Friday, September 25, 2015

North Avenue, a proposal how to pick up after the uprising

North Avenue was the ground zero of the unrest in April and it has become the focus of many initiatives, some dating actually to a time before the protests:

  • NDC’s streetscape plans for the areas west of Howard Street, 
  • BCDOT’s streetscape construction on the east, 
  • the Mayor’s Link Corridor studies in collaboration with ULI TAPS that include North Avenue
  • Bluewater Baltimore's tree planting grant for street trees along North Avenue
  • Coppin's campus plans on both sides of West North Avenue
  • MICA's new graduate center on West North Avenue
  • The efforts of numerous communities and stakeholders in the corridor such as Coppin Heights and the Druid Heights CDC
Overlap this with the current discussions of "what's next?" after the cancellation of the Red Line. As part of the debate how to improve the transit system in Baltimore fueled by a slew of promises coming from the Governor's office, it is likely that improved bus service in the east-west corridor will emerge  as one of the components.
The corner of Pennsylvania Ave and North Ave ((MDHS)

What better choice for one of those possible high capacity, high frequency bus lines (“Quickbus Plus”) than North Avenue, an artery that like no other represents the difficulties that Baltimore has to lift all boats, all neighborhoods and serve all communities? 

More than many other routes, North Avenue is plagued by the notoriously unreliable #13 bus plying North Avenue almost over its entire length.

Transit could be the magic wand that pulls together all those fragmented efforts going on in the various segments and communities of the North Avenue corridor. Transit by its nature is continuous over the entire five mile corridor and has the potential to unite everything into a coordinated whole.

Given the congestion and complexity of the corridor, this is not a matter of the MTA alone. To make the buses run faster and more efficiently, those who control the street (the "right of way") and those who own the parcels along the way need to collaborate!

Once again, what better example to demonstrate successful land-use and transit coordination than North Avenue? What better place to demonstrate successful public private partnership than North Avenue? 
North Ave at McCulloh Street

What better place to showcase what "complete street" is supposed to mean than taking the streetscape projects and overlay them with the desire to improve transit and the "active modes" of biking and walking? 

What better corridor to show intermodal connectivity combined with "place-making" than North Avenue where a possible enhanced bus service meets other bus lines and the LRT and Metro lines?

Like pearls on a string those transit hubs could line North Avenue from Hilton Parkway, Fulton venue, Pennsylvania Avenue, Charles Street, Greenmount, Broadway to Belair Road. The hubs need to be recognizable places where people like to be and can easily find their connections. These hubs should be the focal points of retail and services. Penn and North are is such a place already at least to some extent with the library and a number of shops and the Arch Social Club all clustered here. 

A high frequency and capacity top-of-the-line transit service on North Avenue needs the support from all who currently push for better communities, reinvestment, better job access, better transit as a tangible and immediate response to the spring uprising. Transit advocates should think about the full set of desired outcomes before they advocate for a certain mode or technology. 
Arch Social Club and the metro transit hub at North Ave
and Pennsylvania Ave

North Avenue was once a proud and bustling well functioning lifeline with great architecture in Baltimore. There is no reason why it couldn't be again. In fact, it must be, if Baltimore should truly recover. 

Klaus Philipsen, FAIA

North Ave is Baltimore’s Most Important Street

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