home after hitting the bars instead of having to pay for a cab.
I like the idea of a trolley, but I don't see anyway the Red Line doesn't happen. Politicians don't go as far as securing federal funding (the hard part) to cancel the whole project over 1,350 signatures. That would be a huge failure on any MD politician's resume, especially considering the jobs it will create over a five year period or so. Baltimore is becoming too much of a financial services market to let a transit project that has come this far fall apart. I can see why some local resident would oppose the line, but in the long run it would certainly accelerate the gentrification of the poorer sections of Fed Hill and Fells Point as more working professionals move back into the city.
Last edited by thundercleetz; 02-23-2012 at 10:27 AM.
02-23-2012 11:21 AM #3
I also hope the RL happens since it will serve me well coming down route 70 from Frederick. So while I don't want this to be an either or thing, I would still prefer the waterfront trolley because I think it would get more bang for the buck if it could be done for a quarter of the cost of the red line.
At $2 billion dollars, the RL is going to be super-expensive and it still has some pretty big flaws. It's on street level in EV and Canton. It doesn't directly connect to the metro or current LR. It still doesn't serve the eastern part of Balt. Co. The SSA stop is far from the buildings to meet security regulations and the SSA location is slowly dwindling in size.
Basically, we're going to spend $2 billion dollars for something that the #40 Quick Bus already does now, and probably faster. I'd like to see a couple million invested in the #40 bus, make it more like a BRT line with park and ride terminals, covered bus stops on its route, and "Next Bus in XX mins" display screens. Market it like a light rail or metro line.
Last edited by NewMarketSean; 02-23-2012 at 11:23 AM.
02-23-2012 12:01 PM #4
02-23-2012 04:26 PM #5
Speaking of a trolley project, have you seen the Charles Street Trolley project?
Very interesting idea...
02-23-2012 04:43 PM #6
The waterfront trolley is a new route that currently doesn't exist in any form.
02-23-2012 05:28 PM #7
Sorry if I seemed to go off topic a little bit there
Last edited by thundercleetz; 02-23-2012 at 05:33 PM.
02-23-2012 05:39 PM #8
I agree, but people don't remodel their kitchens when they are in massive debt. At least they shouldn't be doing that.
I'd love for Baltimore to have the best rail-based transit system in the world, but it's not happening with the current economy, the weak leadership Baltimore has, and the constant in-fighting and NIMBY's that have killed projects in the city for decades.
So in reality, we're looking at a $2 billion dollar red line that is going to commit many of the same mistakes our blue line has. Meanwhile, you've got some positives (Quick Bus routes) that could be improved pretty cheaply and marketed differently than they are now to pursue a different kind of rider.
I know my waterfront trolley is also a pipe-dream, but it also fits the mold of what you were saying, making Baltimore more attractive while actually serving a necessary purpose.
So what I would like to see Baltimore do is take what it currently has, and turn it into the best of what it is. But like I said, it's not happening in this current environment.
02-24-2012 10:03 AM #9
Haha good points all around. For better or for worse the Red Line will happen. It has come too far to fall apart at this point. Having lived in Montgomery County, the ICC (MD RTE 200) had much larger and more powerful opposition and that did not stop that project. The question is now when it will happen. Will it have its problems? Most likely. I think the positives are going to more than outweigh the negatives however. Regardless of the Red Line, I would like to see a trolley somewhere near the Harbor. I think it would be a great addition to the city.
02-24-2012 10:19 AM #10
The same things are shaping up to happen with the Red Line. People in EV and Canton do not want it running down their streets, inconveniencing them during construction, taking up parking space, etc. They haven't broken ground yet, so there is definitely time to kill it.
02-24-2012 01:28 PM #11
02-24-2012 03:35 PM #12
Nitpicking in what is otherwise a cool thread. I have been a big fan of the streetcar idea for Baltimore for a few years and I think have said as much here in past threads. I would even prefer building multiple streetcar lines to building the Red Line, for the simple fact that Baltimore needs to expand the reach of its transit system rapidly to get beyond the criticism that it "doesn't go anywhere." If they're going to stick with the Red Line, I would prefer that they terminate it (for now) downtown and begin studying alternate routings to continue it from there. Canton really doesn't need it. It's built out to a large extent and already popular, and its residents will largely oppose densifying the area. If you cannot add density to an area you cannot create economic growth without further gentrifying the area and making it completely unaffordable. So building the Red Line through Canton is, I think, a waste.
Target areas that need and will welcome development.
03-06-2012 04:57 PM #13
03-06-2012 04:59 PM #14
04-02-2012 08:27 AM #15
One more thought about the Red Line and potential funding. While the majority of the project takes place in the city, and the price tag will be fairly large for the city, there is also part of the project that will take place in Baltimore County. You would have to think a project involving multiple municipal districts would receive a good amount funding from the state. So when you take into account federal funding, state funding, and the remaining cost of the project split between the city and the county, I believe there is a good chance the project happens and an excellent chance that if it does not happen some sort of variation will come of the project (such as a trolley).
Last edited by thundercleetz; 04-02-2012 at 08:45 AM.