MD: New Baltimore-area north-south public transit lines to stop short of Lutherville

Dec. 28, 2023
In a feasibility study, the state initially proposed connecting Lutherville and Towson through new light rail lines or improved rapid transit bus routes, but said it nixed the plan when it was met by opposition from residents.

New north-south public transit routes between downtown and Baltimore County will stop short of Lutherville and not include neighborhoods east of Towson and in Northeast Baltimore, according to a report issued Thursday by the Maryland Department of Transportation Maryland Transit Administration.

Currently, a light rail line travels south from Lutherville along Interstate 83, through West Baltimore and south toward BWI Thurgood Marshall Airport. In a feasibility study, the state initially proposed connecting Lutherville and Towson through new light rail lines or improved rapid transit bus routes, but said it nixed the plan when it was met by opposition from residents. The report concludes that areas north of Towson and Loch Raven Boulevard do not warrant “near-term premium transit investment.”

“While ridership analysis projects that connecting to the Lutherville area and Light Rail Station could add approximately 4,000 riders, public respondents did not express confidence in the potential for additional ridership in this segment, and expressed additional concerns about traffic and quality of life impacts,” the report said. “ The York Road north of Towson and Loch Raven Boulevard, Joppa Road and Goucher Boulevard segments will not move forward into the alternatives analysis phase.”

The report says the state is considering options for subway, light rail and bus routes while repeatedly emphasizing that new bus lines would be cheaper to operate and faster to implement. The report does not include projections for emissions or other pollution, but lists promoting the use of climate-friendly transportation such as electric buses as a goal.

The new bus rapid transit routes would cost $500 million to $600 million and take six to eight years to implement, according to the report. Bus rapid transit, dedicated bus lanes that take priority at intersections with other traffic, is the most cost-effective option and would attract more riders and offer more stations, according to the report.

The bus rapid transit lines would start in Towson and travel south along York Road. The state is still deciding whether the new routes would cut through downtown Baltimore along Greenmount Avenue or Charles Street before reaching Penn Station. From there, the new routes could end in Harbor East, the University of Maryland Medical Center or Baltimore Peninsula.

“Preliminary alternatives that use the Charles/ St. Paul segment and serve Penn Station/ Mt. Vernon have higher overall access than those that stay on Greenmount Avenue,” the report says. “It’s also notable that little ridership is generated by the Johns Hopkins University Homewood campus, which may be due in part to the presence of the Johns Hopkins private shuttle service between campuses and facilities throughout Baltimore which therefore is not taking place using MTA service.”

A new subway line between Towson and downtown Baltimore would be the fastest for riders and stop at just nine stations compared with 28-30 bus stops along a similar route, according to the report. The subway line would cost $6.2 billion and take 10 to 12 years to implement. However, in the report, the state says it has concluded it will not seek to create new services and that over 40 existing bus routes exist within the study area. The current CityLink Bus red line travels from downtown Baltimore through Towson to Lutherville. In the latest data from September, the line attracted a total of 249,632 rides.

“As an investment, the NorthSouth Corridor seeks to improve existing transit as opposed to creating new service to fill a gap,” the report says.

The report outlines seven potential routes but effectively eliminates parts of four of them that travel between Lutherville and Towson and along Loch Raven Boulevard.

Light rail between Lutherville and the University of Maryland Medical Center would cost $4 billion and take seven to nine years to construct. Although the report says the department will not move forward with any plans for new routes north of Towson, light rail is still an option between Towson and downtown.

The next alternative analysis phase will start in 2024 and last two years, according to the report.

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