Baltimore is in "spitting distance" of becoming a great urban place but needs a transportation overhaul.
That was a message heard by nearly 100 Charles Village residents who braved snow-covered streets to discuss key local issues late Wednesday at SS. Philip and James Roman Catholic Church in the 2800 block of N. Charles St.
On the agenda were joining the North Central Baltimore Transportation Alliance and discussing the new Johns Hopkins University master plan.
Charles Duff, an architecture maven acting as a consultant to the Midtown Community Benefits District, spoke on transit and parking problems.
Duff said Charles Village needs less traffic, more parking by lifting peak-hours restrictions, a consolidation of bus service and a change in the one-way traffic flow on the main north-south streets.
John Spurrier, president of the Charles Village Civic Association, said the last item might be most problematic for people in the area. An informal vote on the matter was inconclusive.
The long-range plan is to mobilize area neighborhoods, then take final proposals to city officials for consideration.
"We'll vote officially whether to put our name on the document in February," Spurrier said. "Details need to be worked out."
The bus service idea -- putting all northbound and southbound buses on Charles Street -- aligns with the village's master plan.
All agreed that traffic volume is a health hazard, with nearly 14,000 cars zipping up Calvert Street every weekday, Duff said.
Duff invited residents to join the North Central Baltimore Transportation Alliance, which includes downtown, midtown and Mount Vernon neighborhoods. He encouraged a consensus on transportation matters. "Work it all out, folks," he said, adding that the alliance has drafted a document on "cheap, popular changes."
The Hopkins master plan-in-progress also was presented for public comment by university officials and Luanne Greene, an architect from the Baltimore firm Ayer/Saint/Gross, which is drawing up the 100-year plan in a yearlong process scheduled for completion in May.
In general, the plan was received well, especially its aims to open up the university's relationship with the wider neighborhood and preserve green space, woods and streams.
Two points raised some eyebrows and questions: the building a pedestrian bridge across Charles Street and enlarging a parking structure just north of 33rd and St. Paul streets.
Some liked the idea of a pedestrian bridge between the student arts center under construction and a planned bookstore, but others were not so sure.
Acknowledging "some controversy" over the proposed bridge, university official Janet Sanfilippo said the dialogue was constructive because "those people care passionately, and we wanted to hear what people had to say."
Pictures of bridges on other campuses, such as the University of Virginia, were shown.
Building a few parking garages, mostly on campus, is a key element of the plan, which seeks to reduce the visibility of cars.