Image by Peter Dovak and David Alpert.

Within ten years, you could be able to take trains from West Baltimore to Tysons Corner in Virginia, or go from Bethesda to Fells Point along the Baltimore waterfront without detouring through downtown DC. If, that is, Maryland still builds the planned Purple and Baltimore Red light rail lines.

Last week, Jeff La Noue wrote how the Red Line is more than just a way to get east-west across Baltimore, but a way to link more destinations to the regional transit network.

It’s easiest to grasp this concept with a map, so designer Peter Dovak and I created one. This shows how MARC ties together transit networks in Washington and Baltimore. The Purple and Red lines each link up key destinations with all of the existing transit lines.

Make commuter rail better, too

The only commuter rail line which runs more than just during peak hours is the MARC Penn Line from Union Station to Baltimore Penn Station via New Carrollton, BWI Airport, and West Baltimore. But the map also illustrates how all of the MARC and VRE rail lines, which already exist today, could form a larger-scale regional transit network if only Maryland, Virginia, and (in a small way) DC could work together to set up frequent, all-day, two-way service that runs from Virginia through to Maryland and vice versa.

There are obstacles to through-running — the stations need more platforms, the lines need more tracks so passenger trains and freight rail can better coexist, Union Station needs a rebuild, and the current trains aren’t compatible — but it’s all achievable and cheaper than new Metro lines.

Meanwhile, Maryland Governor Hogan is evaluating the Purple and Red Line projects. He will soon decide whether to stick with his campaign statements opposing them, or listen to the many business groups and local leaders who are pushing Hogan to nudge these projects over the finish line.