January 6, 2014


Robin Budish, Art Cohen, Grant Corley, Peter Duvall, Mac McComas, Klaus Philipsen, Jimmy Rouse, Sandy Sparks

Welcome and Introductions:

Robin Budish welcomed everyone, thanked them for their participation and opened the meeting.

Short-Term and Medium-Term Rail Transit Improvements:

Jimmy Rouse recommended that the work group begin a discussion on the general approach for both short term and medium term (within the next 5 years) rail transit improvements. It was suggested that rather than discussing the next universe of MARC, Light Rail and the Metro, the group should consider focusing on streetcars as a potentially viable mass transit option.

Discussion Points:
  • Peter Duvall: the circulator could be the launching pad for the streetcar and we should look at opportunities where buses can’t handle the current capacity. In order to justify streetcars, you must have ridership to justify the cost.
  • Sandy Sparks: integrating streetcars into a mass transit system should be the priority and the main focus of the group.
  • Grant Corley: although streetcars are nice and may make sense to have routes in certain locations such as Charles and St. Paul Streets, we need to make sure that we are not simply trading rubber wheels (buses) for track. It is also important to define what makes a streetcar system sustainable.
  • Klaus Philipsen: the challenge for the group is to convince (make the case) that streetcars are better than circulators. We also need to explore how can we fund the streetcar and make it a substantial, self-sufficient system. In Baltimore’s past, streetcars were driven by greed and sprawl. It collapsed on its own weight.
  • One possible sustainable source of funding could be revenue from the new Horseshoe Baltimore Casino if a streetcar line could be built by the new facility. Under the casino law, there are legally mandated funds in the amount of $1 million for the Complete Streets Plan initiative: “The plan will engage each neighborhood and larger community in defining all aspects of street design within the right of way and beyond the pavement to include buildings and open space features, storm water management, transit, walking, bicycling, alleys, main streets, neighborhood streets, boulevards, parking, temporary street closures, intersection improvement, public plazas and other street elements as identified through the complete streets engagement process.” The Baltimore Casino Local Development Council (BLDC) has been busy preparing recommendations for the Mayor’s Office about how to spend the local impact funds which will begin in Fiscal Year (FY) 2015 (October ’14-September ’15). The impact funds are projected to produce $7-$10 million in FY 2015 and $15-20 million in future years. The BLDC is made up of 15 members including Senator Bill Ferguson. Another potential funding source could be from developers that are trying to improve the City such as Beatty Development on behalf of their Penn Station/St. Paul Street projects.
  • Art Cohen: when thinking about logical streetcar routes, we should consider how the streetcar becomes a logical piece in the puzzle such as creating “hubs” like Lexington Market.

Other Business:

  • Robin Budish reported that she and Jimmy Rouse have confirmed meetings with Khalil Zaied (Mayor’s Office) and William Johnson (BCDOT) on January 17, 2014, and Robert Smith (MTA) on January 29, 2014. A meeting request has been also sent to Jim Smith and Leif Dormsjo (MDOT). The purpose of these meetings is to present the Transit Choices “Quick Hits” list. Further, Robin stated that Jon Laria, Esq. (Greater Baltimore Committee board member and biking enthusiast) will be attending all meetings. Ayers Saint Gross is creating the PowerPoint presentation for Transit Choices. All agreed that the goal of the meetings is to have 1) a clear idea of what we want to achieve by when, 2) list of expectations. In order for Transit Choices to be effective, we need to achieve our goals.
  • Klaus Philipsen mentioned the Red Line Community Compact and the importance of the City dealing with land use issues by way of investing in communities and economic development opportunities. Further, he added that former Mayor Sheila Dixon felt strongly that if we build the Red Line and don’t enhance the communities, the project will fail. For more information on the Red line Community Compact please visit: gobaltimoreredline.com
  • It was suggested that we invite a knowledgeable transit funding individual such as Mariia Zimmerman (MZ Strategies) or Todd Litman (Victoria Transport Policy Institute) to speak to the Rail Transit group about potential funding options for the streetcar.

Action Items:

  • Art Cohen will send Robin Budish the latest guiding principles draft which will be forwarded to all Transit Choices work group chairs for comments and feedback.
  • Next Steps: making the case for streetcars:
    • Utilities
    • Technology
    • Funding
    • Pilot Program