Planning & Design

Since 2004, Charles Street advocates have studied the possibility of a streetcar on Charles Street. With help from Kittelson & Associates, an international transportation engineering firm, and input from communities along the corridor, it has been determined that a streetcar would be both feasible and beneficial to the neighborhoods and institutions along Charles Street.

What Has Been Done (2004-2013)

In 2004, Charles Street Development Corporation (CSDC), an organization devoted to promoting progress in the historic Charles Street corridor, began exploring the feasibility of a fixed-rail trolley on Charles Street from the Inner Harbor to University Parkway.

Its vision was a circulator to move people around the Charles Street Corridor, promoting urban livability, tourism, “green” transportation, connectivity among neighborhoods and destinations, and economic development and private investment within the Corridor.

To pursue this vision, CSDC sought and received a grant from the Maryland Department of Business and Economic Development (DBED) and engaged Kittelson & Associates, an international transportation engineering firm with substantial streetcar and transit experience and an office on Charles Street, as its consultant.

Under Kittelson’s leadership, the alignment was established and a conceptual feasibility study was produced. Kittelson foresaw considerable new investment in the Corridor as a result of a fixed-rail trolley that would benefit both the City and the State.

A number of questions remained to be answered: Is there a fatal engineering flaw that would preclude the alignment preferred by stakeholders? Is there sufficient ridership to support a fixed-rail trolley on Charles Street? How much would it cost to build and operate a fixed-rail trolley, and what are the likely sources of revenue? Is there community support for a fixed-rail trolley in the Charles Street Corridor?

To fund a preliminary engineering study to answer the first two questions, CSDC, in 2007, received an $800,000 grant from the City and a $500,000 grant from the State. In 2008, Kittelson produced a preliminary engineering study that concluded that (1) there is no fatal engineering flaw that would prevent a fixed-rail trolley with the proposed alignment, and (2) there is sufficient ridership to support a fixed-rail trolley in the Charles Street Corridor.

With another grant from DBED, CSDC was able to engage Hans Mayer, retired Executive Director of the Maryland Economic Development Corporation, who served many years in State government and has substantial experience in transportation projects, as its financial consultant. In 2008, Mr. Mayer produced a preliminary financing plan to fund capital and operating costs.

Also in 2007 and 2008, a community steering committee was established to provide community input to the project in governance, finance, design, and operation. Through the community steering committee and its subcommittees, CSDC reached out to neighborhoods, institutions, community groups and elected officials throughout the Charles Street Corridor.

In June 2008, CSDC endorsed the Charles Street Trolley and recommended that a separate corporation be formed to guide its further development. In September 2008, Charles Street Trolley Corporation (CSTC) was formed. Its Board represents diverse interests – community, institutional, retail, commercial, governmental – in the Charles Street Corridor. Representatives from the City Department of Transportation and State Department of Transportation sat on the Board as ex officio members.

Since 2008, CSTC has focused on (i) operations, including design issues, utility relocation, construction management, and wireless technology, (ii) grass roots support, with particular emphasis on community association endorsements, and (iii) a detailed plan of finance. To assist in developing a plan of finance, CSTC engaged the Wye River Group, an investment banking firm led by Kevin Quinn, formerly a principal at Alex. Brown & Sons in Baltimore. In 2009, Baltimore Development Corporation, at the direction of Mayor Dixon, hired MuniCap, Inc. to analyze the feasibility of a Tax Increment Financing (TIF) to fund a portion of the capital cost of the project.

The efforts of CSTC to secure community association endorsements and institutional support have proved very successful. The following community associations have endorsed the Charles Street Trolley: Charles Village Civic Association, Old Goucher Community Association, Charles North Community Association, Mount Vernon-Belvedere Association, and Downtown Partnership of Baltimore. The following institutions have given their support to the project: Archdiocese of Baltimore, Baltimore Museum of Art, Johns Hopkins University, Mercy Medical Center, and Walters Art Museum.

As an outgrowth of the community steering committee, Mark Counselman, a resident of Oakenshawe, established The Friends of the Charles Street Trolley, a grass roots community organization separate and apart from CSDC and CSTC, to build support for the Charles Street Trolley among residents and businesses in the Corridor.

In early 2011, Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake informed the Trolley Corporation board that her administration did not support the Charles Street Trolley project because the City’s transportation priority is the Red Line. Mayor Rawlings-Blake also indicated she believes the draft finance plan relied too heavily on city financing of the project. Jimmy Rouse, a member of the Charles Street Trolley Corporation Board, launched the Baltimore Streetcar Campaign in fall of 2011 to advocate for a streetcar system in Baltimore. In 2012 he formed Transit Choices, whose mission is to support the development of a transportation system which attracts and serves residents, businesses and visitors to grow Baltimore.

The Map

The Proposed Charles Street Trolley Route

The proposed route was created to connect the major destinations in the Charles Street corridor. A three hour workshop with area stakeholders evaluated potential alignments, and considered many possibilities in how to best link the educational, cultural, business, and entertainment destinations. The consultant team also assessed how the route would connect with other existing and planned transportation infrastructure. At the end of the workshop, the stakeholders agreed on the alignment illustrated below.


This video simulation of the Charles Street Trolley demonstrates how the trolley would operate in mixed-use traffic.


Baltimore Streetcar Campaign

A grassroots effort to bring streetcar back to Baltimore.

Envision Baltimore

Community Streetcar Coalition

The Community Streetcar Coalition (CSC) is comprised of cities, local governmental entities, private sector companies, transit agencies and individuals committed to collective and coordinated advocacy for streetcars.

Reconnecting America

Reconnecting America is a national nonprofit that advises civic and community leaders on how to overcome community development challenges to create better communities for all.

Smart Growth America

Smart Growth America advocates for people who want to live and work in great neighborhoods. We believe smart growth solutions support thriving businesses and jobs, provide more options for how people get around and make it more affordable to live near work and the grocery store. Our coalition works with communities to fight sprawl and save money.

Center for Transit Oriented Development

CTOD is the leading national entity dedicated to providing innovative practices, policy reform, research, analysis, and investment tools to support TOD implementation. CTOD is particularly attuned to opportunities to leverage and catalyze market interests to support TOD, while also identifying the mechanisms through which benefits can be shared equitably by low and moderate-income people.

Other Resources

Trolley Feasibility Study (PDF)
Trolley Preliminary Engineering Study (PDF)
Case Statement (PDF)