Price of light rail ride is a frigid hour's wait
Sun photo/Michael Dresser
Light rail train rolls into BWI Business District station Friday morning, headed for the airport.
When Blanche Avery's shuttle bus arrived at the BWI Business District light rail station Friday morning about 9:45 a.m., she was filled with warm thoughts of her East Baltimore home and freedom. She had been trapped by the snow emergency at her cafeteria job since Sunday, working 12-hour shifts and sleeping in her boss's office.
"This is my getting back in civilization," she said. "Hello, world!"
But for most of the next hour, Avery cooled her heels in a frigid outdoor shelter, entertaining growing doubts whether the trains were running at all. As the time dragged on with nary a train in sight, her views of the Maryland Transit Administration grew progressively more frosty.
"They don't communicate well with the people at all," she said. "It's like, 'Hey, communicate with the customers.'"
Though the MTA was telling people the restored light rail service was running at 30-minute intervals, it wasn't until 10:42 a.m. that the first train glided into the last station before its terminus at BWI Marshall Airport. The train was headed for the airport, but Avery and most of the other Baltimore-bound passengers boarded. That way, they could get warm before the train made the return journey toward Hunt Valley on the single track that was in operation.
The long, cold wait reinforced Keith Humphrey's negative impression of mass transit in Baltimore. The former Chicago resident, who has lived here six months, has not been impressed.
"Out of seven states and six cities I've lived in, I've never [experienced] public transportation as horrible as in Baltimore, Maryland," said Humphrey, a regular light rail rider who was going home from his job at Fort Meade for the first time in a week.
Other riders who waited shorter times were just happy to see the light rail service, which had been suspended at the height of last weekend's and Wednesday's blizzards, back on track.
Janice Horsey boarded at Cherry Hill with her two young great-grandsons, 5-year-old Zion Billy and 3-year-old Nahim Billy, bound for Lexington Market and the boys' "usual treat."
"I'm glad to be out of the house. I was going nuts," she said. "The first time I saw a bus running and it stopped, it was like Christmas morning."
As the train rolled through downtown at an unusually slow speed, workers using plows and front-end loaders could be seen clearing the second track on still-snowy Howard Street.
Cheron Wicker, an MTA spokeswoman, said the unavailability of the second track was the likely explanation for the slow service. She said it had been "very challenging" to restore the light rail line, but added that with better weather the MTA should be able to ramp up service.
"It's an hour-by-hour thing right now," she said.
There were some consolations for the MTA. The parking lot at the BWI Business District was fully plowed down to pavement and plenty of spaces were available. And the No. 17 bus was running frequently, with about a half dozen buses on the route stopping at the station while a reporter waited for a train.