Lexington Market is a major commercial destination in downtown Baltimore, providing fresh produce, meats, seafood, and a variety of vendors selling items in a large, historic warehouse building. This setting is illustrated in the map pictured as Figure 15. The market is not only a major tourist attraction for visitors, but also a mainstay for a large portion of Baltimore’s minority community, who prize its selections, freshness and tradition. The market area has historically been well served by public transit, and is somewhat of a regional transit hub. Many bus routes converge at Lexington Market, and the market area is also a transfer point for both the MTA’s Metro subway line and the Central Light Rail line. Eutaw Street, which fronts the Market’s main entrance on the east, accommodates two-way vehicle traffic throughout the day, and permits metered parking along the west curb. The eastern curb is reserved for buses, many of which have historically picked up and dropped off passengers at the main entrance.
Beginning in 2001, the City of Baltimore police department, the Market Authority, and the MTA introduced a set of controversial changes to transit operations at the market when they moved the stops for several of the bus routes to the adjacent block. The reason for the changes was to improve safety in the vicinity of the market. Large crowds of people congregating at the entrance area allegedly made it difficult to monitor and deter crime activity in the area, a condition partially attributed to a drug treatment center also located in the vicinity. Unfortunately, members of the riding public, many of whom are low-income, transit-dependent minority shoppers, were never consulted on the proposal or included in the planning. The public rightly felt that it been marginalized by the decision-making process, and that commercial interests (such as a parking lot adjacent to the Market) were given preference over their well being. Shoppers complained that they were forced to walk longer distances to connect with buses, exposed to the weather and vehicle exhaust, traffic at intersections, and street activity, generally while carrying packages and shepherding small children.
Upon review of the situation, initial concerns about serious congestion and health effects due to prolonged exposure to vehicle activity – as framed in the community discussions – appeared less severe than initially portrayed. However, what did emerge was the vision that substantial pedestrian traffic associated with both market visitation and substantial numbers of transit riders accessing or transferring between bus, metro and light rail, were obliged to vie with frequently heavy vehicle traffic along Eutaw Street, coupled with limited safe crossings. This, however, was ultimately judged to be less of an environmental justice issue than one of urban planning, and hence not the domain of this project as a case studies. It also became clear that the predominant customer base of the Market was the minority community, many of whom relied on public transit to reach the site. For these individuals, the main concern ended up being the sense that transit access to and from the transit dependent communities and Lexington Market had systematically diminished over time, for possibly numerous reasons, including not only budgetary on the part of MTA but the shifts in stops and routing inspired by the recent safety concerns.