Todd's Railfan Guide to

In General


In General


This page is a mixture of "the truth" and my own personal opinion.  If you're tired of reading opinions on and of the Red Line, please leave now :-)

Baltimore's proposed Red Line light rail system was controversial from the very start.  It was proposed to go thru Canton when many there felt it wasn't needed.  It was proposed to go through downtown Baltimore in another tunnel, like the Metro Subway system, starting in Canton, and facing the same challenges that the Metro did when it extended the line from Charles Street to Hopkins.

No-one who knows me can deny that I am a big fan and supporter of Mass Transit, but there are some ideas and plans that we should just let go of.... this is one of them.  And yes, whenever I can, I do ride Mass Transit, even busses!  :-)

One reason I have a problem with the system is: What many people (read: supporters) of the system forget, is that to attract more than just the "poor", the system has to be integrated into the rest of the areas transit systems so that it makes it easy for everyone to get around.  One of the biggest problems with the rail transit in Baltimore is that other than Penn and Camden stations (with connections to regional and commuter rail), there is no connection between the light rail and the metro system.  Why is that?  Why did the MTA plan a system like that?  That one decision alone has prevented the two systems from attracting more riders, especially from the suburbs.  I'm all for "helping the poor, and the disadvantaged", but what does this system really do for these people?  Do we really need to spend almost 3 billion, just so the poor can brag about getting to work on a flashy new system?  The money would be better spent trying to directly help those people!

I know the U.S. is in the middle of a rail renaissance, but not every system is needed or will produce the results the planners think it will bring.  Northern Virginia just recently (June 2015) decided against spending the money on a light rail system, because enough people had the sense to realize the cost was just not worth the end result.  Hooray for them!

So here we go again, designing yet another (third) system that will have NO commonality with either of the two existing systems.  Again, how can the MTA be so stupid in their decisions and design choices?  How are we supposed to transfer between the three systems without getting exposed to the weather?  Why don't they design the system to use both high and low platforms, and then use part of the Metro Subway system's tunnel?  Run it down Security Blvd instead of down the middle of the end of I-70 - putting it in the middle of the interstates might be OK in some cities, but just like the Metro system running up I-795, it now becomes more of a commuter rail system that is not easy to get to.

One of the Sunpaper articles below states that with the decision to nix the Red Line, Maryland will lose $288 million from the Feds.  But has anyone considered where Maryland's portion of the outrageous $2.9 billion in construction costs would come from?  Do we really need to pay $2.6 billion just so we can get a measly 10% of the construction costs for free?  Would you buy a house if someone was going to give you 10% of its costs, but you really STILL couldn't afford to buy the house?  Doesn't make sense to me either. 

For anyone reading this that has to do with the design of the system if it ever comes to fruition, I have a few suggestions:

-- Build it the way DART built their light rail system in Dallas, and have the light rail go UP N OVER a lot of their roads, eliminating the possibility of grade crossing accidents at those locations!  Another benefit would be you are not holding up vehicular traffic.  It would eventually pay for itself in the form of less maintenance costs, sending operators for a drug test every time they got into an accident, and paying off people when there is an accident!

-- Who says the tracks have to be built to standard gauge -- 4'-8 1/2"?  If you're going to build a system that has no connection to anything else, why not build it to, say, a six foot gauge?  The cars can be bigger to accommodate more people, thereby increasing the the through-put and making a more stable ride.  In the late 1800's and early 1900's, private transit companies were usually built to different gauges.  There is nothing saying that standard gauge has to be the norm.  Before the Civil War, the south had been building their railroads to six foot gauge, think of what our trains today could carry if we had used that instead of standard gauge!  Think outside the box people!  There is no reason - ZERO - to have it built to standard gauge!  OK, there is one, Plasser and the other rail maintenance companies only make their equipment for standard gauge, if we do something non standard gauge, we won't have any equipment to set ties or regulate our ballast :-(

Around the middle of July 2015, supporters want the Governor to prove to them that he went over the plans FULLY in order to reach his decision to nix the system.  Have these supporters come up with ANY alternatives on how to make the system cheaper to build?  Or is all they can do is criticize???  Anyone can do that!

In a related story, I think spending $58 mil on a Maglev study is a waste of time, the money could be better spent of helping the homeless, or building a better bus system.  Who is going to ride a line between Baltimore and Washington if it is still easier just to drive down to DC to get where you are going?  What do we gain from a mode of transportation that saves 20 minutes from the 30 (or less) commute between Penn Station and Union Station?  And then you are still at the mercy of another form of transportation to get you to your final destination.  There is NO advantage other than the "WOW" factor and the bragging rights.  Again, all at the expense of the taxpayers of Maryland.

Will the Red Line ever get built?  Maybe...... Maybe not.  But not in its current form, for the plan is just too expensive for the potential gains we will benefit from its realization.

As of October 2016, the transit coalition is again trying to revive interest in building the system, see the box below......

This page will highlight some of the proposals and discussions.








I love trains, and I love signals.  I am not an expert.  Anything expressed on this page not set in fact are my own opinions.

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NEW 07/12/2015
Last Modified 13-Oct-2016