26 October 2006

Transportation Visions

Just a real short post this morning. The sole article in the Baltimore Sun regarding Howard County details a growth and transportation conference held at Turf Valley. Our friend Evan over at HoCo blog dedicated a pretty lengthy post back in July (scroll down to July 12) about possible rail transit in Howard County. Similarly, the Urban Places and Spaces blog posted a Baltimore-Washington regional rail system.

Oddly, the Urban Places and Spaces blog has rail lines pretty much circling Ho Co and nothing through the county. If we could get these two bloggers together and start planning, maybe we could come up with a rail solution.


Anonymous said...

Hopefully, an elevated rail system.

Richard Layman said...

Elevated. Insane!

2. Dan never wrote an entry about the map. It's from a school project he never finished.

I wrote a blog entry in May suggesting that instead of two "commuter" railroads in the region, how about one passenger railroad system not strictly concerned with getting workers to Washington or Baltimore.

He mentioned the map in the discussions that came out of the entry.

Another entry, Transit without borders or five omissions "in" the Transportation Element of the DC "Comprehensive" Plan describes this idea in a bit more detail.

And I've discussed it in other entries, and in a presentation entitled "Montgomery County: Transit Beyond the Purple Line" that I made earlier in the month at MoCo's Action for Transit advocacy group at their monthly meeting.

I can't speak for Dan, but he lives in Arlington, and I live in DC, so I would aver that we aren't as familiar with Howard County as you'd like, and certainly not able (at least I'm not) to comment in depth.

(Although once a journalist contacted me about HoCo transportation issues, and I referred her to my contacts in Baltimore.)

B. Santos said...


Thanks for the clarification and links! It may not be making the radar screens in DC, but Howard Countians have for a long time been trying to find a way to make rail transit a reality. The discussion has intensified because of the possibility of extending the green line to BWI. Initial plans had a metro stop in Guilford (just east of Columbia) and the state is currently studying the idea of putting the stop in downtown Columbia. As the states second largest city (ok, a census designated place), there is very little in the way of mass transit. I hope my intial link to your site, and the further links you have provided, will spur some thought on the regional level.



Richard Layman said...

In my presentation on Montgomery County, I made the point that they need to look at the County in terms of grids, based on the north-south and east-west streets, and consider additional light rail lines parallel to the proposed Purple Line. Obviously, the more north you get in MoCo, Howard County is more relevant to some of those alignments.

Now it's Laurel, but my proposed 9th DC streetcar line (of course, it's moot, since DC's DDOT has cut the proposed lines for 8 to 4 as it is) would go from the Rhode Island Metro station up US-1. In a conversation with Peter Shapiro (ex-PG County Council member) he suggested that rather than terminate in College Park as I suggested, the line could go as far as Laurel..

As far as the extension of the Green line goes, I am agnostic. It's not about improving transportation so much as it is about enabling sprawl.

But in any case, it's relevant to another suggestion of mine, and perhaps people like yourself from Howard County need to think about this...

I am suggesting the creation of an annual conference for transit advocates, alternating locations between the Baltimore and Washington regions (and probably scheduling transit advocacy lobby days in Annapolis and Richmond).

The idea is to create a master mobility plan and a plan for advocacy to achieve it.

We need to be on the same page for mobility, throughout the region.

Anonymous said...

Ok, Richard, why is elevated "insane"?

The track would take less space, likely able to be positioned over existing rights-of-way (preserving greenspace, reducing roadkill to zero, avoiding breaking up communities with tracks and track barriers). Elevated track construction would be less expensive ($1M/mile vs. $45 M/mile for light rail or $350M-$1B/mile for Metro). Stations would be smaller (meaning they could be put more places, allowing walkable neighborhood stations that don't need to be driven to and don't need parking lots thereby preserving greenspace). Stations would be less expensive to build ($5k/station vs. many times that for light rail and many, many times that for Metro). Offline elevated stations would allow direct transit from one's origin to their destination without stopping at any intermediate stations (unlike both light rail and Metro), providing a much quicker commute.

With such a system costing 1/30th what light rail would cost per mile or 1/300th what Metro would cost per mile, an elevated system like that could be propagated much more rapidly through the region at less cost.

Where's the insanity in that?

B. Santos said...


Could you please give us a name of some sort? It would make the conversation easier.


I like the idea of thinking regionally. However, I have been looking at the TEA-21 process, and to have multiple regional organizations working on the same project is not really taken into account for federal funding. Take the green line extension for example. I know there is a lot of hoopla about Konterra, but as I stated earlier, we have more than 250,000 people here and near zero mass transit options. Geographically, we are located within the Baltimore Metropolitan Council and the Metro is within the Washington COG. To extend to this area (and make the system more accessable to 30,000 plus commuters to the DC area) seems to be less than sprawlish. It certainly makes as much sense as extending out to Germantown or Dulles. Conversely, The Baltimore Metro Council sees 1/3 of our population going south, and does not see immediacy in extending the Baltimore system south through Howard County. We are the "tweener" county. I believe most people would jump at the chance to use rail, but it seems we are stuck between two areas.

Richard Layman said...

If you want to see ugly transit, check out the elevated tracks north of the RFK stadium...

As far as regional thinking goes, your point about HoCo being in between is why (1) you need to develop your own vision -- as the June HoCo blog entry that you link to begins to do so; and (2) participate in the regional transportation advocacy agenda conference idea that I keep mentioning in other arenas. Better connectedness helps all of us. Even if I tend to focus on DC proper...

Anonymous said...

Ok, if a name'll make it easier, how about JustAnotherCommuter?

I don't doubt that RFK's elevated tracks are ugly. I'm guessing they are huge concrete structures necessary for supporting the large weight of multi-car Metro trains.

Personal rapid transportation, having much lighter, single car vehicles, doesn't need such support. It can use much more streamlined, narrow elevated tracks.

BeyondDC said...

Late to the party here, so it's likely no one will read this, but oh well...

1. Howard County rail, specifically a spur of the Baltimore LRT line going into Columbia, has been proposed as part of the Baltimore Regional Rail Plan.

2. Elevated rail is most certainly NOT cheaper than at-grade rail. It requires more materials and takes longer to build, costing more in man hours. Whatever it saves in right-of-way acquisition is more than lost in other areas, unless ROW acquisition is simply not available. Elevated is usually much, much more expensive than at-grade, though generally cheaper than a subway. I don’t know who told Mr. Anon that elevated is cheaper, but except for in a very narrow set of circumstances, that is simply false.

3. Monorail has not caught on because it combines the (high) cost of third rail systems with the (low) capacity of light rail systems. Which is a ridiculous combination that no transit agency with a real-world budget would choose except for in very rare circumstances where natural topography favors the mode.

4. PRT is worse than monorail. It combines the efficiency of cars with the convenience of transit, which is to say it is neither efficient not convenient.

There is a REASON why neither monorail nor PRT have caught on, and that reason is that they simply don’t do the job as well as traditional trains or buses. The fact that BRT has caught on so quickly illustrates that the transit establishment is more than willing to accept new ideas when they make sense.