I applaud the city's efforts to alleviate congestion, reduce pollution, and provide a useful service with the Charm City Circulator bus system ("Getting around town," Dec. 12). Having previously lived in other cities with outstanding public transportation services, such as New York, Washington and Chicago, I have always believed Baltimore could benefit from more frequent bus service.
Unfortunately, I, like many people in Baltimore, live in a location where commuting by car is still necessary. I drive in every morning on Pratt Street, which is already perhaps the most congested street in the city. Due to this congestion, I respectfully disagree with the decision to close the fourth lane of Pratt Street for use as a dedicated bus and bike lane. If reducing congestion is an aim of the bus system, closing a lane on such a busy street is counterproductive. My commute this morning took an additional 10-15 minutes as a result of the additional traffic from having one fewer lane.
Assuming the bus service is ultimately a success, the lane closure slightly reduces the commute time for only one busload of people, while inconveniencing hundreds or thousands of other commuters for whom the bus is not an option. While I also believe encouraging more bicycle commuting is a noble objective, I think it's important to be realistic and accept that biking is unlikely to replace driving on a large scale because of Baltimore's cold winters, somewhat sprawling layout and safety related issues like traffic and crime.
Thus, while I support this bus service, I believe the right lane of Pratt St. should be re-opened to traffic. I think busses will reduce traffic, but I also think it's important to accept that many people like me must continue to drive, and thus we should make use of all available lanes.
Shalin Mody, Baltimore
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