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    Imagining a City Where Subway Restaurants Are Actually Subway Stations

    Written by

    Michael Byrne


    Baltimore has one subway line. It has average ridership comparable to other single subway lines around the United States but, given that it's a single not-terribly-long line in a city of 600,000 people, it remains invisible/not-useful to a good chunk of the population. If a rider is not travelling along the corridor between downtown, the northwestern quadrant of the city, and a few select suburbs, they're limited to a less-than-stellar (to be kind) bus system and a single poorly connected light-rail line.

    Baltimore is an old, dense city. Like most reasonably well-aged cities, Baltimore grew up around streetcar lines, which were replaced eventually by buses and roads. It still makes more sense as a rail city. As of my last driving experience, before moving away from the city last fall, the road system in Baltimore is a nightmarish web of congestion, bombed-out pavement, and the worst driving you have seen in your life. A pedestrian/cyclist/driver will learn very quickly that it's best to let green lights "mature" a bit after a red so as to not get destroyed by a driver observing the local custom of red lights actually being green for several seconds after physically turning red.

    This is all a very long way of saying that transportation in Baltimore is terrible and in desperate need of improvement. With transit funding in Maryland in shreds at the moment, the city will be lucky to get its long-awaited east-west Red Line light rail corridor. Chris Nelson, a good friend of mine and a bit of a GIS obsessive, is a big fan of drafting new rail transit corridors around the city, creating dream teams based on population density and land availability. His latest creation has already gotten some attention at the Atlantic--kind of an embarassing scoop, yes--and, indeed, it's pretty interesting: what if Baltimore's Subway restaurants were actually subway stations (or both, I suppose).

    What would that subway network look like? Chris linked all the stations together in a network of lines--based on the Greater Baltimore Committee's suggested network--and the result is interesting in large part because it looks just like a subway network in the city should look, or it's at least one could say is reasonable. This makes total sense, of course: Subway restaurants are usually located in high-density, heavily-trafficked areas that are also more likely to be lower-income and more transit-dependent. Subway restaurants, in other words, are in places that should have subway stations.

    The image above is a copy and paste, but the full zoomable thing can be found here. His site, by the way, is worth poking around on. The big project of burgersub.org is mapping every murder in the Northeast and Mid-Atlantic. It's impressive.

    Reach this writer at michaelb@motherboard.tv.