Saturday, June 27, 2015

RIP Baltimore Red Line - Gloria Transit Mundi

A proper translation of this line of Latin would say:  Rest in peace Red Line, so goes the glory of the world. 
But let's butcher the translation a bit and say:
The Red Line has been killed but glory to the transit of the world!

Grant Corley of the volunteer action committee Red Line Now has written a wonderful obituary after the Governor killed the Baltimore Rail transit project that he and his group had fought so hard to keep. I want to share it here:

"Want of foresight, unwillingness to act when action would be simple and effective, lack of clear thinking, confusion of counsel until the emergency comes, until self-preservation strikes its jarring gong — these are the features which constitute the endless repetition of history.” — Winston Churchill

"Not to dream boldly may turn out to be simply irresponsible." — George Leonard
Light Rail in Minneapolis/St Paul, expanding. 

The enormity of the damage inflicted on the Baltimore region by Gov. Hogan's irresponsible decision to kill the Red Line cannot be overstated. A stunning opportunity has been squandered, a city's potential curtailed on a scale difficult to fathom.

The Red Line would have directly created thousands of jobs and indirectly supported hundreds of thousands more throughout our region. It would have connected residents in isolated communities with work and opportunity. It would have made the city more attractive to Millennials and Baby Boomers who are looking to move to urban environments with quality transit. And, contrary to opponents' claims, it would have finally given Baltimore a connected public transit system, with vital links to the Metro Subway, the Central Light Rail, MARC, and our bus network.

Opponents complained the Red Line should not be built because it wasn't perfect enough, conveniently ignoring the fact that every major infrastructure project is imperfect and requires compromise and practicality to be ushered into the real world.

Opponents got their way. Now, instead of practicality — we have nothing at all.

For many of our neighbors in West Baltimore, this is a tragedy. It continues the long legacy of cutting off their communities from the rest of the region and its economy. In Southeast Baltimore, it will be interesting to see how residents deal with increasing traffic and parking headaches now that there will be no new transit alternative, particularly with massive new developments planned throughout the district. Perhaps a Circulator can be tossed on the street, but this is redundant to the existing MTA buses, and it will be stuck in traffic along with everyone else.

It is unlikely that the Red Line will be revived, at least for the foreseeable future. The $1 billion in federal funding waiting for the project will disappear soon. Too bad: the Red Line was truly on the one-yard line when it was fumbled.

So, the question is: what do we do now?

For one thing: hold your elected representatives accountable, at both the local and state level. While some of our electeds did stand firm for the Red Line, support from local and state officials overall was tepid, at best. Then, of course, there was the handful of local politicians who worked overtime to criticize and undermine the Red Line. They succeeded, and Baltimore has come up empty-handed, and all the poorer for it.

Generally speaking, if Baltimore-area residents want quality transit, we have to start organizing for it. We need to make it an ongoing issue, as much as schools, crime, taxes and trash. If elected officials are not confronted by the overwhelming need for better citywide transit, then they can continue to comfortably ignore it. We need to be in officials' faces at meetings, on the campaign trail, and in the media.

And we need regional transit solutions that serve the city and county. Beware of boutique "solutions" like streetcars and circulators with questionable funding, limited routes, and generally half-baked schemes.

Congratulations to our friends at Purple Line Now! and all of those who support the Purple Line in the DC suburbs. 

Although the Governor is severely cutting back the funding allocated for that project, it has a lifeline for now, and it will serve residents of the Washington area well.

We do want to thank our elected officials who valiantly DID fight for the Red Line. And we want to thank you, Red Line Now followers, for voicing your support and doing what you could to agitate for the project. 

For the moment, we have lost a worthy dream for our dear old city, but you have fought the good fight. Baltimore needs more of that as we move into our new landscape, whatever that may be.

Grant Corley
Red Line Now!

Thank you, Grant, for allowing me to post this here. Your setting your eyes on the future is much appreciated, no matter that the current administration has announced a trip back to the asphalt  policies of the fifties, not provided any alternative, slighted thousands that had formed a broad regional consensus on what to do and chose to stab a dagger into the heart of our region. 

Klaus Philipsen, FAIA

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