More Bus-Only Lanes Coming to Downtown Baltimore

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Photo via MTA

Nine new bus lanes are coming to downtown Baltimore and surrounding neighborhoods this summer as part of the state’s planned overhaul of the city’s bus system.

In addition to bring new color-coded routes and traffic-signal prediction technology to the city’s bus system, Gov. Larry Hogan’s frequently touted BaltimoreLink project will add even more dedicated bus lanes downtown to try to reduce traffic congestion.

Some of these are already in place. If you’ve driven through the Inner Harbor in the last year or so, you’ve seen the red-painted lane heading down W. Pratt Street up to the intersection with Light Street – and if you’ve been unlucky enough, you’ve been stopped by the police and fined for lingering in it.

The Maryland Transit Administration announced today that more of those lanes will soon arrive on other streets, starting next Monday and running through September. All painting will happen overnight between 8 p.m. and 5 a.m. Here’s a schedule of the work planned for each location, courtesy of the MTA:

  • Week of May 15: Baltimore Street, from Arch to Gay streets;
  • June 5: Fayette Street, from President to Arch streets;
  • June 28: Gay Street, from Baltimore to Forrest streets;
  • July 17: Guilford Avenue, from Pleasant to Fayette streets;
  • July 17: Hillen Street, from Forrest to Front streets;
  • July 31: Lombard Street, from Howard to Penn streets and President Street to Market Place;
  • Aug. 14: Pratt Street, from Greene to Howard streets;
  • Aug. 21: Charles Street, from Madison to Oliver streets; and
  • Sept. 25: St. Paul/Light Street, from Monument to Redwood streets.

MTA spokesman Paul Shepard said most of the new lanes will be reserved for buses at all hours, with exceptions for two blocks of W. Baltimore Street and the section of Charles Street between Madison and Oliver Streets. The former will be bus-only from 7 to 9 a.m. and from 4 to 6 p.m., while the latter will be reserved for buses only from 4 to 6 p.m.

Rather than being painted red, those two sections will have signage and markings indicating the new rules.

The first enforced bus-only lanes went in last summer. Officials gave drivers a two-month warning period before city and transit police began issuing fines.

Asked about feedback from drivers so far, Shepard said some had called saying they appreciated the dedicated lanes because traffic was moving more smoothly. He said the agency hasn’t conducted any formal studies on the lanes.

Frank Murphy, Baltimore City’s acting transportation director, said in a statement that officials chose the streets listed above by evaluating overall traffic volumes, the number of buses operating on each street and the proportion of people using buses versus their own vehicles.

“By separating transit vehicles from mixed traffic, we’ve committed to making transit a more viable transportation option in Baltimore,” he said.

This story has been updated.

Ethan McLeod
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Ethan McLeod

Associate Editor at Baltimore Fishbowl
Ethan is Baltimore Fishbowl's associate editor. He previously covered Baltimore-area news as a web producer for Fox45/WBFF-TV. Before arriving in Baltimore, he worked as an assistant editor for CQ Researcher in Washington D.C., and a reporter for Connection Newspapers in Northern Virginia. Look for his freelance bylines in Baltimore City Paper and DCist.
Ethan McLeod
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