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.”
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