Paying Lip Service and No More to Multimodal Transportation in Maryland

Earlier tonight, Alon Levy, Daniel Kay Hertz, Dennis Griffith, and I got into a Twitter discussion about the worst placements of commuter rail and rapid-transit stations in pedestrian-hostile environments:

During that discussion, I brought up the example of the Baltimore-Washington International Airport Rail Station. The placement of the station itself is whatever; it’s not intended to serve local development, there are relatively frequent shuttles to the airport itself, and as Alon has argued, mainline rail connections are the most important kind of airport connector (of course, BWI is also served by the Baltimore light rail system). What’s more remarkable about BWI Station is that, if one zooms in far enough on Google imagery, one can see a little walkway, the kind that parks put in over wetlands, leading away from the station to the west. The walkway connects the station to two office complexes just about a half-mile away.

Walking directions from BWI Station to the Maryland Department of Transportation

Walking directions from BWI Station to the Maryland Department of Transportation

I don’t know what entity occupies the northern building, but here’s the truly ridiculous, depressing thing: the southern building is the headquarters of none other than the Maryland Department of Transportation. I suppose that, just barely, the MDOT headquarters is within a half-mile of a station with active transit service…but come on. This isn’t TOD. Does anyone think that passes for a transit-accessible, or even walkable, location? Does someone maintain that walkway in winter? MARC service isn’t exactly frequent, and that location can’t be well-served by other modes. Is there a better illustration of a state “transportation” department paying lip service to a commitment to multimodal transportation, while really serving its roots as a highway department?

PS: We’re looking for a good hashtag to describe the situation where a transit agency places a station in a location entirely hostile to pedestrians, or where the surrounding developments cut themselves off from an adjacent station. Suggestions welcome.

UPDATE: See the comment from noted transit activist Ben Ross below–the MDOT building was there first, and the walkway was added later in an attempt to compensate for the location.

5 thoughts on “Paying Lip Service and No More to Multimodal Transportation in Maryland

  1. The proximity to the train station is purely accidental. The building was built years ago with absolutely no intention of transit orientation. When I went there in the 1990s, there was no walkway. My best recollection is that to get from the train station to the building, you had to take the shuttle bus to the airport and transfer to another infrequent shuttle bus. The walkway is a retrofit, making the best of a bad situation.

  2. Granted, I think they’re trying to build some TOD there now, but:
    Kingston Station, MBTA commuter rail

    Bonus points for being adjacent to an estate-sized golf course subdivision, and of course, massive bonus points for requiring a branch just before the terminal stations, dooming any hope for frequent service to the center of Plymouth.

    • I was just looking at that! It’s really completely inexplicable. I can only assume that NIMBYS blocked the way into Plymouth itself, though the ROW is more or less extant. But why bother with the brief branch? Pick one terminal or the other–and I believe Kingston is built more or less on greenfields.

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