By Tashi McQueen
AFRO Political Writer
The Charm City Circulator has four routes and makes over 100 stops a day, taking tourists and Baltimore residents through the heart of downtown and some of the city’s greatest landmarks. It offers a free alternative for those who don’t have access to private transportation or a pass to ride MTA buses, subways and light rails.
While this system works well for tourists who want to see the Inner Harbor or grab a bite in areas like Fells Point, city residents are calling attention to the obvious lack of diversity in its destinations.
“They actually go through everything except the Black community,” said Marvin ‘Doc’ Cheatham, civil rights activist and president of the Matthew Henson Neighborhood Association. “The only place that they really go to is the Reginald F. Lewis Museum.”
Cheathem says that though the Reginald is included, it is one of the only locations on the list of Circulator stops that one “would automatically assume Black people will be going to.”
Cheatham recently held a press conference with the Hanlon Neighborhood Association and the Reservoir Hill Neighborhood Association to propose the ‘Brown Route.’
Cheatham held this press conference in the neighborhood of Sandtown-Winchester. In reflecting on the severe storms that occurred just the day before, Linda Batts, president of the Hanlon Improvement Association, spoke of another type of disturbance brewing.
“You know, this may not be a storm that’s triggered by weather. But there is a storm here– a metaphorical storm of another kind, when we look at the disinvestment in buildings, the lack of opportunities and economic viability of many of the residents who live here, who are at the bottom of Maslow’s hierarchy of needs, just trying to survive, no transportation, no clothes, food market for healthy food, eating and other amenities.”
To simplify planning efforts, Cheatham created a document that listed proposed stops on the Circulator’s Brown route. His plan includes information on every business that would be covered or accessible through the additional line.
There are 17 churches alone on North Avenue, along with numerous schools, banks, local businesses, apartment complexes and libraries.
“A Brown Route will go from Hilton to Milton one end of North Avenue to the other end of North Avenue,” said Cheatham.
“There are historical things from Hilton to Milton and so what we did, we sent a note to Baltimore City Department of Transportation (Baltimore City DOT) and requested them to have a meeting with us. We think it’s discriminatory what they’re doing,” said Cheatham. “They accommodate people who are interested in history, but there’s more than White history in the city of Baltimore.”
According to the U.S. Census, Black Americans make up over 60 percent of Baltimore City, yet they are not being given appropriate access to resources that could improve their way of life. From underfunded recreation centers to closed pools in the sweltering summer heat, Baltimore City isn’t providing Black neighborhoods with adequate facilities.
On April 17, the Pennsylvania and North Avenue Branch of the Enoch Pratt Free Library closed for renovations. This library serves nine West Baltimore communities, including Bolton Hill, Druid Heights, Madison Park, Mondawmin, Parkview/ Woodbrook, Penn-North, Sandtown-Winchester and Upton.
“Was there any discourse with the leaders in the communities that have been in use and rely on this library? Was there any discussion with the seniors and others who might avail themselves of this library as a cooling space?” said Batts “None of that happened. There is a pure and fundamental disregard and a lack of respect for the needs of urban inner-city residents.”
The Enoch Pratt Free Library shared that they did in fact reach out to over 7,000 residents to announce the facility’s brief closure in addition to an in person announcement on Jan. 18 at a community meeting. The library reports that they also placed the information in numerous editions of Compass magazine, which has a circulation of over 30,000.
“The Pratt raised private money for this renovation that will breathe new life back into this building with a vibrant new children’s space, a designated teen space, upgraded and new technology for adults as well as privacy pods,” said Megan McCorkell, the library’s chief of marketing, communications and strategy. “The building is slated to reopen this September providing an upgraded level of service to this community. We understand how integral this library is to the community, which is why this renovation was so important.”
In response to the press gathering about the Circulator, Cheatham said he hopes the Baltimore City DOT will agree to meet with Black neighborhood leaders and discuss how to make the Charm City Circulator more equitable.
The AFRO made several phone calls and emails to Baltimore City DOT, but they did not respond to requests for comment.
According to information provided by the Baltimore City Department of Transportation, the four lines of the Charm City Circulator run every 15 to 20 minutes.
Patrons can use the Green Route to travel between City Hall, Fells Point and the Johns Hopkins Hospital Campus. The Purple Route is available to anyone looking to go from 33rd Street to Federal Hill. From Hollins Market to Harbor East, residents and visitors alike can take the Orange Route, and the Banner Route runs from the Inner Harbor to Fort McHenry.
Hours for the Charm City Circulator 9 a.m. to 8 p.m. on Sundays, and 7 a.m. to 8 p.m. Monday through Thursday. The bus runs from 7 a.m. to midnight on Fridays and from 9 a.m. to midnight on Saturday nights.
Correction: This article was originally published without a comment from the Enoch Pratt Free Library. Their response about the temporary closure of the Pennsylvania and North Avenue Branch has now been included.