Making Charles St Safe

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Gerald Neily

Feb 21, 2011, 1:50:46 PM2/21/11
to baltomorrow
I don't mean to pick on Dresser's Sun column, but it's just so easy to do. I'm sorry that the Sun does not always conveniently publish his columns on their website though.

Today, Dresser lauds some Hopkins students who designed a pedestrian bridge from the campus across Charles Street to improve safety.

First of all, is that what we want? To make our important urban streets more desolate by keeping pedestrians away from them? After all, bridges can't be built everywhere there are pedestrians. Ironically, the students were originally inspired by a pedestrian death on St. Paul, not Charles.

Second of all, Dresser says the students would be "disappointed" that instead of a bridge, the city wants to do "comprehensive redesign" of Charles Street instead. You'd think that would make people happy, improving things along the whole street instead of just at one point above the street up in the air .

Thirdly, Dresser enumerates the city's proposed improvements - "better defined crosswalks,improved signage and lighting". However, those things have nothing to do with the design of a street in the first place. One does not need to spend many millions rebuilding a street to provide better markings, signs, and lights.

Then beyond that, many changes have already been made to the operation of the street since the whole planning process for the street began in 2003. The moronic southbound lane striped in the northbound side of the road (dubbed the "suicide lane") has finally been eliminated, correcting a previous traffic engineering screw-up. Parking has been increased drastically - far more than what will be provided in the proposed new street. A large number of trees will also be cut down.

Could it be that this big rebuilding project isn't going to make the street better after all?

Our experience two miles south on Charles is instructive. After it was rebuilt in front of Penn Station, the street was made far more dangerous and had far less parking than it did before. The City rebuilt the street physically, but in so doing, created new traffic engineering screw-ups in need of fixing. Combine that with the construction spillover of the Angelos Law School and the shabby way the U of B treats Oliver Street and we have an extremely hostile environment.

Baltimore is too poor to be spending many millions this way.

Gerald Neily

Feb 21, 2011, 2:35:37 PM2/21/11
to baltomorrow
I just found Dresser's Charles Street column. It wasn't on the Sun home page, opinion page, column page, or on his blog, or when I searched for "Dresser". But searching for "Michael Dresser" worked, even though it asked me first if I really meant "messer?"

The online headline adds the spurious bit about the bridge being "a memorial" which isn't in the print headline.

Gerald Neily

James Hunt

Feb 21, 2011, 5:39:28 PM2/21/11
Yes, I read that this morning. The piece was a bit of thumbsucker, acknowledging the bridge concept as a non-starter while giving props to the students who designed it. Doesn't really seem to grasp that the Loyola bridge works because of geography, the configuration of buildings on either side, and the determined efforts of the U. to give students no other options in that area.
Unfortunately, haven't spent a lot of time considering the Charles Street redesign. The original Olmstead design was pretty thoughtful transition between the dense rowhouse neighborhoods to south and the leafier 'hoods to the north.
Now, though, it's a mess, and a lot of the trees (most are lindens) are in bad shape ... salt, dogs, compacted soil, and various vehicle impacts done 'em in. Such is life in the city for a tree.
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