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Baltimore: Six Stations Reopened After Upgrading of LRT Line

Light Rail Now! Publication Team • July 2004

On 27 June 2004, six stations were reopened on the southern section of Baltimore's LRT system, south of Camden Yards to North Linthicum. However, as many transit proponents had feared, the four-month closure of a major segment of the LRT system (during a construction project to double-track previously single-tracked portions of the line) apparently has reduced ridership and left some LRT work commuters and other passengers confused. As the Baltimore Sun headlined. "At light rail return, some aren't aboard".
[Baltimore Sun, 29 June 2004]

in January, public transport advocates were alarmed when Baltimore's state transit agency (the Maryland Transit Administration) announced it would shut down the light rail line south of Camden Yards for as much as seven months, severing the city's rail link with Baltimore-Washington international Airport and forcing some Orioles and Ravens fans to find different routes to the stadiums. The shutdown, planned to extend from February until October, was justified on the basis that it would allow the Maryland Transit Administration (MTA) to add a second track to portions of the line that then had only a single track. The line's single-tracking has limited the frequency of trains and contributed to persistently low ridership.
[Baltimore Sun, 29 January 2004; map adapted by LRN from MTA]

However, the total closure of much of the LRT service has been met with scepticism and suspicion by transit advocates, particularly in view of the anti-transit, pro-highways agenda of Maryland's rightwing state administration of Republican Gov. Robert Ehrlich, which has been waging a relentless campaign against the long-proposed inner Purple Line LRT plan and other rail transit plans.

At the time of the station closure disruption, about 60 percent of the LRT line's 27,000 daily riders were boarding south of Camden Yards. While shuttle buses were provided, stopping at all stations along the nine-mile section of rail line closed, MTA officials clearly feared that LRT riders would give up on mass transit and switch to cars. That may now indeed be the case.
[Baltimore Sun, 29 January 2004]

The opening of the six stations is regarded as "the first sign of major progress" for commuters and other LRT passengers by the MTA in its program to add a second track. According to the Baltimore Sun, many passengers welcomed the chance to get back to riding the LRT trains, even though several stops at the southern end of the line remain closed.
[Baltimore Sun, 29 June 2004]

On the whole, and despite the Ehrlich administration's nominal promotion of buses over rail transit, Baltimore's rail systems are extremely cost-effective. Regional rail, rapid rail, and LRT combined carry about 48% of total passenger-miles; yet, according to calculations based on the latest (2002) Agency Profile from the FTA's NTD, rail transit is moving riders for only 38% of the cost per passenger-mile of the MTA's buses.
[Photo: Jon Bell]

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