I've lived in Baltimore most of my life and own a house in the city, but I travel for work, and when I go to Portland I stay at a hotel along the streetcar line, in Seattle along the streetcar line, in San Francisco along one of their streetcar lines, and in New Orleans at a hotel with the streetcar out front. When people who don't know Baltimore come to visit, I tell them to find a place along the light rail line, usually in the county.
Begin to see a theme here? Why, because you always know where it is going. In an unknown city people don't understand the bus system; colors and names and numbers become confusing. But with a streetcar, you never get lost because you always know where it is going, you can follow the tracks and it isn't likely to vanish overnight like the last couple versions of the Charm City Circulator vanished with a new budget or change of leadership.
Streetcars denote permanency and a willingness to invest in an area, because the area has invested in itself. In every city that has invested in streetcars there has been a 5 to 1 return on the investment or more. I usually agree with the mayor on the big things, but in this case she is being penny wise and pound foolish, and I don't even live on Charles Street.
But, maybe my street will be next.
Bob Reuter, Baltimore CityCopyright © 2015, Los Angeles Times