May 3, 2013


Michael Beatty, Robin Budish, Scott Burkholder, Rufus Davis, Charlie Duff, Peter Duvall, Senator Bill Ferguson, Alan Fish, John Gasparine, Liz Gordon, Tighe Greenhaigh, Billy Hwang, Jeff LaNoue, Richard Manekin, Thibault Manekin, Ed Myers, Wally Pinkard, Barry Robinson, Jimmy Rouse, Greg Smith


Klaus Philipsen, FAIA – “Modes and choices that together make a real transit system”
*Please note that following text is from notes prepared by Klaus and that his presentation was given more conversationally and not exactly as written.

  • What is a “real” transit system?
    Tuesday when I was on the Dan Rodricks Show about the Red Line a caller mentioned how he had been in Germany and how he liked the seamless linkage of the modes of transportation there. Since I happen to know the transit systems in Germany quite well, I like to start with a definition what makes a complete system based on an example there and then parse out what the elements of a true system are:
  • Real Transit System
    A real transit system is a system of transit modes that interconnects and provides a variety of options to go from a wide range of origins to a wide range of destinations on a regional scale. The more seamless the connectivity and the bigger the geographic spread, the more the term system applies. Other desired elements of a “real transit system” include:

    • Frequent service
    • Reliable service
    • Affordable
    • A good mix of transit dependent and choice riders
  • Where are we today with our transit system?
    [slides APTA, Brookings] – Regional collaboration.
    Example Stuttgart. It has a Transit Compact that encompasses 1,150 square miles and 2.4 million people, i.e. an area that is larger than the Baltimore Metro area. It includes 42 partners or transit providers, many are private, some are public, most just run buses, some rail. 338 Million people used the system in 2012. That is about twice as many as used the MTA statewide system of MARC, Buses, Metro and Light Rail.
  • Fare integration/ convenience.
    The main point about the system is user convenience. Tickets between all providers are interchangeable and bought from the same vending system, if you pay the right fare you can use the system end to end with as many transfers as needed to get to the destination. The compact even accepts German Rail tickets from their intercity trains. Example: If I fly to Frankfurt airport, I can walk over to the long distance train station, buy a ticket to Stuttgart, get off at the main train station and have now a choice to use a bus, a commuter train or a light rail train to get to my destination. All modes are within 300’ from the end of the ICE train platform.
  • With diesel/electric hybrid solutions, there is a certain convergence of technology.
    For example, the Denver 6th Street shuttle runs the full length of sixth street in purely electric mode and charges his batteries with a diesel motor at the Union Station layover. [slide] Our early Charm City bus model uses a small turbine engine to charge the electric motor whenever needed. Streetcars are experimenting with capacitors and batteries to eliminate overhead wires at least in certain segments. Light rail, street cars and buses are now low floor and sometimes multi-articulated (Istanbul, Curitiba). [slide]
  • All systems have to be ADA compliant.
    This means they cannot stop in the middle of the street like in this image of Phildelphia. [slide] In the US any train in mixed use with freight requires heavy high impact vehicles that withstand collisions with freight trains.
  • What does all this mean for a “real system”?
    A “real system usually functions with an “all of the above” approach employing many different modes and technologies depending on where in the system the service is provided. A great example is San Francisco’s Market Street under which you have BART (the metro), MUNI (the Light rail) in two stacked tunnels and on top, on the surface you have a historic streetcar, electric trolley buses with overhead wiring and regular diesel buses all running on one and the same street, each with its own purpose. [slide] The streetcar won’t take you to Oakland, neither will MUNI, but BART will. The streetcar, though will take you down a scenic ride along the Embarcadero to Fisherman’s Wharf. The MUNI train will come up to the surface in the Castro area and eventually will run quite like a streetcar through older neighborhoods. But again, a modern streetcar can’t act like the old streetcars and so it will need real stations, slightly elevated platforms and thus doesn’t run in traffic quite that smoothly.
  • This last example will probably prompt you to ask: Can the Red Line turn into a streetcar in east Baltimore?
    To answer this, let’s review the things we discussed: A streetcar would run in the street with traffic. It would need a vehicle limited to 8’ width to fit into the traffic lanes. It would likely be a single car train, albeit maybe as long as 100’ or more. With 8’ width you likely get three seats in a row, not four. The trains would have more frequent stops and not adhere to a schedule very much due to the vagaries of traffic (like a bus). Already these few facts would mean that one and the same train could not easily change from operating in a tunnel like LRT to being in traffic like streetcar because of schedule, capacity and headways. The SF MUNI train, for example, is very unreliable for its traffic dependence in outlying areas which is annoying when you wait in a tunnel where you are a captive audience and can’t do some errands while waiting.
  • Summary
    Baltimore, at this point where the Red Line has passed the FEIS, would be best off to discuss streetcar as a complementing system rather than a substitute. Whatever funds we are about to have set aside for the Red Line would not be available for a streetcar for which nothing but some concept sketches exist at this time. The Red Line has spent significant funds on planning engineering. We either will proceed generally based on the LPA or we risk not having a project at all. The proposed surface/tunnel LRT on its separated tracks is the optimal compromise in terms of cost, flexibility, capacity, speed and reliability. Many cities of our size are proceeding with LRT, to date almost 30 systems nationwide, several with tunnel segments. (Historically: Boston, Philly), since 1990 (LA, Pittsburgh) and recent (Seattle). Some do it all surface (Denver, San Diego, Portland) and some that have streetcar only systems such as Houston are already overwhelmed.

Jimmy Rouse, Moderator:

Jimmy Rouse reported that we have received ringing endorsements from Leif Dormsjo (Acting Deputy Secretary MDOT)& Khalil Zaied (Deputy Chief of Operations, Mayor’s Office) for our group to address the vacuum that exists with transit:

  • Now is a great opportunity to form a vision for the city regarding mass transit
  • The group needs to adopt a mission statement & have people sign on as supporters

Other Discussion Points:

  • Klaus Philipsen – all modes of transit can complement, not compete with each other
  • Transit should be convenient, safe & coordinated
  • Michael Beatty – transportation vision needs to be sold to the city & the state, many groups working on transit (CMTA, GBC, DPOB) should work collaboratively- not as observers, but as players
  • Alan Fish – strong hook for the transit choice group on a unified transit vision: plan, fund, execute
  • Ed Myers – add parking into the transit mix conversation (parking supply & demand)
  • Senator Bill Ferguson – now is the opportunity to ensure that the Red Line is the stimulus for a more robust transit system for Baltimore. There is a void in the system for a broader discussion that makes us more likely to get additional transportation money
  • Suggestion was made to change the name of the group from “Transit Choices” to “Transportation” Choices to encompass walking, bicycling, etc.

Action Items for Next Meeting:

  • Send revised draft mission statement to the meeting group
  • Invite Leif Dormsjo (Acting Deputy Secretary MDOT) to speak at June meeting
  • Invite representatives from: GBC, DPOB, Simon Taylor (MTA) and the Baltimore Metropolitan Council
  • BSC/Transit Choices should put together a canned presentation (power point) and get on the agenda of the next elected official MPO meeting (Oct 2013)