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June 26, 2009

Canton residents dispute MTA official

When MTA deputy administrator Henry Kay gave an interview to Suzanne Collins of Channel 13 Thursday night about the proposed east-west Red Line, he drew a quick and vehement reaction from Canton residents who oppose a surface light rail line on Boston Street.

Kay was talking about one of the alternative plans for building the east-west transit line between Woodlawn and Bayview called 4C. It would involve building a light rail line in a tunnel through downtown and Fells Point, as well as under Cooks Lane in West Baltimore, but on the surface along Boston Street and Edmondson Avenue.

Some in Canton were unhappy with the way Kay characterized the oppposition to the plan. Ben Rosenberg wrote:

Henry - I saw your interview on WJZ this evening. You said that many people who live just one block off of Boston Street want the Red Line. We've been looking for people like that, but haven't located a single soul. Would you please identify them. I'd like to ask them why they feel the way you say they do. Of course, if you don't really know of anyone who lives a block from Boston Street and supports the Red Line, maybe you should correct the record. It's not a good thing for a public official to mislead the public.


Chuck D. of Canton, who preferred not to use his full  name, also  weighed in:

 Mr. Kay, I saw your interview with Suzanne Collins last night I am quite upset that you made such a misleading and untrue statement that only the people living on Boston Street are upset about alternative 4C. I can assure you that it is hard to find a Canton resident that is for the surface rail on Boston Street. I have walked the streets blocks away from Boston Street - Elliott, Streeper, Curley, Potomac, Robinson, Kenwood, just to name a few - and spoken with many, many residents about what the MTA and City are attempting to do. I have yet to speak with someone that supports 4C. The PR firm retained to work against the Canton community position, is canvassing the neighborhood and providing false information while misrepresenting their association. They are obtaining support signatures under false pretenses. In addition, you conveniently left out the fact that there are numerous alternative plans for the Red Line. The least you could do is tell the whole story and give all the facts. You really can't be surprised by the Canton community's reaction to this potential debacle.

And one more from Bill Sohan of Canton:


I was blown away when I saw your interview on WJZ.  You stated that many folks just one block off Boston Street want the Red Line.  I was at a community meeting that Jim Kraft put together 2 months ago.  Their were probably 100 people there.  Only 1 woman stood up and said she was for it. Her name was Jessica and she works for the MTA.  How ironic!!! Where are these people that you spoke about.?? I live in a community with 67 homes and you can be rest assured that NO ONE in my community wants this above ground on Boston St. With the other alternatives that are available I only wish that the next time you speak about this publicly that you tell the TRUE facts.  We would expect nothing less from our elected officials.


I'm not taking a position on this. I have talked with Canton residents -- none on Boston Street -- who have no problems with a surface Red Line. But I'm not sure how numerous they are.

I will say this: On both sides of town, Red Line opponents are underplaying the downside of the so-called "no-build" option. Both East Baltimore and West Baltimore are being slowly strangled by traffic congestion. Both communities have a huge stake in getting cars off the road. Car traffic may be the devil we know, but it's a mean old devil -- and getting bigger all the time.

It's not enough for residents of these communities to show that a surface Red Line wiill be bad for their neighborhoods or themselves personally. They need to show it will be worse for the entire region than the consequences of doing nothing. If the Red Line is a net minus for a certain neighborhood -- and that has yet to be proven -- but a net plus for the region, I don't think the state has a choice but to move  forward.


Posted by Michael Dresser at 12:28 PM | | Comments (17)
Categories: Red Line



Your last point is the one that resonates with me. People complain that a train will strangle traffic on Boston st. Yet if you look at the traffic studies, cars are going to strangle themselves. The entire area will be fulltime gridlock in the next 15 years. Who would want to visit Canton if they can't get there by car, bus OR train? Who would want to live there if they can't safely or timely walk, bike, or drive?

The Red Line might be flawed, but it at least begins to address traffic issues and present an alternative. The only certain death to Canton is to do nothing about traffic and public transit and act like everything will be OK. It won't be.

I live two and a half blocks from Boston in Canton, and I support the Red Line. See, that wasn't too hard to find a soul who lives in Canton that supports the idea.

My personal anecdotal evidence (the same sort of evidence that Mr. Rosenberg and Chuck use) tends to make me believe that a good number of people in Canton do support a transit system that supports different options of getting around. This includes the Red Line whether it be surface or underground on Boston. From the signs I see, I agree that the original report is correct in that the majority of the opposition comes from the communities (i.e. Canton Square HoA) along Boston Street.

I wish some impartial party (if they exists) would actually figure out how Cantonites feel about the subject. I personally always question lines in the media that describe the Red Line as opposed to by Canton residents. I suspect the opposition is of the vocal minority, but I'll admit I could be wrong.

Any credible data out there on this?

I live on the water side of Boston St. If we should have to get out of here in a hurry, there's only one way, and that's into traffic. I already know those cars aren't going to stop or slow down for anyone - even if the backs of their shirts are on fire.

And why does anybody think running a train down Boston St. will cut down on car traffic? Have officials ever sat and watched that goes on on this street during rush house (without a cop in sight, too)?

I think the issue may be that there aren't many Canton residents who will tell a neighbor who is an activist on the subject that they disagree with his position, but that has very little to do with whether or not they actually agree with him or not. If you do dare to disagree with some of the more vocal sort, you can sometimes wind up with a long-running feud to deal with, and who needs that sort of headache?

I was going to post under the Cummings posting, but it's appropriate here, too.

Cummings and others, I believe at the recent transit symposium/conference (also detailed in the Friday Daily Record article) that the choice is

--to move forward with the Red Line as is


-- wait for the Feds next authorization and changes to the cost-effectiveness formula.

This is a "false dilemma" those controlling this process try to use to persuade the public to side with their position. (Cummings et al rejected the latter option)

We could choose one of the above, OR
(3rd option)

--we could choose to study all reasonable alternatives including those alternatives which may not be consistent with the original vision, as required by the Feds.

This does not also preclude combining the 2nd and 3rd options.

Nate Payer

Regarding Mr. Dressers comments in this post:

I had a discussion with Mike when he wrote a column on the Red Line several months ago, it's similar to now:
False Dilemma!

A. No Build

B. 4C (or 4A, B, bus, et al of lesser current gamut)


C. something else at least tolerated, but preferably enthusiastically supported, by the communities, transit riders, public, etc.

Moreover, this business about traffic getting worse and choking the community. It may get worse, but what makes Canton or Edmondson Village so exceptional in these cases?

What about Federal Hill? Traffic's worse there now than in Canton and they aren't getting their "Red Line". Apparently, we CANNOT wait to serve Canton, while other areas of the City, per the 2002 plan, will NEVER see more rail transit.

What about Washington Blvd? Ever go down there near rush hour with all those trucks? What about Wilkens Ave? So they must wait? What about St. Paul St? (Sorry, the Charles St. trolley isn't regional/rapid transit).

I'm sorry, but the argument that more traffic without a huge rail transit project will render an area unlivable are specious. As an advocate, I think many, if not most rail transit projects are net beneficial to the region as a whole and also to the neighborhoods in which they serve, however it doesn't necessarily follow that not putting one in will strangle it. I think Georgetown in DC is still doing dandy, despite all of that.

Remember, Mike: The DEIS traffic study showed the severe delays in travel times is CAUSED by a surface Red Line on Boston St. The project causes the traffic in which the Red Line is supposedly alleviating.

Now, the traffic study may be sufficiently inaccurate to the point that the conclusions are not valid, in which case we need to go back and do another Alternatives Analysis of traffic (I know that it is wrong on other counts, at least). The traffic study has bearing on the cost-effectiveness.


the study is reasonably accurate on certain accounts and confirms what TRAC and others have said for awhile now--that a surface Red Line on that alignment makes traffic and bus travel times worse and is contrary to the purpose (and need) of the project (amongst other things).

Now, I think that may be a TRUE dilemma.

Nate Payer

Anybody who fails to recognize the negative implications of a surface Red Line hasn't looked at the subway's impact on Owings Mills. Car insurance rates in O.M. skyrocketed after the opening of the metro, as thieves would take the train out to the 'burbs, steal a car, and drive it back to the city. This type of activity can be devastating to a community.

If this same thing were to happen to Canton (say house break-ins and street robberies instead of car theft), you'd have an immediate exodus of the cities most economically viable residents (those who pay the most taxes and use the least services). The city cannot neglect certain successful neighborhoods for the greater good of "the region". A collapse of any successful neighborhood in Baltimore would be devastating for the city, both financially and in image.

What we need is a comprehensive metro system like Washington. Light Rail has proven to be a disaster for Baltimore once, let's not make the same mistake twice. Ever take the Light Rail from Timonium to Downtown? Takes about an hour on a good day. That would take 30 minutes on a heavy-rail subway system. Why take it when you can make it by car in 20 minutes?

Jimbalaya you have me confused. We shouldn't build a heavy rail system because it will bring crime and devastate communities, but we need a real heavy rail system like DC?

I'd like to see some statistical evidence that folks from the metro (specifically) rode to Owings Mills to steal cars. I find that hard to believe when there are plenty of cars here to steal.

A rail line will "bring crime to Canton"???

Isn't it part of the city already, where criminals can walk to there, or ride a bus?

I don't believe it happens anyway, but it's a lot tougher for a criminal to get out to Hunt Valley sans public transit than it is to walk or ride a bus into Canton.

Of all the objections to a rail line somebody can cite, that one in this situation is borderline nonsensical.


You sound like one of those NIMBY's in Georgetown who blocked construction of Metrorail in their neighborhood because they were worried that the criminal element would invade Georgetown. Thirty-five years later, they're now whining about M St and Wisconsin Ave being constantly gridlocked and want a new subway line running through Georgetown.

If Canton doesn't want the Red Line, then build it on Eastern Ave and let the residents of Patterson Park, Highlandtown, and Greektown reap the benefits.

I've resided in Canton for 9 years and live 1 block from Boston Street; I take an 8 minute ride on the #11 bus to work each day. I board at Safeway. I support the Red Line but I'm afraid residents that are asked about the red line are asked from a biased source and do not have all the facts. The lack of education and outreach has unfortunately put us in this position. As a transportation professional, I value a sustainable system that moves people and not cars. After all, the population continues to increase but we have run out of room for wider roads to fit more cars.

Sounds like blarg doesn't have a lot of experience living in Baltimore,
so let me break it down for you.
Patterson park acts as a buffer zone , as does downtown, these two
factors are the main reasons Canton has become so desirable for
professionals and families.
This is a horrible idea and it will bring new waves of pollution to the
Canton Water front, drugs and crime from parts of the city that are
infested and over run with heroin addiction, years of unbelievable
gridlock as they tear through historic communities and rupture
underground pipelines, and loss in property value as new waves of crime
begin to emerge from car break-ins to violence.
There is no measure to the depth in which this city will sink to make a
profit, downtown is deteriorating, and now they have
set their sights on the last remaining refuge in Baltimore.


I have plenty of experience in Baltimore. And I know that a new line will certainly bring crime to Canton. It will also bring so much incredible new opportunity for residents, workers, and people there just for plain old fun. And all of that opportunity will translate into many people in the area, both good, and some bad.

Thats the price of ANY kind of development.

What you need to realize is nobody is going to want to live in Canton without the Red Line in about 10 years, because it's going to be a clusterfarg of cars ANYWAYS. The Red Line can only help matters.

The one argument that stands out as most ridiculous (besides crime) is the "train tracks are too dangerous to cross." -- So you can manage to survive Boston St now? But with LESS unpredictable car lanes, and a regularly timed train passing by, things will be MORE dangerous?

Get real

I've stayed out of the "crime due to transit" discussions because I think most are beyond inane and I felt most are fully convinced of their assertion like religion.

I'll ask this: Does anyone have a controlled study of crime and transit as it relates to changes in crime rates before and after the introduction of a rail line?

I've haven't seen too many, and I doubt there are, because developing a controlled study is extremely difficult and a non-controlled study doesn't mean much. There's one studying 3 stations along the Baltimore Metro line, before and after service--but I don't believe it's controlled--i.e. comparing the station neighborhoods against a non-transit neighborhood over time.

If I follow some of the arguments above, does this mean that crime in Woodlawn has increased because it DIDN'T get the Metro?


In response to Jessica Keller:

"I've resided in Canton for 9 years and live 1 block from Boston Street; I take an 8 minute ride on the #11 bus to work each day. I board at Safeway."

How many people are on the #11? The last time I rode it outbound, there was one other person on the bus by the time we crossed into Canton on a busy Friday evening before 7 pm, there was a baseball game with the Braves in town, plus being happy hour time.

And that 8 minute ride. Red Line 4C will supposedly take 5.4 minutes from Government Center station. (A very idealized speed). So that saves about 2.6 minutes over a bus. All this planning for that? Henry Kay wants to cut that station to save money anyway, I've heard. If that's not your station, than the travel time difference is even more insignificant.

"I support the Red Line but I'm afraid residents that are asked about the red line are asked from a biased source and do not have all the facts. The lack of education and outreach has unfortunately put us in this position."

Yes, the biased source has come from the MTA and its consultants, who have been disingenuous regarding the planning process, the study of all reasonable alternatives, and backpedaling to suit their needs. E.g. When the Red Line was 10.5 mile project, they couldn't study the MTA CAC 2003 HRT alternative because it was too long at 12.2 miles, now the Red Line is 14.6! They also couldn't study TRAC's alignment variations because they were inconsistent with the alignments in the 2002 plan. Then the MTA decides to go to Bayview from Canton, which wasn't in the plan at all. This is only a few.

TRAC has spent much time educating the public on this issue, but not as much as we need to. Life in the volunteer non-profit world without paid staff.

"As a transportation professional, I value a sustainable system that moves people and not cars."

Cars are a transportation system that move people. I'm for reducing the necessity of cars in everyday life as much as possible, but using this cute catch phrase that doesn't make sense is not helpful for informative, detailed discussions.

"After all, the population continues to increase"

Unfortunately, the City is still shrinking slightly, either way, the growth rate of the whole state was only about 0.3% year-over-year. Growth in the City would help transit's cause, but that can't be used as a reason here.

"but we have run out of room for wider roads to fit more cars."

And the Red Line would take away space from those roads which according to these metropolitan studies are supposedly going to increase in traffic. You are arguing against your own point: We are out of room and can't make roads wider, so the only way to increase practical capacity and not diminish our livability is too bite the bullet and not-widen roads, but create new paths at an underground level (since elevated paths are generally distasteful these days, but not in Hawaii, which is building elevated heavy rail...) and the best way to do this in most cases into make them grade separated rail tunnels.


"The one argument that stands out as most ridiculous (besides crime) is the "train tracks are too dangerous to cross." -- So you can manage to survive Boston St now?"

Just because the traffic engineering on Boston St sucks for peds now, doesn't mean that we have to build this version of the Red Line, or that it is sensible.

"But with LESS unpredictable car lanes, and a regularly timed train passing by, things will be MORE dangerous?"

Perhaps not for peds, but it will be be a more dangerous transportation operation for autos and train riders versus a grade separated system. Although unscrupulous peds will cause enough delays by crossing the tracks at ill-advised times or locations forcing the train to brake. Some of this will be due to the fact that peds will now have to walk farther to get to a street with an authorized cross-walk. Light rail is certainly the most dangerous form of rail transit, if not public transit overall.

Nate Payer


I have over 30 years in Baltimore and have had to sell 2 properties already because of similar situations, so if you have under 5 years of Baltimore experience then your just making assumptions or possibly work for public transit?
Like stated before by Nate the number 11 runs right down Boston st. and usually has less then 4 people on it, and even less after 8 pm.
So tell me Blarg, who is the Red line for anyway? and don't say the people of Canton because 97% of the people in my neighborhood drive to work or jump on the number 11.
"THIS IS NOT FOR THE PEOPLE OF CANTON" This is another act of toristism by the mongoloids who run our city.
So just remember, when your sweeping broken syringes off your steps, or wondering why your car windows broken when you walk out to go to work in the morning, or wondering why traffic is backed up for 2 for miles down Boston st. because of a light that now only changes every 10 - 15 minutes because of a train crossing, you have no one to blame but yourself.

(West Baltimore) coming to a neighborhood near you!

The Red Line through Canton needs to be underground. It would be a fatal mistake to have it above ground. Traffic will suffer, not just on Boston Street but throughout Canton. The city has few waterfront streets and Boston is one of those assets. Lets not kill it.

Checkout the above blog and get active if you agree.

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About Michael Dresser
Michael Dresser has been an editor, reporter and columnist with The Sun longer than Baltimore's had a subway. He's covered retailing, telecommunications, state politics and wine. Since 2004, he's been The Sun's transportation writer. He lives in Ellicott City with his wife and travel companion, Cindy.

His Getting There column appears on Mondays. Mike's blog will be a forum for all who are interested in highways, transit and other transportation issues affecting Baltimore, Maryland and the region.

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