Story: Ashley Gerke
Multimedia: Dayne Marae Buttafuoco
Hidden within the streets of Baltimore lie the tracks to one of Baltimore’s oldest forms of transportation: streetcars.
Baltimore’s last streetcar went out of service November 1963. People began riding buses more because they were cheaper, which eventually led to the streetcars in Baltimore to stop running completely. A few years later a group of concerned Baltimoreans came together to repurpose the unused streetcars.
In 1966 the Baltimore Streetcar Museum was founded. And on July 3, 1970, the museum opened for public operation.
Located on the 1900 block of Falls Road is a two story brick building that houses about 20 streetcars, 10 of which are currently running at the museum.
The museum relies on the help of their estimated 375 volunteers.
Jerry Kelly, a volunteer at the museum, spends his Saturday and Sunday afternoons informing people of the history of the streetcars that once canvassed Baltimore’s streets.
“I would say the main interest in people coming to the museum is riding on the streetcars because Baltimore hasn’t had any in quite a while,” Kelly said. “We normally may have three, four or five different cars running at a time.”
The streetcar rides start at the museum’s visitors station located at the 1900 block of Falls Road. The streetcars travel to the 2900 block of Falls Road and then circles back to the station.
“The majority of our track is what we call reclaimed track that came from various streets in Baltimore city,” Kelly said. “We’re very fortunate the MTA will contact us to collect old streetcar frames to see if we want them for our museum.”
The Baltimore Streetcar Museum is open on Saturday and Sunday through October, from noon to 5 p.m. Admission to the museum is $7 for adults, which includes unlimited streetcar rides, car house tours, video presentations, and museum displays.
Similar to Jerry Kelly, Robin Budish is trying to inform the public about streetcar transportation but in a different way.
Robin Budish is the director of the Baltimore Streetcar Campaign, a movement dedicated to bringing the streetcar back to Baltimore as a form of public transportation.
“Baltimore Collegetown does an annual survey each year and the number one comment they got back at least for the last three years is that Baltimore needs better mass transportation,” Budish said.
The Baltimore Streetcar Campaign is looking to bring back a state of the art modern wireless streetcar that will have no overhead wires.
“It will cost $200 million for a seven in a half mile loop,” Budish said. “It is alot but when you compare that to the Red Lion project that is an east to west route, that is a $2.2 billion dollar project, the streetcar is less expensive.”
The Baltimore Streetcar Campaign is proposing a route along the Charles Street corridor. The combination of community groups, restaurants and universities along the route would make it the perfect fit for a streetcar.
The streetcar construction is estimated to take eight weeks for every two blocks completed. During this time only one lane of traffic would be shut down.
“We believe that world class cities have world class transportation and that people want livable, walkable communities with solid mass transit,”Budish said.
As for the Baltimore Streetcar Museum, they hope that in the future people become more publicly aware of the museums existence.
“Growth is our main thrust,” Kelly said. ”More visitors means more revenue and more revenue means we can do more things.”