People-mover idea revisited Pipe dream?: Problems associated with getting project off the ground make it unlikely.

October 14, 1997

THE IDEA OF an elevated people-mover to transport passengers within the Inner Harbor area is not new to Baltimoreans. The first serious proposal came more than 20 years ago from then-City Council President Walter S. Orlinsky. And this year, after winning the competition to build a convention hotel, bakery mogul John Paterakis Sr. said he envisioned a people-mover that could transport up to 2,000 people an hour in enclosed cars suspended by cables over the water.

Mayor Kurt L. Schmoke has his own vision of this particular transportation mode. But there's no reason to expect it to become more than a dream. The cost of at least $200 million is prohibitive and the only source of funds identified by Mr. Schmoke is an Intermodal Surface Transportation Efficiency Act demonstration grant. ISTEA expires this year and prospects for reauthorization are uncertain.

A people-mover would help those who prefer not to drive east and west along the Inner Harbor, but increasing the frequency and volume of water taxis could produce the same results. And if the aim is to provide an alternative to get people from Mr. Paterakis' proposed hotel to the Convention Center a mile away, then reserved buses and vans would be more cost-effective. Better yet, build the hotel closer to the Convention Center so people can walk.

If Mr. Schmoke wants to pursue more federal transit money, it should be to expand the Mass Transit Administration light-rail system so it can bring more commuters downtown. And if MTA isn't interested in the short-route service that helps tourists get around in other cities, then Mr. Schmoke should work more closely with transportation entrepreneurs who are.

Pub Date: 10/14/97

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