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The National Zoo and DC Metro fit together. So could Baltimore's Zoo and its Metro (but they don't).

While Washington has a Metro stop with "Zoo" in its name, the Metro subway in Baltimore and its zoo appear to ignore each other.

Open space between the Mondawmin Metro Station and the (Baltimore) Zoo entrance. Image from Google Maps.

At the nearby Mondawmin Metro stop, there is scant evidence the Maryland Zoo in Baltimore (Baltimore Zoo) even exists. At the zoo, there's little mention of the subway. Meanwhile, the Washington Metro, the Smithsonian National Zoological Park, and nearby commercial retailers have a symbiotic relationship.

The Woodley Park/Zoo Metro station and the National Zoo are the same distance as the Baltimore zoo entrance and its nearest subway station, 0.4 miles or a 9 minute walk.

Image from Google maps.

The zoo could be even closer to the Metro

The Baltimore Zoo is tucked away inside a park, Druid Hill Park. Unlike in DC, where the National Zoo's entrance is right on Connecticut Avenue, the Baltimore Zoo entrance isn't at the edge of the park. If architects designed a gateway closer to the station, or even across the street on the grounds of the beautifully renovated Parks and People Headquarters, it would create a stronger connection.

The station could reflect the zoo

Renaming the Mondawmin Station the Mondawmin/Zoo Station is an easy fix. Even bolder would be a zoo inspired interior/exterior design competition for the gloomy station. Baltimore's Red Line light rail planners are currently seeking qualifications from artists for design projects for its stations. The subway's stations could use some fresh design, too.

Better designed and safer pedestrian crossings would also help integrate the station, the Zoo, and Druid Hill Park. Auchentrolley Terrace is the size of an interstate and should shrink by multiple lanes.

In Baltimore, lots of open space exists between between the Mondawmin Station entrance (left) and the hidden (Baltimore) zoo entrance (right). All photos by the author.

In Washington, transit and the zoo integrate into the city.

The zoo could boost the Metro brand

The zoo in Baltimore has plenty of parking and most patrons arrive by car. Integrating the subway and the zoo won't change this. What can change is the perception that the areas around the Baltimore subway stations never change and that the subway has few destinations at its stations.

Taxpayers have invested $1.3 billion in Baltimore's Metro Subway. One of the valid complaints about the subway is that it does not serve enough places that people want to go. For the subway to attract new ridership and development at its stations, it needs to build its brand. By increasing the destinations it serves and refreshing its stations, Baltimore citizens and investors, may look at the line in a new way.

The new Social Security complex, potentially a State Center transit oriented development, a revitalized west-side, and an enhanced zoo stop would add momentum for the subway.

A connection could help businesses

The Baltimore Zoo draws almost 375,000 people who spend $10.8 million each year, according to a 2011 study. Linking the Baltimore subway with the zoo will not turn Auchentrolley Terrace into Connecticut Avenue overnight. But by integrating the zoo with the station and its neighborhood, there is more economic spin-off potential than with its current isolated location. It is not hard to imagine businesses that benefit from hungry or thirsty zoo visitors opening near the subway and zoo entrances.

In Washington, Connecticut Avenue has vibrant retail between the zoo and subway entrance.

Car-less Inner Harbor tourists in Baltimore and downtown residents might be tempted to take the subway from Charles Center to visit the zoo or seek the green space of Druid Hill Park, especially if they could grab a nice lunch near the station.

When the Baltimore Ravens provided Quarterback Joe Flacco a 120 million dollar contract and he was getting regularly sacked, people clamored for the need to protect the investment in the QB by shoring up the offensive line. Baltimore's can also shore up the investment in its subway with a few strategic projects and destinations at its stations. A better connection to the Zoo warrants a look.

Jeff La Noue is a project and sustainability planner in Baltimore. He has an Economics degree from St. Mary's College of Maryland and a Masters in Community Planning from the University of Maryland-College Park. Posts are his own viewpoint and do not necessarily reflect his employer. Jeff also runs his own urbanist blog, Comeback City


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Gotta agree, most people in Baltimore dont even know the Green Line exists.

by Richard on Jun 9, 2014 10:25 am • linkreport

Because you aren't pushing a stroller or leading little kids up that hill from the Woodley Park station. It's insane that a Metro entrance wasn't placed closer to the actual zoo. Folks get out of the Metro at Woodley Park/Zoo and expect to see..the zoo - and don't.

And websites don't point out that if you get out at Cleveland Park the walk to the zoo is downhill.

by Tracey A. Johnstone on Jun 9, 2014 10:28 am • linkreport

This was a great post. I have always thought of the Baltimore Metro as being basically useless, unless you are coming from the Owings Mills area to downtown. Most of my coworkers live in the NW Baltimore area and commute via the Metro. But if you live in any other part of Baltimore, it's difficult to ride it. That's why publicizing the zoo connection could help with ridership during non-commuting hours.

by Paul on Jun 9, 2014 10:33 am • linkreport

Yes, it's a great idea and would encourage folks to ride on the weekends.

by Tracey A. Johnstone on Jun 9, 2014 10:35 am • linkreport

And websites don't point out that if you get out at Cleveland Park the walk to the zoo is downhill.

That's certainly what I tell everyone. I also caution them that part of their walk will likely involve dodging cars while walking in the precious historic Cleveland Park parking lane. Hope that stroller/little kids don't mind playing a bit of human Frogger with the locals picking up their pizzas at Vace for the 3-minute drive home!

I swear I'm not bitter or anything...

by Dizzy on Jun 9, 2014 10:36 am • linkreport

More topically: the retail near the zoo isn't actually all that great. Lillies has the worst service ever encountered, the Zoo Bar Cafe is gross, and that FroZenYo is fruit fly heaven. 7-11 is... 7-11.

by Dizzy on Jun 9, 2014 10:51 am • linkreport

I definitely wouldn't say integration between the National Zoo and Metro is all that great either. As previous commenters mentioned it's actually an easier walk from Cleveland Park to the entrance. You also have to cross more streets walking to the DC Zoo (especially from Woodley Park). WMATA even removed "Zoo" from the Woodley Park station name (it's a small subtitle now).

by King Terrapin on Jun 9, 2014 11:01 am • linkreport

In addition, the #1 bus should be rerouted through the park to service the Zoo entrance during operating hours as well.

For a few years, there was a shuttle between Woodberry Light Rail and the Zoo, later extended for a season to operate into Downtown on Summer weekends. Now, the presence of the Jones Falls trail makes the distance between the light rail and zoo entrance at least more navigable on foot.

by Lord Baltimore on Jun 9, 2014 11:07 am • linkreport

A big difference is that taking Metro to the National Zoo saves a big parking fee roughly equal to the metro fare for the whole family. At the Maryland Zoo, you have a big entry fee regardless of how you get to the gate, so the incentive is to drive.

Have you looked into the logistics of the tram stopping at the Metro? I guess drivers collecting fees might be a problem but online tickets could be collected. For those going straight to the zoo, that would effectively relocate the gate to the metro station.

by JimT on Jun 9, 2014 11:08 am • linkreport

I think the difference is the neighborhoods.

Mondawmin is not an area that most tourists or northwest side suburbanites are going to get out and walk even half a mile. (which is kind of ironic, because the one block of actual buildings is a fire station and a synagogue, plus what appear to be some of the better kept houses in the area.) But its not Woodley Park either.

If you were going to do it, it would make more sense to have the zoo run transfer shuttles - both from the Metro stop, and from the equally nearby Woodberry Light Rail stop.

In the case of Woodberry, it would make sense for the zoo to install a back entrance for the shuttle instead of going all the way around to the front. For the metro, they could just drop them off at the main gate.

Once you have that in place, then you can start advertising the availability of these connections downtown and out in Owings Mills.

by TomA on Jun 9, 2014 11:15 am • linkreport

@ King Terrapin

The zoo keeps shrinking in prominence as the Woodley Park Metro was initially named simply "Zoological Park" at the system's outset before quickly being changed.

by Reza on Jun 9, 2014 11:16 am • linkreport

While certainly not ideal, the Woodley Park Station appears to be working for the National Zoo. The sidewalks from the station to the zoo entrance on a nice day are probably some of the most congested sidewalks in the city. Tons of people use it. And that seems to be the point here about the Baltimore station/zoo: Nobody uses it to get to the zoo.

Also, if you find yourself at the bottom of the zoo and ready to leave, it's actually a shorter walk to Columbia Heights from there. Yes, it's uphill on Harvard Street for a while, but not much worse than going back up to the top of the zoo.

by jh on Jun 9, 2014 11:26 am • linkreport

The above photograph of the retail strip of Connecticut Avenue is actually south of the Metro station, i.e., not between the zoo and the Metro entrance.

There is a small bit of "vibrant retail" (?) to the north of the south-bound Metro exit, but the rest is residential up to the zoo.

by Scoot on Jun 9, 2014 11:27 am • linkreport


If the zoo entrance moved to the park/Auchentrolley Terrace border, the walk would be just one block or less than .2 of a mile.

Money for a shuttle I think would be better spent moving the entrance closer,sprucing up the walk, and improving pedestrian crossings.

by Comeback City on Jun 9, 2014 11:30 am • linkreport

Don't worry, everyone, the Zoo is on it!

by xmal on Jun 9, 2014 12:39 pm • linkreport

The DC "Zoo" stop is its own travesty, located a mile walk from the entrance.

by asffa on Jun 9, 2014 12:45 pm • linkreport

The DC "Zoo" stop is its own travesty, located a mile walk from the entrance.

It's actually less than a half-mile, but who's counting?

by Scoot on Jun 9, 2014 1:10 pm • linkreport

If you're pushing a stroller uphill in 90 degree heat, it feels like a mile.

HEY - the Zoo Bar IS a dive, but they have one of the best hamburgers in town.

by Capt. Hilts on Jun 9, 2014 1:12 pm • linkreport

Capt. Hilts Yes, it does seem longer. It's pretty miserable, especially dealing with tired kids, strollers or wheelchairs. Cleveland park walk is better (has a few more trees that actually shade), but it still would have been nice if they'd have put the "Zoo" metro stop at the Zoo.

by asffa on Jun 9, 2014 1:36 pm • linkreport

I believe it was Yoda who once said, "Feeling like a mile does not a mile make."

by Scoot on Jun 9, 2014 1:39 pm • linkreport

Capt. Hilts
My parents used to bribe my siblings and I to behave for that stretch home from the Zoo to the Metro by promising after (if we were good) a stop at Gifford's Ice Cream.

by asffa on Jun 9, 2014 1:42 pm • linkreport

I have made this walk before when I went to brew at the baltimore zoo. It was not that far of a walk and it did not go through a bad neighboorhood. That whole area used to be a nice part of the city until Mondawmin mall was built and destroyed it.

That being said for someone from the DC area it is almost more work to drive all the way around to the top of the Baltimore Beltway to then take the Metro.

by Matt R on Jun 9, 2014 1:43 pm • linkreport

Scoot Yoda believed in the Force. Unfortunately, the Force around the Metro makes that half-mile stretch a lot longer..

by asffa on Jun 9, 2014 1:43 pm • linkreport

Some years back, a few folks wanted to add "Zoo" to the name of the Cleveland Park stop. But after watching the steady stream of violence on "Family Day" (Easter Monday) in recent years and the unruly crowds, the locals are quite happy to leave the Zoo name to the Woodley Park stop.

by Jack on Jun 9, 2014 4:03 pm • linkreport

@ Dizzy --

If the service lane in Cleveland Park bothers you, then try walking on the other side of the street, which is wider. Diversity works for everyone.

by Jack on Jun 9, 2014 4:04 pm • linkreport

I've wondered myself about this.
Other than the stigma of "Mondawmin means the ghetto", which the whole area isn't, It'd require a little bit of infrastructure changes for walking. Having a newer , obvious zoo gate from the metro, And a rear entrance, for walking up from the Wood berry light rail stop would likely generate additional traffic to the zoo. Both entrances would still be walking distance for families with strollers.
For that matter, How about a circulator like service between Mondawmin, the Zoo, Woodberry, Hamden, and Penn Station?

by scratchy on Jun 9, 2014 4:25 pm • linkreport

@Jack: Except that on the west side, you have to cross a couple more intersections -- that are also busier. With young children.

Drivers coming out of those neighborhoods have no compunction about veering into the crosswalks as they attempt to make their right turn onto Connecticut.

Three restaurants along that parking corridor have folded in the last year.

by lou on Jun 9, 2014 4:41 pm • linkreport

Lately I've been thinking that there aren't enough stops on the Baltimore light rail and that there are lots of places where it might make sense to build a little station with limited hours, or by-request-only stopping. The back end of the zoo is one of these. I've been taking walks along Mountain Pass behind the zoo a lot lately and some parts of that old road abut the zoo's fence directly and there are some gates, and you can hear/see the little train that people ride around the zoo from it. The stop could also serve the Clipper Mill Road/Ash Street area on the other side of the Jones Falls, an area with a popular newish yuppie pizza and beer joint, a community garden, and some warehouses that are slated to be rehabbed into upscale apartments.
View Larger Map

by burgersub on Jun 9, 2014 4:42 pm • linkreport

re: the bus idea ...

Good idea about the light rail and the zoo.

But yes, fixing the public realm to make more evident civic assets and then connecting these assets to existing transit assets ought to be a priority in all cities.

... but the big problem with the subway is that the line doesn't serve a big catchment area that might possibly generate riders to the Zoo.

by Richard Layman on Jun 9, 2014 4:56 pm • linkreport

Similarly I'd also build a stop that would serve Cylburn Arboretum and Cross Keys, although I have the (probably unfair) impression that Cross Keys residents are the types that would oppose it on the grounds that it would bring criminals into their neighborhood.

by burgersub on Jun 9, 2014 5:01 pm • linkreport

In regard to adding stops on light would have to wrestle with making a line this is already frustratingly slow even slower.

It might be better to build bike paths (spurs of the Jones Falls Trail) and bikeshare from existing stations to these destinations.

by Comeback City on Jun 9, 2014 5:29 pm • linkreport

burgersub, not just Cross Keys.

That's the standard assumption in Linthicum as well.

by Capt. Hilts on Jun 9, 2014 5:31 pm • linkreport

Yeah but the frustratingly slow parts are largely due to the failure of the city to allow signal priority to be used on the Howard Street corridor and the ridiculously circuitous route north of like Warren Road. The rest of it moves at an ok speed I think, but its utility is hampered somewhat by the space between stops. For instance, I live in the edge of the Remington/Old Goucher area and if I want to go to Hampden, it's either a half hour walk, or a 15 minute walk down to North Avenue followed by a 10 to 15 minute train ride followed by another 5 to 10 minute walk (plus whatever time is spent waiting for the train). All this even though physically my house is like 3 blocks as the crow flies from the tracks. Also, the idea for these new stops to be request only, at least at first until such time as the stop proves to be popular enough to make it a default stop, would help cut down some of the added time. Noobs are always pushing those stop request buttons anyway, might as well make them do something.

by burgersub on Jun 9, 2014 6:00 pm • linkreport

@ Jack -

"If the service lane in Cleveland Park bothers you, then try walking on the other side of the street, which is wider. Diversity works for everyone."

I'm going to start calling that service lane, the "Diversity Lane" from now on.

by Frank IBC on Jun 10, 2014 11:27 am • linkreport

"That whole area used to be a nice part of the city until Mondawmin mall was built and destroyed it."

Having read many Baltimore-area blogs it never fails to amaze me, the terror that the region's shopping centers inspire in area residents.

by Frank IBC on Jun 10, 2014 11:30 am • linkreport

@Jack: do you yourself in your everyday life intentionally cross streets unnecessarily? Just back and forth? For the hell of it? It's a real blast, isn't it.

by LowHeadways on Jun 10, 2014 2:24 pm • linkreport

The "darker colored poor folks will use $TRANSIT to do break ins" and "$public_center was good until gangs of the $SCARY_YOUTH ruined it" are a constantly repeated myths. How many people do you see carrying boasted home electronics on transit?
Anecdotal evidence isn't real evidence. There was a study done in Philly, which showed that within a quarter mile of transit, there was a many 2% increase in teens committing some crimes. And those could be combated with alert community and transit cops. Of course, there will always be people who hear about thing like the guy who got knifed by teens on the St Paul street Bridge in front of Penn Station last summer by kids from Glen Burnie, and draw the conclusion that all mass transit are conveyer belts for thuggies.

That out of the way, Having a few way stops for light rail (like Mill no 1) would be a good idea.
Ruxton was supposed to be a stop, but the community was afraid it would attract "the wrong kind".

by scratchy on Jun 10, 2014 2:27 pm • linkreport

@Frank IBC - it's not so much that Baltimoreans are afraid of malls, it's that the malls so often become a magnet for young thugs. Sadly, many of these youths use it as a rendezvous point for hanging out or as a strike point for enemies. There are numerous shootings there every year, and every year the community asks the police to step up and disperse the thugs. And nothing happens.

by maktoo on Jun 11, 2014 11:17 am • linkreport

Oh please, there are not "numerous shootings every year" at Mondawmin or any other mall in the area.

by burgersub on Jun 11, 2014 11:44 am • linkreport

Please do not encourage people to walk from Mondawmin to the Zoo. It is not safe. I have lived in baltimore my whole life and this would only cause a tragedy for an unsuspecting tourist

by John Hogan on Jun 20, 2014 12:23 am • linkreport

I think they should build an underground walkway at least as far as the NE corner of Swan Drive and Liberty Heights Avenue. That way, no one has to cross any streets. But, this would only be reasonable if the Baltimore Zoo and Mondawmin station were in a symbiotic relationship.

by YoungTransitSupporter on Jan 19, 2015 9:25 pm • linkreport

Someone stated: "Oh please, there are not 'numerous shootings every year' at Mondawmin or any other mall in the area."

Typing the phrase "shootings at mondawmin mall" (without the quotes) into Google instantly yields seven dates, that's without scrolling down or advancing pages : Dec 23, 2014; Jan 26, 2015; Aug 12, 2015; Mar 6, 2016; Aug 2, 2015; and Dec 15, 2014. (The first two dates relate to news reports covering the same event.) That's BEFOE doing any actual research into violence in and around Mondawmin Mall.

My wife and I (we live in Anne Arundel County) took the light rail to Lexington Market, and then the subway to Mondawmin station, in order to walk to the zoo. The marijuana smoking INSIDE the subway station, the fist-fights (yet, that is a plural) that we witnessed on the platform while exiting the train, the half-dozen young people cursing loudly and selling "half-price" bus passes at the top of the escalator, and the young men (yes, plural) urinating on the Reisterstown Road sidewalk in plain view were all enough to convince us that driving up I-83 was the better experience.

People who deny the true nature of some neighborhoods are invariably in denial. I, on the other hand, strongly encourage anyone visiting the Baltimore ZOO to drive their car.

by Jeffrey on Mar 15, 2016 10:02 am • linkreport

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