One of the problems with Baltimore's rail transit isn't really about trains, service or reliability and isn't the sole responsibility of the MTA, MDOT or that the Governor. The problem I am referring to is "land use". In other words, get off a train at most of the metro, light rail and MARC stops in Baltimore City and County outside of downtown and there is not a whole lot going on. The urban form around most Metro and MARC stops resembles a hole in the donut, the opposite of what it should be. Therefore, the news that MDOT plans to convert one of its parking lots to a "town center" and has selected a local development team is good news.
|Reisterstown Plaza TOD area (MDOT)|
Better land use is good for transit. It is surprising how rarely land use is seen as a solution for increased transit use. Intensified land use at rail stations is also good for urban development, it is helping to combat climate change and, combined with affordable housing, it provides opportunity for those who don't have a car. Instead of the hole in the donut, one should see high density and high intensity uses clustered immediately around each station in the region including those "drive to" commuter stations which were designed with giant parking lots. This conversion is often referred to as "transit oriented development" (TOD).
|Wabash Avenue and the Metro Station (Photo: Philipsen)|
|Baltimore elevated Metro Station: Greetings|
from the 1970s (Photo: Philipsen)
There are many opportunities for Transit Oriented Development in Baltimore City. In the City, TOD will be used to focus on the connection between development and transit as Comprehensive Master PlanAppendix DDevelopment Guidebook
|Pike and Rose near Rockville, TOD on a former mall site |
The first phase would yield two mixed-use buildings with office and retail space. One of the buildings would be up to 100 feet tall and the other would be up to 60 feet high. A road named after the late U.S. Congressman Elijah Cummings extending from Wabash Avenue to Vertis Park Drive would be also be created as part of the first phase.
The second phase would result in 20 townhomes with so-called "granny flats" and a 42-unit senior home [..] based on a similar concept at Johnston Square.
The project's third phase would create a pedestrian bridge to the nearby Social Security Administration campus. A pedestrian plaza called “Legacy Walk" would showcase community art and provide space for small events, a street theater, outdoor wellness programs, community gatherings and outdoor exhibitions.
A fourth and final phase of development would include the construction of a "medium-scale" nursing home and space for food trucks and a farmers market.If realized, those four phases together could have the elements that deserve the classification as TOD and maybe just enough density to be called "village center" or "town-center". Best practice examples show, that true TOD requires that the station, the development and the adjacent road ways together form a pedestrian friendly environment where it pleasant and safe to walk from and to transit or from the surrounding areas.
|Mosaic TOD Redevelopment, Fairfax County |
(Photo: Mahan Rykiel, Associates)
|Affordable Housing near transit by Enterprise Community Partners|
Denver (See article)
Klaus Philipsen, FAIA