Dorsey outlines transportation vision in newly released letter

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Photo via MTA

Third District City Councilman Ryan Dorsey, chair of the council’s Transportation Committee, in a new letter laid out transit friendly goals that include reducing the number of solo car trips taken by citizens, improving the city’s bus network eliminating transit fees and tearing down parts of I-83 and U.S. 40.

“Baltimore’s transportation system does not meet the needs of all its residents,” he writes. “It lacks connections and options for an economically thriving, equitable, and environmentally-sustainable region.”

To remedy this, Dorsey proposed reducing car trips 15 percent by 2030, adding 15 miles of dedicated bus lanes by 2022, staffing up the Baltimore Department of Transportation, ending fares for mass transit, adding more separated bike lanes and taking on a handful of major infrastructure projects.

Those ventures include constructing a new Baltimore & Potomac Tunnel for trains, and tearing down I-83 from downtown to Northern Parkway and the Orleans Street Viaduct that juts out of downtown and hovers over the Jones Falls Expressway as part of U.S. 40. Both the tunnel, which dates to just after the Civil War, and highway are at the end of their useful life, Dorsey wrote.

According to figures supplied by the councilman, the number of miles traveled has actually increased over the last five years, even though the population has decreased in that time. But there are still 30 percent of households without access to a vehicle, he noted, meaning a large number of people are commuting into the city every day.

Dorsey hopes that offering incentives will cut down on car trips, such as a program that would offer city employees free transit passes or the cost of a subsidized parking space to put toward other transit options. The city spends $850,000 to provide parking spaces for 600 of Baltimore’s 13,000 employees, he said.

“These two policies could be established for Baltimore City workers first, setting an example for City employers to follow and providing an interim step towards a stronger and more comprehensive [transportation demand management] policy,” Dorsey wrote.

One alternative mode in Dorsey’s plan would be rapid bus transit. Dorsey called for 75 percent reliability for Baltimore’s CityLink bus system, making it possible to get from, say, the West Baltimore MARC station to Johns Hopkins Bayview in 30 minutes or Morgan State to South Baltimore in 25 minutes. Such improvements would involve coordination with the Maryland Transit Administration and DOT, he said.

Another way to speed up travel times: free buses, a measure recently adopted in Kansas City. MTA collected $52 million in fares in 2017, he said, but eliminating them altogether would save “significant funds” spent on the infrastructure to collect them, with the added benefit of decreasing boarding times.

In a statement, DOT Director Steve Sharkey said his office is still reviewing the plan and continuing work on guidelines for Complete Streets, an initiative Dorsey authored that requires future road designs to cater to cyclists, pedestrians and mass transit over cars.

“BCDOT is always open to new ideas that can improve the City of Baltimore,” he said. “BCDOT is in the process of creating a Complete Streets Manual that will guide our design standards for promoting safer streets, slower speeds, and increased walkability. Our goal is to work on creating a policy that improves safety across the city for everyone.”

Brandon Weigel

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  1. Dorsey and the other bike lovers are dreaming. We’ve been working on these dedicated bike lanes for years and they’re used by very, very few people. And with good reason. It’s too cold for four to five months a year. And it’s too hot for another four or so — unless you’re going to a meeting with people who don’t mind the stench of sweat. Not only that, but it’s too dark to commute for four to five months because the sun goes down at 5pm. What about the days that it rains, sleets or snows? They knock out another month or two. If you mix in the need to carry food, packages or a child (or two), well, a bike really sucks. And what about the safety? These things are much, much more dangerous than cars or buses or pretty much anything because bikes have a terribly designed front wheel that’s unstable when braking. No amount of banning cars will get rid of the fundamental instability of the bikes. Ask any mountain biker who did a header on a trail miles from any car.

    We’ve been doing this experiment for YEARS. The bike lane has been in Roland Park for forty plus years and it rarely has anyone in it. Even on a sunny May Saturday afternoon.

    Quit wasting money on these utopian dreams. Baltimore is not San Diego.

  2. So the plan is to screw up just about everyone’s commute without creating any real high speed alternatives to automobiles. I guess it’s time to start looking for work outside of the city.

  3. I completely agree with bob’s points about bike lanes. And I’ve been an avid mountain biker for decades. It doesn’t work for commuting in this climate and area. Plus being a city designed and laid out before cars, Baltimore’s streets are too narrow already. And in my experience, most people hate riding busses. It may be an ok temporary solution but the answer is what Matt points out. We need real high speed solutions to automobiles. Not busses and bike lanes.
    A great, fast, subway that fully connects all areas of the city is the only answer unless some new answer or technology presents itself. But unfortunately it is REALLY expensive to build and so unlikely to ever happen.
    And tearing down the JFX from downtown to Northern Parkway is possibly the dumbest thing I’ve heard in a while, despite some stiff competition in that department. Maybe tearing it down up to North Avenue along with the Orleans St bridge might be a good idea if done right and properly funded, but Northern Parkway? The downtown commercial real estate market is already in terrible shape. Tearing down the JFX that far uptown would destroy it and many of the businesses and property values too. Then property tax revenue would plunge.
    I fully support green solutions as far as reasonably possible, farther than most people, but these ideas are absurdist fantasies. And even worse, undermine support for green alternatives by going way too far.
    In a perfect world with a world class subway system in Baltimore, losing the JFX would make more sense, but that’s not the real Baltimore we live in unfortunately.

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