Letters to the Editor – December 18, 2013

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We want the Red Line!

To the Editor:

I write in response to Cathy Thornton’s Dec. 9 letter regarding the Red Line, in which asked “who in East Baltimore really wants this thing?”   
My husband and I do! We live in Canton and are eager to use the Red Line to visit Fell’s Point and Inner Harbor for farmers markets, shopping, movies and restaurants without the hassle and expense of parking. We would love to walk out our front door, connect to MARC via the Red Line, and enjoy a day in Washington, D.C.
Transit is the way of the future—people are increasingly choosing to live in walkable and transit-oriented neighborhoods, and I know that our property values will increase with proximity to frequent rail service. We chose to buy our home here because Canton is a very walkable area, and a new transit link will make Canton even more attractive. Improved public infrastructure, from transit to water systems to parks, means a better Baltimore.

Sommer Gentry


To alleviate traffic, update signal timing

Baltimore does have an inadequate public transportation system! However, the Red Line will not solve that problem. The Red Line serves one purpose—to connect the east and west sides of Baltimore. It will not reduce traffic, it will not eliminate gridlock during rush hour, and it will not alleviate parking congestion in Canton, Fells Point, and surrounding areas.

The traffic problems in the city can be attributed to one thing—lack of traffic control. Traffic lights are completely un-synchronized and too short. I am sure the traffic light timing and schedules have not been updated in years, despite an influx of residents and businesses in the city.

I feel that some residents, who live along the proposed Red Line corridor and support the Red Line, live in a bubble. Life does exist outside of Canton; and we do not all ride bicycles. Boston and Aliceanna streets are not the only gridlocked streets during rush hour. Try traveling westbound on Baltimore St. towards the JFX, and you will be mesmerized by the gridlock. Even worse is the commute from the southbound JFX into President Street continuing onto any eastbound street. The solution is updating and enforcing traffic control.

Another reason the Red Line will not affect traffic along Boston and Aliceanna streets is the large number of commuters who either live or work outside the city. The majority of traffic on Boston St. during rush hours is commuters from Baltimore County and beyond. Why would they use the Red Line? It would not be convenient for these commuters; they will continue to travel by motor vehicle.

I was born and raised in Highlandtown. I currently reside in the Brewer’s Hill neighborhood in a house that has been in our family for over 30 years. I can attest first-hand to certain traffic light timing that has not changed in 20 years. I know how inadequate the public transportation system is, and I doubt the Red Line will be any better. I worked in Washington, DC, for three year relying on various modes of public transportation—the MARC train, DC Metro, DC Bus, and of course walking. The DC public transportation is excellent. However, I discovered quickly how a train or metro delay could affect your entire schedule. For that reason, I do not anticipate regular ridership from working citizens who have families.

Baltimore is striving to be a top, urban city. The Red Line is not the answer. It simply is a distraction of the declining bus system and ignored traffic problems. When the Red Line fails, what will Baltimore try next?

Robert Sacamento
Brewers Hill


Why settle for ‘the only plan we have?’

To the Editor:

In his recent letter to the editor, Dan Tracy says he is mystified by “angst” of Canton residents regarding the Red Line and does not understand their reasons. The answers are simple.

Since planning started, Red Line costs have essentially doubled, are now approaching $3 billion, and almost half that sum is designated for a 70-foot-deep, 3.4-mile underground tunnel from the heart of Boston Street in front of Safeway to the U.S. 40 West “Highway to Nowhere.” Now, a major justification for going forward with the Red Line is that it is “…the only plan we have,” however flawed it may be. How can that possibly make for a compelling argument at this point in time with the enormous, escalating costs?

Fellow Cantonites who question the Red Line recognize that prospects for sufficient federal funding are evaporating, that the state’s hopes for Red Line “public-private partnerships” are dubious, that the Baltimore Regional Transportation Board has declined to allocate construction funds in their budget covering up to 2017, and that Maryland and Baltimore City taxpayers may well be required to pay at least $1.7 billion in capital costs (not including any unexpected cost overruns).

Mr. Tracy appears to believe that traffic congestion will be significantly eased on Boston Street. Touted as having an average speed of 18.8 mph (down from 22-23 mph just five years ago), the Red Line will actually operate at just 6-12 mph in the city—similar to a city bus. Does Mr. Tracy actually believe this qualifies as a “rapid rail system,” enough to get most people out of their cars? The Red Line rail route, by omitting a full lane on the already-congested thoroughfare, will force drivers onto various other routes through surrounding neighborhoods. Where will this diverted traffic actually go?

Some of Mr. Tracy’s neighbors are also likely concerned about construction details that affect non-Canton residents and communities. For instance, do residents know that in the current plan, Greektown will get a 60 foot high bridge over what was to be a major new housing site, or that the grade of Bayview’s Cassell Drive will have to be lifted by 10 feet, or that the only connection between the Red Line and the Metro is via a two-block, unmanned pedestrian tunnel, five stories underground?

Other progressive U.S. cities have abandoned expensive, underground tunnels in their urban core, and employed more cost-effective transit systems that better match the urban infrastructure.  Modern rapid streetcars, rapid transit buses, bike lanes, and “transit first” cities are addressing modern day needs, improving quality of life, and doing it for less.

Why settle for the “only plan we have”? Does that plan justify implementing a $3 billion project developed in 2002, that excludes modern technologies, and that will weigh on the shoulders of state and city taxpayers for decades to come? Isn’t embracing “…the only plan we have,” despite its obvious problems and short-comings, just setting a low bar for our city, neighborhoods, and citizens? We can and must do better.

Many far more buildable, cost-effective, and people-oriented transit options are available. Dan Tracy’s Canton neighbors are not “hysterical.” In fact, the majority of them favor public transportation. However, what they want is a comprehensive, equitable, and integrated system that serves the breadth of Southeast Baltimore’s communities: one that costs less, can be constructed in stages, connects Baltimore’s diverse (and disconnected) transport modes, serves a broader constituency, and can be in operation a full decade before the Red Line is completed.

Kathy Epstein and Maris St. Cyr
Right Rail Coalition

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