If the Baltimore plan seems to lack a unified vision, said one local transportation planner involved in it, it may be because "we're not sure of what we want to be when we grow up as a region."
Do we, as a region, want to devote resources to luring businesses and residents from the suburbs back to Baltimore? Or, instead, do we want the suburbs to continue to develop as both job and housing centers? Should commuting by car be a reasonably easy endeavor? Or should commuters be essentially forced into transit by severe road congestion and parking problems?
In part, the attempt at defining a regional vision may be hampered by the fact that land use and zoning policies remain, jealously so, under local control. What one county sees as sprawl another jurisdiction may see as needed economic development. Environmentalists may dislike the Westminster bypass, but to Carroll County, the road will bring jobs to a business park and give residents who commute outside county borders a chance to work close to home.
In developing the plan, the Transportation Steering Committee began with individual county and city land use maps designating where homes, industrial parks and businesses should be built. To a certain extent, the end result is a mixture of the visions that the different jurisdictions have for themselves. The plan also was constrained by projected tax revenues and funds. (TSC planners may revise their spending estimates to reflect additional funds available under a new, six-year U.S. transportation bill).
"The transportation plan is a means to the end. I'm not sure the end has been defined," said Harvey S. Bloom, transportation planning director for the Baltimore Metropolitan Council, which worked on the plan.
"This document does try to change trends somewhat, but so much of what we're dealing with is catching up with trends that have already occurred."
Marina Sarris covers transportation for The Sun.
Pub Date: 6/07/98