For Baltimore it's another new jewel in its renaissance effort. For the United States, it's the fourth new city subway system in the last dozen years.
Last week the first leg of Baltimore's subway opened for business, eight miles of speedy mass transit ferrying commuters between near-northwest suburbs and the center city. Six more miles are under construction, and more are planned.
The subway follows other major improvements in Baltimore over the last decade. Deteriorating city housing has been restored, in blue-collar as well as affluent neighborhoods. Two new buildings of colorful shops and restaurants grace the once-blighted waterfront. There's a modern aquarium and a concert hall critically acclaimed for its rich, warm sound. From a city many disparaged, Baltimore has become a community widely saluted - now for its efficient, albeit short, transit line.
It's the shortest of the four urban subways completed since 1971; the others are in San Francisco, Atlanta, and Washington, which is the most extensive. In those cities many who have tried this safe, reliable, and comparatively relaxing transportation prefer it to their cars. Many Baltimoreans will, too.