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Brian Seel, who commutes by foot and train from Upper Fells Point to Hanover, faces a number of obstacles on the last leg of his commute.

I live in Baltimore City, commute to Howard County and get there without a car.

Let me take you on my daily adventure.

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I jog from Upper Fells to the Camden Station MARC. It’s a nice jog through Perkins, Little Italy, the Inner Harbor and down Pratt Street, where I hop on the train and enjoy about 18 minutes of internet time.

I get to the Dorsey Station in Hanover, where I am usually the only one disembarking.

Dorsey Station
Dorsey Station (Brian Seel/handout)

The Dorsey area is home to a transit-oriented development (TOD); the idea is to add high density housing that allows people to be less reliant on cars. A couple of weeks ago, The Sun had an article about how Maryland is trying to really take advantage of areas around transit to develop.

Technically, then, what I am about to describe is my commute through a TOD.

I walk to the end of the platform and down a hill toward the road. There used to be a handrail here, but it rotted out. There were never steps, so after it rains, it gets really slippery. You also have to be careful, as the road is right at the bottom, so I have to watch for traffic.

About a quarter of a mile down the road, it switches from pavement to dirt as I approach the TOD. It’s so quiet; sometimes I see rabbits running across the path and deer tracks.

Howard County still applies parking space minimums to its TOD developments, so the first thing I see is a five-story parking garage that is right next to the train tracks. It seems antithetical to the goal of less car reliance.

Five-story parking garage in a TOD
Five-story parking garage in a TOD (Brian Seel/handout)

At this point, I have actually entered the TOD development. Unfortunately, to get from the train to the walking path I have to climb over the first of two fences that the developers put up. The fences are a recent addition, and they restrict the residents’ ability to get to the train. The master plan shows that a path will be built eventually, but for now I trek through a swampy field.

I once got a tick walking through here, so I wear long pants all year now. (Fortunately, the security guy in my office had tweezers and knew how to remove a tick. I would have watched YouTube videos.)

Brian Seel crosses a muddy field after getting off the MARC train on Dorsey Road on his way to work. Seel, who commutes by foot and train from Upper Fells Point to Hanover daily, faces a number of obstacles on the last leg of his commute.
Brian Seel crosses a muddy field after getting off the MARC train on Dorsey Road on his way to work. Seel, who commutes by foot and train from Upper Fells Point to Hanover daily, faces a number of obstacles on the last leg of his commute. (Jerry Jackson / Baltimore Sun)

After passing through the field, I climb the second fence and finally get to my first paved pedestrian path since getting off the train.

While TOD is about reducing reliance on cars, each house I pass has a two car garage. Additionally, there is ample street parking, with a parking lot. And that doesn't include the parking garage. The residential roads are wide and built for speed. There is a bike lane, but it connects to nothing, and people sometimes park in it, as if there is not enough parking elsewhere.

TOD
TOD (Brian Seel/handout)

As I exit the TOD, I approach the intersection of two five-lane roads. There is no legal pedestrian crossing anywhere on this road; if you want to cross, you are going to have to play a live game of Frogger.

Good luck! Run fast. The next time you read a news article about a pedestrian being killed, look up the location and you might notice similarly dangerous, car-centric designs. While I live in Baltimore, I am more afraid of dying from a speeding car than any street crime.

Frogger
Frogger (Brian Seel/handout)

Unfortunately, things don’t get easier as we briefly cross into Anne Arundel County from Howard. There is only a sidewalk on one side of the four-lane street. Of course, there is no a crosswalk.

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I continue up the road and pass Belair Produce, which is one of the most chronic bus lane violators. There are entire Twitter threads of pictures of their trucks parked in the bus lanes in Baltimore, so it is almost poetic that they are located outside one of the least pedestrian friendly transit oriented developments. I assume that if there were a crosswalk or bus lane in the area, they would be blocking it. But alas, there isn’t.

As I approach my workplace, I get to one last intersection. Again, there are no crosswalks despite the sidewalk, and drivers usually do not look for pedestrians. This is also where the sidewalk ends, so the rest of my journey has to be on the road.

Fortunately, I am able bodied and can handle many of these hurdles that someone in a wheelchair would not. I also have certain privilege where no one has called the police on me for jumping two fences and running through a field. But this is a real issue with our transportation and land use policies when this is the reality of a transit oriented commute in Maryland.

Sure, I could buy a car like everyone else in Maryland and sit in rush hour traffic on I-95. But I prefer to make my commute time productive. And for me, there is nothing better than a snow day: My coworkers get snarled traffic and I get a winter wonderland.

Winter wonderland commute
Winter wonderland commute (Brian Seel/handout)

Brian Seel (Twitter: @cylussec) is a software developer.

Editor’s note: This piece originally appeared in Mr. Seel’s Twitter feed and was adapted for The Sun.

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