Many Washington area residents think of the Baltimore Red Line as just a train for Baltimoreans. But it’s not. It can combine with the Purple Line, MARC, the Washington Metro, and existing Baltimore transit service to create a transit network that connects more people and places in Maryland, as well as DC and Northern Virginia.

Map of the proposed Red Line.

The Red Line (not to be confused with the Metro’s Red Line) is a light rail line that will run east-west through Baltimore. It will serve popular destinations like the National Aquarium, Camden Yards and M&T Bank Stadium, the Convention Center, historic Little Italy and Fells Point, and new job centers in Harbor Point and Harbor East.

Congestion, some narrow streets, and expensive parking make it easier for a lot of people to get to these areas by rail rather than car. Forecasts estimate it will serve 54,520 daily trips, and many will start or end their journey outside of Baltimore City. Four of the stops are Baltimore County, but that’s only part of the story.

The MARC will serve Maryland better in tandem with the Purple and Red Lines. Image from Maryland MTA.

Along with the proposed Purple Line, the Red Line will provide “ribs” on the MARC “spine” from DC to Baltimore and beyond. Riders at any of the MARC Penn Line’s 13 stations or along the Purple Line will have better access to Baltimore, while Baltimoreans will be able to travel to places in Prince George’s County, Montgomery County, and DC for work and entertainment.

The Red Line will meet the MARC’s Penn Line at two points: the West Baltimore and Bayview stations, both of which are short trips to the jobs, tourism, and entertainment destinations near the harbor. The area between downtown and Bayview, for example, is one of the fastest growing residential and jobs centers in the region.

No matter which direction they travel, Penn Line riders looking to travel to harbor-area destinations will be able to knock at least ten minutes off of current ride times by taking the Red Line from West Baltimore or Bayview to downtown. Plus, they won’t have to travel the extra distance to Penn Station in Mount Vernon. The Red Line’s stations will bring them much closer to their destinations.

Park-and-rides will also make the Red Line accessible to drivers

The Red Line is not just for people connecting among rail transit. Five of its stations will have parking lots near interstates, giving drivers coming from both east and west of the city options for parking outside and taking the train in. Avoiding downtown Baltimore’s congestion and high parking fees is a good way to save travelers money and time.

The park-and-ride stations should be particularly important to Governor Hogan because they make the Red Line available to a many of the outer counties and rural districts that voted for him.

Right now, it’s most important to persuade Hogan and new transportation secretary Pete Rahn of just how transformative the Red Line will be. A number of Baltimore officials are currently leading efforts to do so.

The Red Line is an example of why it’s important to think beyond just one city or one mode of transportation. When we consider the networks that multiple modes can build across multiple regions—local rail lines combined with a regional commuter train and park and rides, for example—we can reap the benefits of a more integrated Baltimore and Washington region.

Jeff La Noue is a project and sustainability planner in Baltimore. He has an Economics degree from St. Mary’s College of Maryland and a Masters in Community Planning from the University of Maryland-College Park. Posts are his own viewpoint and do not necessarily reflect his employer. Jeff also runs his own urbanist blog, Comeback City.