Friday, May 5, 2017

New bus hub taking shape in West Baltimore

Some people don't even know that West Baltimore has a commuter rail station that attracts over 650 riders a day and connects to the bus lines #23, 40 and 10. For a long time that historic train stop on the Baltimore to DC Amtrak line (it was once accessed from Edmondson Avenue) has existed as a marginal make-shift station hidden in plain view above US 40 just where the infamous "highway to nowhere" ends when going west.
The historic Ice House is a marker for the West Baltimore MARC
train station

But for some years now, this station has gained notoriety, in part because of the adjacent historic Ice House the most noticeable landmark there and the discussions about the future of the property, in part because commuting to DC has become ever more popular and this station is the departure point of choice for those looking for free parking, and in large part because West Baltimore continues to be in urgent need of revitalization and renewal. What better place to start than a well used rail station?

This is what Governor O'Malley thought when he announced the preferred alternative for the Baltimore Red Line here and what Governor Hogan thought when he announced the Baltimore Link bus reform at the same spot. That is also what Congressman Elijah Cummings thought when he ordered some immediate and short term fixes to the sad looking station which brought new shelters, digital signs announcing the next trains, better lighting and new landscaping.

The station area was also the target of some federal TIGER funds that leveled the end of the "highway to nowhere" with its abutments, retaining walls and concrete barriers and allowed Payson Street to re-open and the MTA parking lot to be doubled in size. The lots include art installations.
Access is a challenge even for able bodied riders

Alas, with its steep steps to the elevated platform the station is still utterly inaccessible for the mobility impaired. A fix is planned but very costly, because it won't only involve elevators and better stairs and ramps but also a shift of the station out of the curved portion of the track which makes high platforms level with the train floor and gap free boarding impossible.
Plans to move the station a few hundred feet south are on hold until the future of the Amtrak tracks will be precisely known which are depending on the B&P tunnel replacement design.
MTA rendering of the proposed bus hub to be completed by June 18, 2017
Meanwhile construction on lot A is in full swing and some may wonder why the MTA tore up that entire lot. The reason: the station's closest parking lot will become a bus hub. Residents and train riders are currently suffering through another round of construction making train access even more difficult. The bus hub requires digging up the entire parking lot to place thick concrete pavement able to carry the heavy buses so that a number of the new bus Link lines can circle through the lot and allow a cluster of bus stops with shelters and increased lighting with easy transfer from bus route to bus route and to the MARC commuter trains.
The West Baltimore transfer facility will include amenities such as shelters, real-time information signs, ticket vending machines, bike racks, CCTV cameras and blue-light phones, carshare access, improved pedestrian crossings, improved lighting, and a custom art installation. Providing access to much of the region while making the transfer experience as safe and convenient as possible, the West Baltimore transfer facility will be a great addition to the system. (MTA website)
The new bus hub will conform with current stormwater regulations and ADA requirements (not including train access). The lot will also have a bathroom facility for bus operators only. There will be artwork that was generated from the "art in transit" process that had been started for the Red Line and had resulted in a short-list of artists that had proposed art for the future Red Line stations. (The bus hub does not interfere with the spaces where the tracks had been envisioned.)
Pink Orange and Green Lines will terminate at West Baltimore,
Blue, 80 and 150 will continue through the hub. (source: MTA)

Lot A will continue to provide parking for the mobility impaired.

The bus hub will be served by the new CityLink lines Blue, Pink and Orange, as well as LocalLink Line 80 and Express BusLink 150 after they go into effect on June 18 of this year.

Klaus Philipsen, FAIA

Related article on this blog:
The Ice House - How Transit Could Revive a Neighborhood 
Information about Baltimore Link can be found here

Current state of construction. Work is scheduled to be completed
by June 18 when the Link system goes into effect

My book, Baltimore: Reinventing an Industrial Legacy City is my take on the post industrial American city and Baltimore after the unrest. 
The book is now for sale and can currently be ordered online directly from the publisher with free shipping. 

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