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August 31, 2010

School safety reminders for drivers

Maryland Transportation Secretary Beverly Swaim-Staley says each year an average of 300 Maryland pupils are injured either arriving at or leaving school. With most of the area's students back in school, it's a good time for a reminder on how sticking to the rules of the road can increase safety for schoolchildren and others. Here are some tips for drivers and pedestrians. More info on school bus safety and safety rules for bikers and pedestrians can be found here.

Reminders for drivers:

-Maryland law requires motorists to stop for pedestrians in crosswalks

-Slow down and watch for children walking in the street, especially in neighborhoods without sidewalks

-Traffic fines can be doubled in school zones, up to $1,000

-It is against the law to pass a stopped school bus while its lights are flashing or it has the arm extended. Motorists must waiting for the lights to stop flashing before proceeding. 

-Avoid aggressive driving and follow posted speed limits, which may be lowered in school zones

Reminders for students - what children need to know:

-Have a safe place to wait for the bus, away from traffic and the street

-Stay away from the bus until it comes to a complete stop and the driver signals you to enter

-Cross the street only at marked crosswalks or where a crossing guard are available

-Don't ride your bike through an intersection. Get off and walk the bike, after checking for traffic.

-Be aware of street traffic. Drivers are supposed to follow certain rules of the road but not all do so.

Posted by Michelle Deal-Zimmerman at 2:36 PM |
Categories: On the roads
        

AAA: 9% jump in Labor Day travel in Maryland unless Earl ruins party

Will Hurricane Earl crash Marylanders' Labor Day party? No one knows for certain yet, so with that caveat, AAA Mid-Atlantic today projected an increase of 9.1% in the number of Marylanders traveling for the upcoming holiday. The auto club says more than 600,000 statewide will travel at least 50 miles round-trip from home.

AAA says their predictions are based on historical data and information as of late July. However, Hurricane Earl remains a wild card and may dampen traveler's enthusiasm for a weekend getaway.

 “The impact of the hurricane on travel this weekend will depend on what the storm does in the next 48 hours,” said Ragina C. Averella, spokesperson for AAA Mid-Atlantic. “However, whether travelers change their destinations to avoid the storm or the storm misses us all together, the big news is that Marylanders are traveling yet again for another summer holiday weekend, despite the economic hardships many are still facing.”

With gas prices falling and oil prices holding steady, AAA says the average price of a gallon of regular gas is expected to stay around $2.60 heading into the holiday weekend, the lowest level of the summer and at the lowest level since February.

Other projections from AAA Mid-Atlantic include:

-The average distance traveled by Marylanders this Labor Day holiday is expected to be 754 miles round-trip, 119 miles more than nationwide average for holiday travel.

-Median spending is expected to be $731 in Maryland, about 5 percent more than the median spending nationwide

-Most people - 41% - will be traveling with one other adult, while 37% will be traveling with a family or a group

Posted by Michelle Deal-Zimmerman at 11:56 AM |
Categories: Holiday travel
        

August 30, 2010

MARC ridership falls in July

MARC ridership on the Brunswick line is down more than 9 percent compared to last July, but the MTA attributes it to the summer vacation season. From the Associated Press:

The Maryland Transit Administration says ridership on MARC's Brunswick line was down 9.3 percent last month compared to a year earlier.

Ridership on all three MARC lines fell 1.1 percent from July 2009, with an average of 31,748 riders per day, and about 6.4 percent from June. But the Brunswick line, which runs from Washington to West Virginia, saw a 9.3 percent drop compared to a year earlier, with an average of 6,819 daily riders.

Maryland Transit Administration officials attribute the drop to summer vacation season.

The Camden line, which runs between Baltimore and Washington, saw a 3 percent drop, but the Penn line, which runs from Perryville to Washington, posted a 2.2 percent increase with an average of 21,047 daily riders.

Weren't people on vacation last July, too? What else could account for this drop? The Camden line also saw a drop, albeit a more modest 3 percent.

MARC riders: Has there been a bit more space in the cars during your commute?

Posted by Maryann James at 5:03 PM | | Comments (8)
Categories: MARC train, MTA
        

August 27, 2010

Charles Street Bridge traffic switch this weekend

SHA Charles Street Bridge

State highway officials will begin shifting traffic onto the new Charles Street Bridge over the Beltway this weekend. The changeover from the old bridge to the new bridge will mean flagging operations and traffic stoppages throughout the weekend. However, the old bridge will remain open to traffic during the shift.

SHA says the ramps from southbound I-83 and eastbound I-695 to Charles Street will be temporarily detoured to the MD 45 (York Road) interchange during the weekend. This will involve some detours to York Road, which -- as you know if you live in that area like I do -- is already going to be heavily stressed from Maryland State Fair traffic.

Also, according to the alert from the State Highway Administration:

The right-turn loop ramp from northbound Charles Street to westbound I-695 will remain closed this weekend. Motorists traveling from northbound Charles Street to westbound I-695 and northbound I-83 must stay left on Charles Street and go through the roundabout for the Bellona Avenue ramp. The loop ramp will re-open on Monday morning.

Additionally, the left-turn ramp from southbound Charles Street to eastbound I-695 (Inner Loop) will remain closed until late fall, and the posted detour through Lutherville will continue.

Photo courtesy of SHA

Posted by Michelle Deal-Zimmerman at 2:35 PM | | Comments (2)
Categories: On the roads
        

Run through the Fort McHenry Tunnel!

fort mchenry tunnel race

You've sped through the Fort McHenry Tunnel and chances are you've crawled through in a traffic jam, too. Well here's a chance to walk or run through the world's widest, underwater-vehicular tunnel, which takes Interstate 95 under the Baltimore harbor.

Entries are being accepted for the Maryland Transportation Authority's Fort McHenry 5K Tunnel Run/Walk on Sept. 19. Advance registration costs $25, and additional fundraising is encouraged for the Special Olympics.

Sounds like a blast, but am I the only one who is a little creeped out by the prospect of running underground?

Baltimore Sun photo of 2009 race by Amy Davis

Posted by Dave Rosenthal at 10:04 AM | | Comments (4)
        

August 26, 2010

I-95 northbound lanes reopen after fatal crash

A tractor-trailer struck and killed a pedestrian on Interstate 95 in Dundalk shortly after 2 p.m. Thursday, forcing the temporary closure of all the highway's northbound lanes and creating a large tie-up in rush-hour traffic. As of 5 p.m., all northbound lanes had reopened.

Meanwhile, the closure of eastbound I-70 continues.

Posted by Michelle Deal-Zimmerman at 5:35 PM |
Categories: On the roads
        

I-70 closed eastbound for multi-vehicle accident

An accident with injuries and involving a pickup truck and a tractor trailer has shut down all lanes of eastbound Interstate 70. The accident happened this afternoon around 4 p.m. just prior to the Baltimore Beltway. I guess when it rains, it pours.
Posted by Michelle Deal-Zimmerman at 4:46 PM |
Categories: On the roads
        

I-95 north closed at O'Donnell Street

An accident has closed northbound I-95 at O'Donnell Street. Traffic is being detoured off of exit 55 just prior to the tunnels for an accident that has taken place past exit 57. All cars are being detoured onto Key Highway, Keith Avenue and O'Donnell. Southbound lanes are not affected.

TV news reports say the accident involved a tractor trailer and a pedestrian. The SHA website says it was two vehicles. Highway officials suggest motorists take the Beltway (I-695) as an alternate route since they're concerned about residual effects on the afternoon rush hour. Expect major delays. In other words, it could be a long commute home.

Posted by Michelle Deal-Zimmerman at 4:14 PM |
Categories: On the roads
        

Work on eastbound U.S. 50 may snarl beach traffic

For those coming from the north, this shouldn't be a problem. And to the south of Baltimore, it's just something to be aware of. The State Highway Administration is expecting major delays this weekend as contractors finish up repairs along 9 miles of eastbound U.S. 50 in Prince George's County. The work involves pouring and curing concrete and is being done this weekend during daylight hours. Because of the time involved to set the concrete, SHA says the work cannot be done overnight.

Here's how it could affect some folks to our south: Drivers headed to the beach from the affected areas are being encouraged to take alternate routes including I-95/495 to MD 32 to I-97 or MD 450, which runs parallel to US 50 in PG county. The work begins at 9 p.m. Friday and should be completed by 5 a.m. Monday.

Posted by Michelle Deal-Zimmerman at 2:07 PM | | Comments (1)
Categories: On the roads
        

Watch out for closing on Mount Royal

University of Baltimore law school

Traffic will be a mess just south of Penn Station today, as the University of Baltimore holds a ground-breaking ceremony for a new law school building.

Westbound Mount Royal Avenue has been closed between Charles and St. Paul streets for the noon ceremony, and drivers are being detoured around the big tent set up for the event. Those lanes are scheduled to reopen between 2:30 p.m. and 3:30 p.m.

Eastbound lanes remained open this morning, but all of the commotion from the event will probably slow things down.

Gov. Martin O’Malley and several hundred other people are expected to attend the grounbreaking for the John and Frances Angelos Law Center. The $107 million, 190,000-square-foot building at the northeast corner of Charles and Mount Royal will provide additional space for the law school, the school says.

In 2008, the university announced a $5 million matching pledge from law alum Peter Angelos (Class of '61) to support construction of the building. It will retain the name of the existing facility, the John and Frances Angelos Law Center, after Angelos' parents, according to the school. This year, the university announced a second $5 million donation from Angelos, which allowed the school to reach its goal of $15 million in private funding for the building. The remaining funds will be provided by the state.

Architectural rendering courtesy of the University of Baltimore

Posted by Dave Rosenthal at 8:41 AM | | Comments (1)
Categories: On the roads
        

August 25, 2010

Getting There blogger getting away

Getting There is getting away -- or at least it's primary blogger is on vacation.

Starting tomorrow and continuing through mid-September, I'll be leaving the blog in the care of Sun colleagues. Please keep checking for updates on transportation news and commenting when the spirit moves you. It's possible it might take a little longer to get those comments  up on the blog than when I'm tending it, but posted they will be (assuming, of course, they meet our relatively easy standards).

When I return, I hope to bring updates on transportation in some far-flung European destinations. Until then, keep your cool on the road and on transit vehicles. Don't tailgate other drivers or leave chewed gum on the bus, and remember to enjoy the ride as much as reaching the destination.

Posted by Michael Dresser at 6:00 PM |
        

Charles Street trolley idea looks like a non-starter

Eliminate the Purple Route of the Charm City Circulator in favor of a Charles Street trolley? The idea is being kicked around in Baltimore circles, but it has the smell of a non-starter to me.

Kristin Speaker of the Charles Street Development Corp. told me this week that one of the ideas the group is looking at for the proposed Charles Street trolley service is to introduce a route from the Inner Harbor Visitors Center to University Parkway. Meanwhile, the Purple Route of the Charm City Circulator would be abolished.

This would manage to extend service to Charles Village -- a worthy goal -- but at the expense of lopping off the Federal Hill-Cross Street Market end of the Purple line.

If South Baltimore can't manage to organize to quash that bizarre idea, I'm very wrong about that part of  town. Proponents can expect to  be haunted by the ghost of Harry McGuirk.

 

 

Here's a modest suggestion to the Charles Street folks: Scrap this idea before it can get off the drawing board. Don't seriously propose an idea that pits neighborhood against neighborhood.

Why not run the trolley between Penn Station and Charles Village, using the train station as a transfer point? A shorter line is easier to keep on schedule. Or have a modest overlap of the two routes between Saratoga or Fayette and Penn Station. That would in effect double the number of buses iin the central  section of the corridor -- not a bad thing.

Or the Charles Street trolley could venture a little off that street to take in the transit hubs of the State Center Metro and Cultural Center light rail stations as well at Penn Station. There you have instant connectivity between Charles Viilage and parts of the city and suburbs that are inconvenient now.

One thing you don't need in a city shuttle service is long, strung-out routes such as those operated by the MTA. And the simple elegance of the current Purple Route is worth preserving. Back  to the drawing board, Charles Street folks.

 

 

Posted by Michael Dresser at 3:30 PM | | Comments (8)
Categories: City bus service
        

Double-diesel approach may be working for MARC

When the hot weather started taking a toll on MARC's electric locomotives early this summer, the commuter railroad began to experiment with a new configuration twinning two diesel engines on its heaviest Penn Line trains to maintain both pulling power and internal systems.

The Maryland Transit  Administration isn't exactly proclaiming the experiment a rousing success but spokesman Terrry Owens says it has  been working well so far.

"Clearly the locomotives have performed extremely well," he saiid. "We've not had the problems you would have with electrics being down because of the heat."

 

Of course, the MTA has had the advantage of cooler weather since the blazing heat of late June and most of July. But Owens noted that the heat is expected to bounce back  into the 90s next week.

"We're not out of it," he said.

Owens  said MARC has so far taken delivery of 17 of the new diesel fleet it has purchased, with 14  of them out on the line and another three in testing. The new engines are arriving at a  rate of two a month, he said.

MTA riders are urged to keep Getting There informmed of any developments -- positive or negative  -- aboard the trains. During my absence until Sept. 15, please contact Michelle Deal-Zimmerman at michelle.deal@baltsun.com or Dave Rosenthal at drosenthal@baltsun.com.

 

 

 

Posted by Michael Dresser at 2:52 PM | | Comments (1)
Categories: MARC train
        

School zone coming to South Rolling Road

Residents of the South Rolling Road corridor in Catonsville have scored a victory by persuading the State Highway Administration that a school-zone designation is appropriate along the crash-prone route. Residents have complained  that speeders going more than 40 mph in a 30-mph zone are making the road unsafe. Designation as a school zone could  open the way for the installation of speed cameras.

Here's the letter from the SHA district engineer to the local General Assembly delegation:

Dear Senator Kasemeyer  and Delegates Deboy and Malone:

 

This is a follow-up to our previous email to you on behalf of Ms. Erin Haggerty, regarding her request for a school zone along MD 166 (South Rolling Road) in Baltimore County.   We appreciate your interest in safety and assure you that safety is the first and foremost priority of the State Highway Administration.

Please note that our review is complete and we would like to share our findings and recommendations with you.  Our traffic engineering staff conducted a review of existing conditions in the vicinity of the Hillcrest Elementary School and Catonsville High School.  The review considered factors such as location of crosswalks, school bus transportation, presence of crossing guards, road design and speeds.  It was concluded that safety could in fact be enhanced for students walking to and from both schools by extending the existing school zone along MD 166 for Hillcrest Elementary School from Frederick Road to Newburg Avenue.  The school zone for Catonsville High School has also been revised, extending from Valley Road to Newburg Avenue.  The school zones will include all required signing (i.e., SCHOOL CROSSWALK signs, SCHOOL panels, FINES DOUBLE signs, etc).  Arrangements have been made with our maintenance forces to have all signing associated with the school zones in place prior to the start of the new school year.  Also, by copy of this email, we will also alert Baltimore County Police Department of the new school zones, and request their assistance of enforcement within the new zones.   

Thank you again for your interest in this matter of traffic operations and safety.  If you have any questions, please feel free to contact me or Mr. Eric G. Tombs Sr., traffic engineering team leader for the area.  Mr. Tombs may be reached at 410-229-2386, or via email at etombs@sha.state.md.us

 

Sincerely,

David J. Malkowski

State Highway Administration - District 4

Metropolitan District Engineer

Baltimore and Harford Counties

SHA spokesman Dave Buck said his agency would not install speed zones because it does so only in work zones with speed limits greater than 45 mph. But he said that with the school zone designation, it would be up to Baltimore  County whether to install speed cameras.

My view: Put them up as of Jan. 1, giving drivers plenty of warning. Then sit back and see whether the cameras have a positive effect on average speeds and  the number of crashes over the next two years. It would be an excellent test case.

 

Posted by Michael Dresser at 1:14 PM | | Comments (8)
Categories: On the roads
        

August 24, 2010

Don't 'block the box,' city urges drivers

With city streets already tied  up by road construction, Baltimore officials are urging drivers to avoid blocking intersections in a way that can cause gridlock.

"It warned that "blocking the box" is a traffic violation that can lead to a $70 fine. "The Department of Transportation is asking motorists who stop for a red light or a traffic delay to keep their vehicles behind the stop bar so that the intersection remains clear for pedestrians and cross traffic. Drivers should proceed through the intersection only when they see that its clear on the other side," Transportation Department spokeswoman Kathy Chopper said.

Even  though the natural raction may be to simply growl at city transportation officials  as a result of the congestion plaguing downtown, this is a worthy admonition. Those of us who travel downtown can testify that far to many motorists charge into intersections before they are clear, achieving little for themselves while raising the hassle level of everybody else.

This is City Driving 101, but it doesn't seem to be covered in every driver's ed course. And because many parents don't every take their  kids into the city when they're learning to drive, many young drivers have no idea how to deal with congested city streets.

 

Posted by Michael Dresser at 4:42 PM | | Comments (6)
Categories: On the roads
        

Light Street lane closings to drag on

The repaving work that has been bedeviling downtown commuters who regularly use Light Street is expected to drag on longer than previously announced.

Kathy Chopper, a spokeswoman for the city Department of Transportation, said the multiple lane closings that have squeezed the travel lanes on northbound Light down to two will likely continue through mid-October.

Construction work on southbound Light at Pratt Street, which is expected to shift to the center lanes Wednesday at 5:30 a.m., is expected to take another two weeks, Chopper said.

The road work on Light Street, part of the preparations for the downtown Grand Prix race set for Labor Day next year, has backed up morning commuters from Interstate 95 and from Federal Hill and has caused similar  congestion in the evenings.  City officials have urged downtown commuters to use alternate routes, such as Howard Street and  Martin Luther King Boulevard.

City officials are urging drivers to avoid blocking intersections in a  way that  can cause gridlock. It warned that "blocking the box" is  a traffic violation that can lead to a $70 fine.


"The Department of Transportation is asking motorists who stop for a red light or a traffic delay to keep their vehicles behind the stop bar so that the intersection remains clear for pedestrians and cross traffic.  Drivers should proceed through the intersection only when they see that its clear on the other side," Chopper said.

The Light Street work is continuing at a time when the city is also replacing the concrete  surface of Pratt Street, downtown's main eastbound artery, closing two of four lanes in the central business district. That work is expected to continue for another two months, Chopper said. The city has advised motorists to use Baltimore  and Mulberry streets  as alternate routes.

City officials say the downtown road work being done to prepare the streets for the Grand Prix race will continue for about nine months. The work on Pratt and Light streets will be followed by repaving of Lee, Conway, Howard and Russell streets.

According to city transportation officials, the repaving and utility repairs being done to prepare the streets to accommodate Indy-style race cars is work that needed to be completed with or without the race.

 

 

Posted by Michael Dresser at 3:03 PM | | Comments (4)
Categories: On the roads
        

MARC rider finds silver lining in outage

MARC riders on the Penn Line received a rude surprise this morning when the overhead electrical power system on Amtrak's Northeast Corridor failed, bringing commuter trains and interciity trains to a halt between New York and Washington as well as Philadelphia and Harrisburg.

AmTrak spokeswoman Tracy Connell said power in the cartenary system went out about 7:45 a.m. and was restored about 9 a,m. She said that after  that it may have taken a while to get the trains running again. She said about 30 trains -- intercity and commuter -- were affected by the outage.

Penn Line rider Claudia Balohg managed to find some good news amid the adversity. According to Balog, Amtrak diid a much better job of handling this incident than it did during previous service interruptions.

I was on one of the delayed MARC trains impacted by this morning’s Amtrak catenary line failure.  I am happy to report that there were many improvements in the MARC response.  Passengers were provided with water on the trains, there were many announcements updating us on our status, and it appeared that the plan “B” – to dispatch a diesel engine to rescue our train – was smoothly implemented.  Granted, it was getting warm and uncomfortable on the trains, but with 70 temps outside, few were complaining, and conductors made many announcements addressed to any one who might be suffering from asthma or similar issues who might need assistance.  If MARC can continue/Amtrak can continue with responses like this to power and engine failures – including when the stakes are higher, say, a 90+ degree evening commute with more fatigued, crankier passengers – then I can say that finally, administrators have begun to listen to passengers and effectuate positive changes. 

 

Some riders noticed more acting out on the part of passengers.

Chris  Bingel, whho was aboard Penn Line Train 513 when it stopped on the tracks near Seabrook, reported that some of his fellow riders took out their frustrations by shouting at the conductors.

"The mood of the people got pretty ugly pretty quick," Bingel said "The conductors seemed to be acting very  professionally."

Bingel said that as temperatures rose one woman demanded to know why the windows had to remain closed.  When a conductor answered that the train couldn't get on its way as long as windows weren't sut, another rider interjecvted that the crew might as well open them because they weren't going anywhere anyway.

That brought a reply froom the woman who asked the origanal question, Bingel said.

"She said if you open my window, I would lose my job," he said.

Bingel said the power eventually  came on about 9:30 a,m. and that his train made it to Union Station in Washington about 10 minutes later.

Connel said  the cause of the failure in the  catenary system has yet to be determined. She said traffic on the corridor was running about a half-hour late at midday but expressed hope that service would be back on schedule by the evening peak travel time.

 

 

Posted by Michael Dresser at 11:46 AM | | Comments (2)
Categories: MARC train
        

August 23, 2010

Worse than the Beltway? I think so

For all those who suffer through the congestion on the west side of the Beltway or who agonize every mile of the slog on Interstate 95 between Baltimore and Harford County, there's at least the consolation of knowing that somewhere, somebody has it worse.

That somewhere is China, where drivers have been stuck in a 9-day-long traffic jam. stretching more than 60 miles on the highway to Inner Mongolia. Part of the problem is road work, which appears to be slightly more disruptive than the repaving of Pratt Street.

Posted by Michael Dresser at 5:41 PM | | Comments (2)
Categories: On the roads
        

MTA announces bus changes

The Maryland Transit Administration will introduce five new bus routes along with an extensive list of changes to other lines starting Sunday.

One route, No. 6, will be eliminated and replaced with a  new route. Express service on Route 91 will also be discontinued.

 

The new routes  are:

No. 18 -- operating on school days from September to mid-June along Park Heights Avenue, Old Court Road and other streets in the northwest.

No. 30 -- between Edmondson Village and Johns Hopkins Bayview medical Center. It replaces the No. 6.

No. 38 -- Operating on school days between Edmondson Avenue and North Bend Road and between Cold Spring Lane and Grandview Avenue.

QuickBus No. 46 -- Limited-stop service between Paradise Avenue Loop and  the Cedonia Loop alonf Frederick Road and Sinclair Lane.

QuickBus No. 47 -- Limited-stop Monday-Friday peak-hour service between Overlea and Walbrook Junction, roughly tracking the route of the local No. 15. The new route will replace No. 15 express service.

For a full list of other changes, click here.

 

 

Posted by Michael Dresser at 5:19 PM |
Categories: MTA bus system
        

For once it's not MARC -- Long Island trains stalled

For once it's not MARC riders who are enduring a brutal day on commuter rail. Hundreds of thousands of New York commuters were left at stations after a fire in a switching tower shut down most of the trains on the Long Island  Railroad.

At last report, service was not expected to be restored in time  for rush hour. The LIRR, the nation's busiest commuter rail system, carries an average of 265,000 riders daily. Ten of the system's 11 lines were affected by the shutdown. The tower that was damaged by fire is in Jamaica, Queens, a major transfer point. There were no injuries.

Meanwhile, all three MARC lines were reported to be running on schedule.

 

Posted by Michael Dresser at 4:25 PM | | Comments (1)
Categories: MARC train
        

August 22, 2010

Gas prices drop; stable pattern continues

Gasoline prices in Maryland dropped by an average of 4 cents a gallon in the last week, according to AAA Mid-Atlantic, as motorists continued to enjoy a summer of relative stability at the pumps.

AAA reported Sunday that the average price of regular gas dropped to $2.65, 6 cents below the national average. That is 9 cents higher than last year at this time but well below the peak of more than $4 a gallon reached in summer 2008.

Prices have remained stable through the summer, with the national average ranging between $2.70 and $2.78 since Memorial Day, AAA said. The group reported that crude oil prices have declined nearly 10 percent so far this month, hinting at possible further declines at the pump in the coming weeks.

Posted by Michael Dresser at 9:58 AM |
Categories: On the roads
        

August 20, 2010

Westbound Bay Bridge reopened after crash

The westbound Bay Bridge has reopened after being closed for about an hour as a result of a crash involving a tractor-trailer and a Corvette.

The crash occurred at 4:52 p.m. when a tractor-trailer ran into the rear of a Corvette, said Sgt. Jonathan Green, spokesman for the Maryland Transportation Authority Police. He said the driver of the  Corvette suffered non-life-threatening injuries but was taken by Medevac helicopter to Maryland  Shock-Trauma Center,

Green said the bridge  was in two-way operations at the time of the crash -- with one of the three lanes being used to help relieve the heavy flow of eastbound traffic for a beach weekend. However, Green said both of the vehicles involved were traveling west  in the right lane.

After the crash, traffic  backed up for miles in both directions and was still moving slowly at 6:25 p.m., traffic cameras showed.

 

 

 

Posted by Michael Dresser at 5:52 PM |
Categories: Maryland toll facilities, On the roads
        

MTA Police seeking cadets

The Maryland Transit Administration Police have launched a cadet program and are seeking to recruit men and women 18-20 to participate.

The MTA program will offer qualified young people a year of on-the-job training for a career in law enforcement. The paid positions will give cadets the opportunity to advance to permanent jobs as MTA police officers when they turn 21. Applicants must be U.S. citizens and have a high school diploma or  the equivalent. They must also undergo drug testing and a background check.

For information, call the  MTA at  410-767-3860.

 

Posted by Michael Dresser at 5:10 PM |
Categories: MTA
        

BMC seeks comments on Circulator, Westport

The Baltimore Regional Transportation Board is seeking public comments on some interesting policy proposals involving the Charm City Circulator, Westport development plans and ttransportation access for seniors, the elderly and the disabled.

The regional planning body is asking for input on two projects the city government has proposed for inclusion in its 2011-2014 Transportation Improvement Program.  One would improve pedestrian safety and mass transit access at a new  Kent Street Plaza in the Westport area. The other would add new hybrid-electric buses to the free Circulator shuttle and extend service to Fort McHenry.

The board is also seeking comments on an updated plan for access to trasnportation  for seniors, the disabled and low-income residents. The comment period is open though Sept. 14. There  will also be a public meeting Aug. 31 from 4 p.m. until 5:30 p.m to discuss the proposals  at the Baltimore Metropolitan Council office, 2700 Lighthouse Point East, Suite 310, in Baltimore.

 

 

 

Posted by Michael Dresser at 4:38 PM |
        

Parking spaces restored to Baltimore Street

Judy Boulmetis, who only recently was the mad hatter of Baltimore Street, says she's now a happy hatter.

Boulmetis, co-owner of Hippodrome Hatters, was distressed a few weeks ago when the city barred parking in front of her store to open an additional travel lane for traffic diverted from Pratt Street by road work. Less parking, she said, equals less business.

Now, she says, the parking spaces are back after city transportation officials responded to her concerns. It turns out that the amount of traffic that moved over to Baltimore Street was less than expected, Boulmetis says.

The headgear entrepreneur gives particular credit to Jamie Kendrick, deputy director of the city's transportation department, for freeing up the spaces.

Posted by Michael Dresser at 2:20 PM |
Categories: On the roads
        

August 19, 2010

Pratt Street traffic disrupted

The downtown commute out of downtown Baltimore is looking grim. The Downtown Partnership sent us the following account of problems on Pratt Street:

Police activity has closed Pratt Street near Market Place.  Traffic is being detoured onto Market Place, but volumes are heavy and movement is complicated by ongoing road improvements along Pratt, Light, and Calvert Streets.  We advise motorists avoid the area and suggest using Charles, Calvert, Eutaw, or MLK as northbound alternatives, and Mulberry as an eastbound alternative.

City Transportation Department spokeswoman Cathy Chopper said the blockage was the result of "police activity" and that she did not know the specific cause. She said the department is diispatching employees to the scene.

Police spokesman Kevin Brown said officers were investigating a report of a suspicious package but so far had  not found any cause for concern. Brown expected the scene to be cleared before 6  p.m.

Posted by Michael Dresser at 5:19 PM | | Comments (6)
Categories: On the roads
        

CSX identifies track as cause of tunnel mishap

CSX Transportation has determined that the cause of the Aug. 5 derailment at the Howard Street tunnel was defective track, spokesman Gary Saese said today.

Saese said "there's no doubt" that a broken rail caused 13 cars to jump the tracks in and near the more than 100-year-old tunnel -- the site of a more serious derailment in 2001 that led  to a chemical fire that disrupted downtown Baltimore for a week.

The spokesman said the railroad has not yet determined what led to the break, but he added that typically such damage is  caused by an internal defect. Saese said the track  in the tunnel had  already been scheduled for replacement. He said work on that project would begin this month and be finished around Labor Day.

 

 

Posted by Michael Dresser at 4:45 PM |
Categories: Amtrak/intercity railroads
        

August 18, 2010

State selects alternative for Ocean City bridge

State Highway Administration

The State Highway Administration has chosen a new drawbridge as its long-term plan to replace the U.S. 50 bridge into Ocean City that would  cause less disruption of existing property than the leading alternative.


Known as the Harry W. Kelley Bridge after the late, colorful mayor of Ocean City, the existing drawbridge was completed in 1942 but it received a new deck several years ago and is believed to be in good shape.


The replacement choice, known as Alternative 5-A, now goes to the Federal Highway Administration, which would have to sign off before federal funds could be spent on the project. Officials said the selected plan  involves eight displacements of existing properties, compared with 37 for a larger, non-drawbridge alternative.

In making the announcement, the SHA also rolled out what for it is a new way of explaining its choice through animation. It has put simulated videos on its web site attempting to show how driving the new route would appear to a driver. Click on 5-A, the second one down, to see how the proposed gateway to downtown Ocean City would look.

 

For now, the replacement bridge remains a part of the state's long-term transportation plans only. There is no money in Maryland's six-year spending plan for engineering or construction, said SHA spokesman Charlie Gischlar.


SHA planning director Greg Slater said the bridge's actual replacement isn't expected until about 20-25 years from now -- not an unusual timeline for projects of its scale.


The plans call for removal of the center, drawbridge section of the existing span. Its ends, meanwhile, would be left standing for recreation purposes such as fishing.


Slater said engineering considerations would have favored a higher bridge that wouldn't have to open. But he said that would have required too much clearing of property on the barrier island, prompting the state to choose a new drawbridge parallel to the existing span.


 “To me these projects can't be about engineering,” Slater said. “They have to be about the communities they are in.” He said the new drawbridge would be 30 feet high compared with the existing 18 feet, letting 75-80 percent of boat traffic pass without opening it.


The plan was chosen after many rounds of public meetings, hearings and consultation with local leaders, SHA officials said. “It was a 100 percent consensus almost across the board that this was the right way to go,” Slater said.

 

 

Posted by Michael Dresser at 3:20 PM | | Comments (1)
Categories: On the roads
        

Do Circulator and AT&T not get along?

A colleague of mine reports that last night when she took the Charm City Circulator to Federal Hilll, she couldn't reach the service's web site from her Blackberry. When she Googled Charm City Circulator and clicked on the link, her screen came up purple and did nothing.

I just sat down with her, Blackberry-to-Blackberry, and retried  the web site simultaneously. I had no trouble getting tthe Circulator's NextBus function (though I can't vouch for its accuracy). She could not. The difference: I was on the Verizon network, she was on AT&T.

So what gives here? Is this an AT&T issue or a city Department of Transportation issue? Is there a geek in the house?

 

Posted by Michael Dresser at 11:24 AM | | Comments (2)
Categories: City bus service
        

August 17, 2010

A bad morning on Light Street

It's hard to say from day to day how a lane closing will affect traffic. On Monday, the flow of vehicles into downtown Baltimore from the south was reasonably brisk in spite of the closing of two lanes of Light Street at Pratt. Today, according to reports from colleagues who use that corridor, it was a mess.

(I took my own advice and used Russell Street and Martin Luther King Boulevard, which were fine.)

City transportation officials acknowledge that it was slow  going this morning. Chief of traffic Randall Scott said an unusually large percentage of drivers seemed to choose the Key Highway and Hanover Street exits this morning, resulting in backups on Light heading into the city. Why a large number of drivers would suddenly decide to experiment  with one route rather than another is apparently one of those mysteries that  traffic science can't explain. Tomorrow, it could be Martin Luther King that backs up.

Whatever the cause, the traffic problems on Light Street are expected to  continue through this week and next as the city closes lanes for concrete replacement work. It's all part of the repairs being done in advance of the Grand Prix race scheduled for next year at Labor Day. City officials say the work needs to be done anyway, but that's not stopping drivers from cursing the Grand Prix and everyone whose brilliant idea it was.

 

 

Posted by Michael Dresser at 12:21 PM | | Comments (17)
Categories: On the roads
        

SHA to hold meeting about Downes Road bridge

The State Highway Administration has scheduled an informational meeting about a project iin nothern Baltimore Coounty that would replace the deck of the  Downes Road bridge over Interstate 83.

The project will replace the driving surface on a bridge that was originally built in 1958. According to the SHA, the deck is showing significant detrioration. It said the project will extend the structure's life by 30-50 years.

The meeting is set Aug. 31 from 5:30 – 7 p.m. in the cafeteria of the Seventh District Elementary School, 20300 York Road in Parkton. State highway employees will be on hand at  the open house to explain the project and answer questions. The project is expected to begin next spring and will include "cleaning and painting of steel beams; repairs to abutments; replacement the retaining walls adjacent to each side of the bridge; and reshaping the bridge piers."  

 

Posted by Michael Dresser at 11:55 AM | | Comments (1)
Categories: On the roads
        

August 16, 2010

Metro subway track work planned

The Maryland Transit Administration will perform overnight track maintenance work on the section of the Metro between Rogers Avenue and State Center/Cultural Center  starting Friday. According to the agency, the impact on passengers will be minimal.

The MTA said it would carry out the work, which will continue through Sunday, Aug. 29, between  10  p.m. and  the first scheduled trains of the morning. The  Metro operates from 5 a.m. to midnight Monday through Friday and between 6 a.m. and midnight on weekends.

For  those who didn't realize Baltimore has a subway -- and there are many -- it runs 15.5 miles between Owings Mills and Johns Hopkins Hospital. It carries about 45,000 riders a day and is probably the most reliable transit system in the  MTA portfolio.

Posted by Michael Dresser at 3:24 PM |
Categories: Baltimore Metro
        

MTA touts itself as the way to the state fair

Before a major public event in the Baltimore area, it's typical of the Maryland Transit Administration to send out a news release touting its services as the way to get there.

So it is with the Maryland State Fair, which begins Aug. 27 and runs through Sept. 6. The MTA just put out the word that light rail is the way to go to the event to Timonium Fairgrounds. (It also mentions the No. 8 and No. 9 buses, though light rail will certainly move a lot more people.)

The obligatory canned quote from the release either contains news or a fairly ridiculous blunder, since it's attributed to MTA chief Ralign T. Wells.

MTA offers a cool, comfortable way to focus on the fair and your family instead of dealing with traffic and parking.  For just $1.60, the MTA Day Pass will get you there relaxed and ready to enjoy good food, good times and great entertainment.

So the MTA has cut the cost of a day pass from $3.50 to the $1.60 cost of a one-way fare? Talk about burying the lead!  (Lower in the release, it mentions the cost of a day pass as $3.50, so I'm betting that's  the operative policy.)

Seriously, light rail is indeed a great way to get to the fair. Last year, my wife and I met her brother at the Mount Washington station and took the train to the fairgrounds stop. It couldn't have been more convenient.

On the other hand, the MTA has some atonement to do after the light rail's miserable performance during Artscape, which it has yet to fully acknowledge. Let's just hope that Wells reads the riot act to his light rail supervisors and makes sure that if there's  any disruption, they spread the word to people waiting at stations down  the line. It would also be wonderful thing if the MTA made contingency plans for a disruption instead of being caught like a deer in the headlights.

Make no mistake about it, if the light rail doesn't do a better job during the state fair, somebody should be out of a job.

Posted by Michael Dresser at 11:32 AM |
Categories: Light rail, MTA, MTA bus system
        

Circulator bus stop closed for construction

Last Friday, reader Tim Patterson raised an issue regarding the Charm City Circulator. I'll let him tell about it:


You might want to post on the "Getting There" blog that stop 217 -- Greene Street in front of the M&T Bank Branch at UMMC -- is now closed until construction in that area ceases.

The Charm City Circulator folks have failed to update the website as of 8:30 this morning with this news, and the University and Hospital are both unaware of the fact as well.

The next stop is not until the Hilton, which means if you were planning on getting of the Circulator (when heading Eastbound) near Lombard street, you need to take the stop at Baltimore and Greene, not further down Greene.

 

I ran that matter by city  Department of Transportation spokeswoman Adrienne Barnes, a hard-working woman whose reply came in late Sunday night:

The area by stop 217 has been intermittently opening and closing and we've been servicing whenever possible. We will be closing the stop because we can't provide uninterrupted service.  The updated information will be placed on the website for riders to view.

And when I went by the Circulator stop  at Pratt and Light streets this morning, there was indeed an electronic message ther saying that stop is closed for now.

Posted by Michael Dresser at 10:54 AM | | Comments (12)
Categories: City bus service
        

Spare the cones, lose control of traffic

Sun photo/Michael Dresser

Drivers invade the closed left lanes of Light Street as road discipline breaks down.

The closing of two lanes of Light Street during this morning's peak travel hours didn't turn into the traffic nightmare some had feared. Traffic actually moved rather briskly through the Pratt Street intersection where northbound Light morphs into Calvert.

Nevertheless, an observer on the scene this morning could witness an interesting case study of driver behavior, or misbehavior, in the long block between Conway and Pratt.

It seemed  as  if the contractor on the project, P. Flanigan & Sons, ran a little short of orange cones between those two streets. (Funny, there seemed to be plenty in the next block.)

Anyway, some of the cones were spaced at fairly wide intervals -- maybe 30 yards in one case. The cones weren't so scarce that an observant driver couldn't tell the lane was closed, but there were plenty of drivers who didn't get the message. As soon a traffic backed up just a little, you could count on some free spirit to steer around the cones and use the supposedly closed lanes to jump ahead.

 

 

Sun Photo/Michael Dresser

A driver who plowed over a cone on Light Street puts it back where it belongs.

The unscheduled expansion of the travel lanes didn't help traffic flow much, because most drivers felt compelled to merge back into two lanes once they crossed Pratt. And with many of those merger attempts came near-collisions, so at times the traffic seemed on the verge of chaos.

Just as traffic anarchy was looming, a city worker in a fluoresecent vest arrived at the scene and took charge. He waded into traffic and wavved errant drvers back to their proper lanes, set up kknocked-over cones and helped on unfortunate motorist who plowed into a conex extract it from under his car.

"As soon as one person goes arounhd the cones, it's like they all follow," the worker said, He added that the spacing did not seem to folllow the guidelines in the manual the governs such closures, and got on his cell phone to relay that concern to the contractor.

The contractor appeared in no hurry to correct the problem, which continued even after the city worker improved the  spacing. Of course, even wihere the cones were perfectly  conspicuous, there were folks who ran into them. One such person got out of his  car, looked around indignantly, asked a witness if he had placed it there but then dutifully pulled it from under his Honda and returned it to its proper place.

The man from the city agreed that drivers might have been confused because there were no workers or equipment visible in the closed-off lanes. But he said there was some  concrete work about to start in the next block and that the traffic folks wanted to get drivers into two lanes before that point.

"Sometimes it's not as obvious, but there is a reason for all this," he said.

Despite all the fun, traffic flowed reasonably smoothly through the peak of rush hour. It didn't look much different from an ordinary morning's traffic -- perhaps because it's a popular vacation week.

The closings on Light Street are expected to continue for the next two weeks as part of the street work being done to prepare for next year's Grand Prix race downtown. One can only hope that the contractor can spare a few more cones while the project continues. One about every 10 yards -- kind of like first-down markers -- seems about right.

Posted by Michael Dresser at 8:57 AM | | Comments (2)
Categories: On the roads
        

August 13, 2010

Rolling Road school zones to be studied

It was sheer coincidence that my travels today took me along South Rolling Road just after I received emails including a flurry of correspondence between residents of nearby neighborhoods and the State Highway Administration about the speeding problems in that area of Catonsville.

The emails brought news that the State Highway Administration has agreed to study two possible school zones along Rolling Road. Establishing school zones would open the door to the installation of law enforcement cameras, which would probably go a long way toward curbing the need to speed.

 

 

 

The news of the planned study came in an email from David J. Malkowski, metropolitan district engineer for the SHA, to lawyer: Eric Gunderson. Gunderson had pressed the SHA for a commitment to examine the feasibility of expanding the Hillcrest Elementary and Catonsville High school zones to take in parts of the road.

Incidentally, some readers have written this blog to contend the road is underposted. I disagree. The 30 mph li,it is appropriate. Could one safely go 35? Yes. But 40? No. And since most drivers will take an at least extra 5 mph, and most police will concede it to them, the current limit is appropriate. A driver will still have to be going at least 42 to get a ticket. And in my judgment, as well as that of the SHA, that's too fast.

 

 

Posted by Michael Dresser at 6:10 PM | | Comments (3)
Categories: On the roads
        

More downtown congestion expected

As if the double-lane closure on downtown Pratt Street weren't enough, the city Department of Transportation is planning a series of street closings downtown as part of the preparation for next year's Grand Prix auto race.

Staring at 7 a.m. Saturday and continuing for about two weeks, the city will close three of five lanes of southbound Light Street between Lombard and Pratt streets for resurfacing work on the intersection. Two of four lanes of northbound Light and Calvert streets will also be closed for similar work.

The city is suggesting the use of alternate routes because delays are expected.

 

Posted by Michael Dresser at 1:45 PM | | Comments (2)
Categories: On the roads
        

Weather cancels plans for 2-way Bay Bridge flow

Bad weather had prompted the Maryland Transportation Authority to call off two-way operations on the westbound Bay Bridge today -- a move that will restrict beach-bound traffiic to the two lanes of the eastbound span.

The authority usually opens up one lane of the westbound span to eastbound traffic dueing peak evening travel. However, two-way operations on that span are considered too dangerous to allow during inclement weather. When it cannot, eastbound delays are highly  likely -- especially on Fridays when commuter traffic to the Eastern Shore and leisure travel to be beach coincide.

Baltimore-area motorists might want to consider using a  northern route around Elkton to beach destinations -- especially if bound for the Delaware shore.

 

 

Posted by Michael Dresser at 1:25 PM |
        

Expect traffic detour around Druid Hill Park

Traffic in the vicinity of Druid Hilll Park is expected to be tied up for much of the day Saturday as a result of Sone Soul Picnic, a music  festival that is expected to draw  more than 100,000 people.

That complicates life for staff, volunteers and visitors attempting to reach the Maryland Zoo, located in the park. Jane Ballentine, a zoo spokeswoman, warns that the only effective way to reach the zoo willl be via the park's Greenspring Avenue entrance. Most other entrances will be closed off.

 

Detour signs will be in place, but Ballentine asked Getting There to post the route. We're happy to do so:

Take I-83 to Exit 9 B – Coldspring Lane West
Follow Coldspring Lane approximately 0.6 miles to the traffic light at Greenspring Avenue
Turn LEFT onto Greenspring Avenue. 
Follow Greenspring Avenue approximately 1.3 miles
Go straight at the corner of Greenspring Avenue and Druid Park Lake Drive to enter Druid Hill Park .
Follow the road and turn left at the 4th road (the Old Reptile House will be on your right)
The Zoo parking lot will be on your right.

 

Posted by Michael Dresser at 12:12 PM |
Categories: On the roads
        

August 12, 2010

Get breaking news on traffic, transit here

Has a four-vehicle crash closed the Jones Falls Expressway? Did a light rail train jump the tracks? Are hundreds of passengers stranded on a MARC train?

You can find out fast by receiving text message alerts from The Baltimore Sun's Breaking News Desk. Just click here to sign up to receive traffic alerts and other news as it happens. These are not routine announcements or advisories about everyday congestion but the type of major developments that can help commuters get to home or work faster.

There is no charge for the service from The Sun, though standard test-message charges from cell phone providers may apply.

 

Posted by Michael Dresser at 5:28 PM |
        

Commuter wonders: Why no crosswalk at station?

Jim Nelson of Towson has the following question for the city Department of Transportation. It's a good one, and Getting There hopes to get a reply from the city soon.

As a daily MARC train commuter to Washington, DC, I make my way to Penn Station on foot via W. Oliver Street, crossing over N. Charles Street to get to the station.  Many other rail riders do this as well.


The hazardous nature of crossing N. Charles, particularly in the afternoon, is the reason the reason for this message.  Typically, people exiting the station walking toward homes and parking garages to the west, literally have to sprint across the busy street, through gaps in fast-moving traffic.  Obviously, this is very dangerous; particularly, for seniors and children.

Has the City ever considered placing a pedestrian crosswalk and light at this location?  If not, why?  If so, why hasn't a pedestrian crossing been situated there?  Given that our Penn Station is one of the busiest passenger rail terminals in the country, with an annual total ridership of over 1 million, it would seem appropriate that those who forego the use of their cars subsequently be permitted to safely cross the street once they get off the train.

Posted by Michael Dresser at 1:04 PM | | Comments (8)
        

Most storm-related delays in D.C. area

The band of storms that rolled through the state this morning closed roads and knocked down trees but the Baltimore area was spared the worst of the damage, said State Highway Administration spokesman Dave Buck.

Buck said that as of about 10:30 a.m. the SHA had aboout 15 roads closed for high water or downed trees but that most were in Montgomery and Prince George's counties. He said there were some problems with downed trees along Falls Road in northern Baltimore County but that major state roads in Anne Arundel and Howard counties were largely spared.

Posted by Michael Dresser at 10:48 AM |
Categories: On the roads
        

August 11, 2010

Interstate 70 eastbound reopened after crash

All lanes  of eastbound Interstate 70 have reopened after been closed as a result of a five vehicle crash at U.S. 29 in Howard County in which a truck hauling landscape equipment ran up onto a guardrail and into a pole, leaving a sign in structurally unsafe condition.

State Highway Administration spokesman Dave Buck said three passenger cars and two trucks were involved in a crash about 7:15 a.m. that backed up traffic on I-70 for 7 miles. Buck said that after  the crash was cleared and traffic emptied out, highway officials closed all three lanes of the eastbound highway at U.S. 40 near Turf Valley to let state engineers  remove the sign.

Traffic was expected to be diverted onto U.S. 40 for about two hours. According to the Maryland State Police, one person was injured in the crash and was transported to Howard County General Hospital.

UPDATE: The massive sign, 60 feet across, directing drivers to the lanes for either getting off on 29 or staying on I-70,  has been removed and the highway is expected to reopen soon. A contractor will rehang the sign after its support structure has been repaired.

Photo/State Highway Administration

 

Posted by Michael Dresser at 11:33 AM | | Comments (1)
Categories: On the roads
        

August 10, 2010

O'Malley supports Purple Line, dodges on gas tax

It was no accident that Gov. Martin O’Malley wore a purple tie to his campaign event in Silver Spring this morning.

The governor met with about two dozen small business owners and other voters at the Tastee Diner in this Montgomery County community to discuss his approach to transit issues -- and to underscore his support for a light rail project known as the Purple Line and the opposition of former Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr. to it.

While O’Malley launched no new verbal missiles at his prospective Republican opponent, he used the Purple Line issue to underscore a stark policy difference between the two.

Ehrlich has said he would scrap the O’Malley administration’s roughly $1.6 billion plan to build a light rail line between Bethesda and New Carrollton, saying the state can’t afford it. O’Malley cast that position an an example of a retrun to the past -- a central theme of his re-election campaign.

“For whatever reason, Bob Ehrlich has decided to turn back the clock and take Maryland back,” O'Malley said. “I think it shows a contrast between the way the two of us look at the future.”

But Andy Barth, a spokesman for the Ehrlich campaign, said O'Malley's promises to build the Purple Line and Baltimore's Red Line light rail systems would not move the state forward.

"It would be nice to build every transportation project that comes up, but Bob Ehrlich wants to be honest with the voters and the money to do those projects doesn't exist," Barth said. The spokesman said Ehrlich would consider a rapid bus system, which he said would be much cheaper to build, along the proposed route of the Purple Line.

The governor’s meeting with the business group -- largely made up of pro-O’Malley Purple Line supporters -- was relatvely light on campaign rhetoric and heavy on the detail-oriented policy discussions O’Malley clearly revels in.

The topics reflected the concerns of a group that depends heavily on transit to bring employees to the workplace and customers to their places of business. In addition to the Purple Line, topics included the performance of Washington’s Metro system and the perception that Montgomery County receives less than its fair share of transportation funding.

O’Malley avoided taking the bait on that point.

“When we’re in Baltimore, the allegation is the Washington suburbs get more money for transportation,” he said. The governor said he hopes to see Metro adopt “transparent” performance measures and to make them public through a system similar to his administration’s web-based StateStat program.

On Metro, O’Malley promised to push for more effective leadership of an organization that has been criticized for poor service and a lax approach to safety.

“What Metro doesn’t have is stable leadership at the top right now,” he said.

The governor boasted that his administration has made a real difference in transportation funding -- increasing the share of the pie for transit by 9 percentage points over the Ehrlich years for what O’Malley called “a more balanced transportation system.”

But Barth said the state needs a better balance between new projects and upkeep of current infrastructure.

"We strongly think we should spend money to fix what's broken -- the things that are wrong with Metro and MARC," he said.

O’Malley punted on the politically volatile issue of the gasoline tax, which some transportation infrastructure advocates believe will have to be raised to finance any major new projects. Declining to commit one way or another, he expressed the hope that a recovering economy will lead to a surge in transportation revenue.

The Ehrlich campaign took a far more categorial position. Barth said Ehrlich "has no plans to raise the gas tax for the length of his term."

Silver Spring is considerd to be friendly territory for O’Malley in many ways. It is a transit hub, a role that would only increase if the Purple Line is built. And its downtown has undergone a remarkable renaisance in the last decade -- becoming something of a showpiece for the “smart growth” policies O’Malley has embraced.

Montgomery County is expected to be one of the keys to this year’s expected OMalley-Ehrlich rematch. The Democrat trounced Ehrlich in Maryland’s most populous county in 2006, garnering 63 percent of the vote, and the Republican is hoping to at least hold down O'Malley’s winning percentage there this year.

O’Malley’s pitch resonated with some of the small business owners -- a group Ehrlich has targeted with pledges to cut regulation and hold down taxes. But for Dan Meijer, owner of Danco Electronic Service Specialists in Silver Spring and a Purple Line supporter, the transit issue trumped those appeals.

“It’s just wonderful that we have a Governor O’Malley in office,” Meijer said. “His vision is long-term rather than short-term political gain.”

Posted by Michael Dresser at 2:31 PM | | Comments (1)
        

O'Malley supports Purple Line, dodges on gas tax

It was no accident that Gov. Martin O’Malley wore a purple tie to his campaign event in Silver Spring this morning.

The governor met with about two dozen small business owners and other voters at the Tastee Diner in this Montgomery County community to discuss his approach to transit issues -- and to underscore his support for a light rail project known as the Purple Line and the opposition of former Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr. to it.

While O’Malley launched no new verbal missiles at his prospective Republican opponent, he used the Purple Line issue to underscore a stark policy difference between the two.

Ehrlich has said he would scrap the O’Malley administration’s plan to build a light rail line between Bethesda and New Carrollton, saying the state can’t afford it. O’Maley cast that position an an example of a retrun to the past -- a central theme of his re-election campaign.

“For whatever reason, Bob Ehrlich has decided to turn back the clock and take Maryland back,” OMalley said. “I think it shows a contrast between the way the two of us look at the future.”

The governor’s meeting with the business group -- largely made up of pro-O’Malley Purple Line supporters -- was relatvely light on campaign rhetoric and heavy on the detail-oriented policy discussions O’Malley clearly revels in.

The topics reflected the concerns of a group that depends heavily on transit to bring employees to the workplace and customers to their laces of business. In addition to the Purple Line, topics included the performance of Washington’s Metro system and the perception that Montgomery County receives less than its fair share of transportation funding.

O’Malley avoided taking the bait on that point.

“When we’re in Baltimore, the allegation is the Washington suburbs get more money for transportation,” he said. The governor said he hopes to see Metro adopt “transparent” performance measures and to make them public through a system similar to his administration’s web-based StateStat program.

On Metro, O’Maley promised to push for more effective leadership of an organization that has been criticized for poor service and a lax approach to safety.

“What Metro doesn’t have is stable leadership at the top right now,” he said.

The governor boasted that his administration has made a real difference in transportation funding -- increasing the share of the pie for transit by 9 percentage points over the Ehrlich years for what O’Malley called “a more balanced transportation system.”

But O’Malley punted on the politically volatile issue of the gasoline tax, which some transportation infrastructure advocates believe will have to be raised to finance any major new projects. Declining to commit one way or another, he expresed the hope that a recovering economy will lead to a surge in transportation revenue.

Silver Spring is considerd to be friendly territory for O’Malley in many ways. It is a transit hub, a role that would only increase if the Purple Line is built. And its downtown has undergone a remarkable renaisance in the last decade -- becoming something of a showpiece for the “smart growth” policies O’Malley has embraced.

Montgomery County is expected to be one of the keys to this year’s expected OMalley-Ehrlich rematch. The Democrat trounced Ehrlich in Maryland’s most populous county in 2006, and the Republican is hoping to at least hold down OMalley’s winning percentage there this year.

O’Maley’s pitch resonated with some of the small business owners -- a group Ehrlich has targeted with pledges to cut regulation and hold down taxes. But for Dan Meijer, owner of Danco Electronic Service Specialists in Silver Spring and a Purple Line supporter, the transit issue trumped those appeals.

“It’s just wonderful that we have a Governor O’Malley in office,” Meijer said. “His vision is long-term rather than short-term political gain.”

Posted by Matthew Hay Brown at 12:46 PM |
        

August 9, 2010

Concert expected to jam downtown traffic

The city Department of Transportation is warning that drivers can expect heavy traffic downtown tomorrow night when the Black-Eyed Peas appear in concert at First Mariner Arena at 7:30 p.m.

City officials expect traffic to be heavy during the evening peak travels hours -- particularly on Lombard, Baltimore and Howard streets. Concert-goers are being urged to use transit, including light rail, the Metro and the Charm City Circulator bus.

 

Posted by Michael Dresser at 2:29 PM |
Categories: On the roads
        

August 6, 2010

SHA reports progress at Charles and Beltway

The State Highway Administration reports that progress on its bridge replacement project at the Beltway and Charles Street will let it remove some of the confusing traffic patterns it had instituted during earlier phases of  construction.

Starting Monday at 5 a.m. crews will reopen an Outer Loop middle lane, eliminating the "split" that forced drivers to go to either the right or left of the work area near the bridge over the light rail. The reopening may be preceded by overnight closures on the westbound Beltway and the ramp to Interstate 83.

Next Wednesday, the SHA will remove the traffic split on the eastbound Inner Loop over the light rail. That reopening, too, could be preceded by an overnight closure -- this one on the eastbound Beltway.

Next week will also bring the reopening Tuesday at 5 a.m. of a ramp from the Bellona Avenue roundabout to the westbound Beltway and northbound I-83. At the same time, to make way for ramp reconstruction, the SHA will begin a two-week closing of the right-turn loop ramp from northbound Charles Street to the westbound Beltway.

Drivers heading fron northbound Charles to the westbound Beltway will have to stay left on Charles and use the roundabout to the Bellona Avenue ramp. The agency is urging motorists traveling from Lutherville to the westbound Beltway to avoid  the roundabout and use the York Road interchange during the closure.

Posted by Michael Dresser at 5:59 PM |
Categories: On the roads
        

Howard Street Tunnel to reopen this evening

CSX Transportation has finished the removal of derailed cars from the Howard Street Tunnel and is expected to resume rail traffic through it by this evening, according to a railroad spokesman.

Thirteen cars of a 79-car freight train left the tracks Thursday in the tunnel and outside its northern portal at Mount Royal Avenue for reasons yet to be determined, said CSX spokesman Bob Sullivan. With the cars removed, he said, railroad officials were repairing and inspecting the tracks to prepare for a resumption of traffic.

Sullivan acknowledged that the incident had disrupted north-south traffic on the CSX line, for which the single-tracked Baltimore Tunnel is a significant bottleneck. But the spokesman said CSX was working with customers to reroute some trains, though they would have to swing far to the west to get through.

In 2001, East Coast freight traffic was disrupted more than a week after cars carrying hazardous chemicals derailed and caught on fire.

 

Posted by Michael Dresser at 4:34 PM |
Categories: Amtrak/intercity railroads
        

Warning, speeders: Refrain on South Rolling Road

After a couple of serious crashes on South Rolling Road in Catonsville, police are stepping up enforcement of the 30-mph speed limit in the residential section between Frederick Avenue and Catonsvillle Community College.

Neighborhood residents have been agitating for various traffic-calming measures  over concerns  that  motorists are speeding through the area and  endangering children, pets, pedestrians, local drivers and  themselves. The State  Highway Administration is considering various measures to slow speeds on the road.

Until then, residents report that the Baltimore County police have intensified enforcement in the area. Local resident Martin Haggerty reports having recently seen police writing 6 tickets in a 90-minute time span in front of his house.

As one of those Howard County residents who uses this road as a cut-through to  get around traffic (sorry, folks, that's my right), I can attest that it is no place for excessive speeds. Though it is  designated as state Route 166, it is a winding, two-lane road through a residential neighborhood.  Several schools are nearby, as well as bus stops. But many drivers tear along at 45 mph or more -- a reckless speed for that road.

One can only hope that the stepped-up enforcement cuts those. Otherwise, South Rolling might just be an excellent candidate for a school zone designation -- and one of those  dreaded speed cameras.

 

 

Posted by Michael Dresser at 11:43 AM | | Comments (6)
Categories: On the roads
        

Pratt Street work gets into full swing

The city Department of Transportation's Pratt Street rebuilding project goes into full swing next week with round-the-clock double-lane closures between Greene and Calvert streets.

The closures of two of Pratt Street's four lanes will begiin at 5 a.m. Monday. The work -- a full concrete replacement aboveground and utility work below -- is being expedited to prepare city streets for the Grand Prix auto race planned for downtown next August.

City  officials are urging motorists to use Mulberry and Baltimore streets as alternative routes. Getting There suggests that if one's destination is to the east of Central Avenue, using Mulberry and the Orleans Street bridge might be the better choice even if it means driving a few more blocks. Though the city has put parking and stopping restrictions in place on Baltimore Street, Baltimore drivers are notorious for ignoring such signs. And does anyone honestly think delivery trucks will stop double-parking because of some silly signs? That's about as likely as a police officer ticketing UPS.

The city will have trafffic  enforcement officers deployed  to help direct motorists around the construction project, but their ranks have been depleted by the city's budget woes. So don't expect too much help.

 

 

Posted by Michael Dresser at 11:00 AM |
Categories: On the roads
        

August 5, 2010

MARC Penn Line schedule to change

The Maryland Transit Administration said it will modify its Penn Line schedule Aug. 9 as Amtrak's project to replace concrete railroad ties move to a new section. The new schedule has been posted at the MTA's web site, http://www.mta.maryland.gov/, and at MARC stations.

The MTA said Amtrak has completed work on a stretch of track between New Carrollton and north of Halethorpe and will move to a new section.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Here are the changes reported by the MTA:

Northbound Trains: 

Train 400 will depart Washington and all stations to Baltimore eleven minutes 

earlier at 5:51am. 

Train 506 is renumbered as Train 504.  There are no time changes to this train. 

Train 402 will add a stop at Odenton and Train 504 will add a stop at Bowie State. 

Train 406, the 7:20am non-stop express from Washington to Baltimore Penn 

Station is restored. 

Train 408 will depart Washington and all stations to Baltimore five minutes later 

at 7:37am. 

Train 410 will depart Washington and all stations to Baltimore five minutes 

earlier at 8:20am. 

Train 416 will depart Washington and all stations to Baltimore ten minutes earlier 

at 10:30am. Train 426 will depart Washington and all stations to Baltimore five minutes later 

at 3:25pm. 

Train 450 will depart Washington and New Carrollton five minutes earlier at 5:10 

and 5:20pm, respectively. 

Train 436 will depart Washington and all stations to Baltimore five minutes 

earlier at 5:35pm. 

Train 538 will depart Washington and all stations to Perryville two minutes later 

at 6:15pm. 

Train 440 will depart Washington and all stations to Baltimore three minutes later 

at 6:40pm. 

 

Southbound Trains: 

Train 405 will depart Baltimore and all stations to Washington two minutes 

earlier at 5:50am. 

Train 417 will depart Baltimore and all stations to Washington seven minutes 

earlier at 8:10am. 

Train 419 will depart Baltimore and all stations to Washington nine minutes 

earlier at 9:05am. 

Train 521 will depart Perryville at 9:01 (current time), but will depart Baltimore 

and all stations to Washington five minutes earlier at 9:42am. 

The 2:50pm departure from Perryville to Washington will be renumbered as Train 

533 and will depart Perryville fifteen minutes earlier at 2:35pm.  After departing 

Baltimore, Train 533 will only stop at BWI Marshall Airport, New Carrollton and 

Washington. 

The 3:45pm departure from Baltimore to Washington will be renumbered as Train 

435.  It will make all stops to Washington. 

Train 445 will depart Baltimore and all stations to Washington ten minutes earlier 

at 9:05pm. 


Posted by Michael Dresser at 6:07 PM |
Categories: MARC train
        

August 4, 2010

Merchant annoyed by parking restrictions

The city's decision to put parking restrictions on Baltimore Street to clear traffic for motorists bypassing the rebuilding work on Pratt Street has turned downtown merchant Judy Boulmetis into -- pardon me -- a mad hatter.

Boulmetis, co-owner of Hippodrome Hatters on Baltimore Street, called to complain after a meeting with city officials Wednesday during which they explained how they were going about the job of replacing the cement on Pratt in advance of next year's downtown Grand Prix race. She was less than satisfied by the answers she received -- particularly about the decision to bag the parking meters in front of her store without advance notice.

"It does hurt businesses to lose their parking," said Boulmetis after a briefing by deputy city transportation director Jamie Kendrick. She said the parking outside her store was restricted Friday and the meeting was only called Monday.

"Why wasn't there a plan in place? Why wasn't there an effort to meet with the business community?" she asked.

Kendrick said city officials did get Boulmetis' message Wednesday and would take another look at whether the parking curbs nearr her store are needed to maintain the flow of traffic on Baltimore in view of the expected extra traffic shifting over from Pratt.

"If we don't need the restrictions, we'll remove them," Kendrick said.

Michael Evitts, a spokesman for the Downtown Partnership, said he could understand Booulmetis' point but thought the city was listening to downtown business people.

"I give the city a lot of credit," he said. "They've been very pro-active."

Boulmetiis was less impressed.

According to the city, it has expedited certain street work that needed to be done anyway to get ready for the Grand Prix, an Indy-style race car event scheduled for next August at the Inner Harbor and around Camden Yards. The work on Pratt Street, where officials say the concrete is more than 30 years old, is the first phase.

 

 

"This is why businesses move," she said.

 

 

Posted by Michael Dresser at 7:06 PM | | Comments (1)
Categories: On the roads
        

MARC follies: Bulldozed on the Brunswick Line

The MTA's explanation of what went wrong on the Brunswick Line is a typically garbled, but it does illustrate that just about anything can happen on MARC. CSX operates this line, and as far as I know MARC owns no bulldozers, so the MTA is likely innocent in this turn of events.

Last updated: August 04, 6:11 PM
 

Brunswick Line: All trains are operating along a single track between Kensington and Rockville with a bulldozer fouling the other track after losing one of its tracks. Equipment is enroute to the site to move the bulldozer from the track area. Trains are being delayed 5 to 10 minutes moving through this area and may incur additional delay time due to the many freight trains operating in the area.

Brunswick: MARC 877 is operating approx 20 mins late approaching Point of Rocks due to all trains operating along a single track between kensington and Rockville with a bulldozer fouling the other track after losing one of its tracks.

Penn Line and Camden Line riders should wake up every day  and give thanks they aren't putting up the comedy of errors that is the Brunswick.

 

Posted by Michael Dresser at 6:51 PM | | Comments (1)
Categories: MARC train
        

Circulator continues to post gains

The Charm City Circulator, the free city-run shuttle introduced this year, continues to post strong ridership numbers, with more than 160,000 boarding on its two routes in July, according to the Baltimore Department of Transportation.

Meanwhile, the north-south Purple Route became the busier of the two routes, pulling ahead of  the east-west Orange  Route in its first full month in operation. City figures showed 81,887 boardings on the Purple Route and 72,836 on the  Orange.

"We're  thrilled and it's exciting beyond our wildest expectation," said Jamie Kendrick, deputy director of transportation for the city.

The Orange Route, which runs  from Hollins  Market to Central Avenue, was launched in January. The Purple Route, from Penn Station to Ostend Street in South Baltimore, was  inaugurated in June.

Kendrick said the ridership was running at levels more  than  twice  the 2,400-2,800 a day projected  by the city. He said the  Circulator, which had  given 463,000 rides by the end of July,  will likely board  its 500,000th passenger by Aug. 15.

In terms of boardings, the busiest stop on the Purple Route is the Inner Harbor, with 9,081  in July. The busiest on the Orange Route is the Hollins Market, with 7,435. Kendrick said  the high total for the Hollins Market is an indication that many people from that neighborhood are using it instead of Maryland Transit Administration buses.

Kendrick acknowledged that the Circulator had  problems a few  weeks  ago, when temperatures were running in the 90s and above 100, with maintaining its scheduled 10-minute intervals. However, he said a software fix has been found that has alleviated the problem, which had left some riders complaining of waits of a half-hour or more.

 

 

 

Posted by Michael Dresser at 5:10 PM | | Comments (7)
Categories: City bus service
        

August 3, 2010

Odd-looking electric vehicle gets the job done

That was one odd-looking vehicle parked outside Marcus-Boyd Realty in Federal Hill today. Looking like the illegitimate offspring of a golf cart and a passenger car, it was being fueled up through an orange extension cord leading in to the realty company's Light Street office.

A curious  passer-by stopped to use his Blackberry to take pictures of the open-air, four seat vehicle, raising the curiousity of Marcus-Boyd broker and co-founder Will Runnebaum, whi initially thought he was about to be hassled by the city for some imaginary offense.

Once he determined the snoop was a Sun reporter  Runnebaum was more than  happy to rave about the electric-powered vehicle, which his company uses to give customers tours of Federal Hill and nearby neighborhoods.

Made by Chrysller Group Global Electric Motorcars, the GM goes up to 30 mph and has a 30-mile range on a single charge, Runnebaum said. The vehicle is  powered by six marine batteries located under the rear seat. Unlike a hybrid, it uses no gas at  all.

 

Sun photo/Michael Dresser

"They work out great. The clients love it," he  said. "We certainly  hope others will join us in this green project."

Runnebaum said the firm uses two of the vehicles, which he said cost about $15,000 each. He proudly displayed the the license plate designating the one  parked on Light as the 50th slow-moving vehicle licensed in Maryland.

It's not the type of vehicle anybody is going to use to  commute on the interstate, but it's easy  to see how  it would  be useful for specialized purposes in a compact area such as the neighborhoods Marcus-Boyd serves. As Runnebaum demonstrated, the GEM has plenty of zip for city streets, and it can easily maneuver through narrow alleys.

Who else could use such a vehicle? Certain government installations and contained industrial facilities could be a good match, restaurants that deliver in a narrowly defined area, historic sites that offer tours, residents of small islands without major  roads. Use your imagination. The  folks  at Marcus-Boyd did.

Sun photos/Michael Dresser

 

Posted by Michael Dresser at 6:24 PM | | Comments (3)
Categories: On the roads
        

Laborers rally for infrastructure jobs

Several hundred orange-shirtted members of the Labborers International Union of North American rallied in Southwest Baltiimore today to call for increased federal spending on infrastructure projects tp help create jobs for its members and others.

Using the deteriorated Wilkens Avenue bridge over the Gwynns Falls as a backdrop, the union launched a campaign in Maryland to make job creation a  top priority of Maryland's congressional delegation.

The targets of LIUNA's message were Maryland's two Democratic U.S. senators, Barbara A. Mikulski and Benjamin L. Cardin. Union leaders said they generally  view the two senators as staunch allies in job creation efforts but wanted to encourage them to step up as "champions" of efforts to provide financing for public works projects including bridges, highways, rail projects, schools and water and sewer facilities.

Jim Anastase, business manager of Construction Laborers Local 710 in Baltimore, said joblessness  among his  members is running at 24 percent --  the worst in his memory. He  said his membbers had  benefited little from the economic  stimulus because  they tend to work on larger projects that received little money under that prohram, which emphasized smaller, "shovel-ready" programs that would create jobs in the short term.

Laborers officials said they are largely pinning their hopes on enactment of a new transportation authorizatiion bill. Currently the nation's transportation program has been operating on a temporary extension of an expired six-year program.

"Running a highway program by extensions is not the way to do business," said Rod Bennett, adviser to the president of LIUNA.

U.S. Rep. Donna Edwards, who represents Prince George's and Montgomery counties, came to Baltimore  for  the event. The  Democratic congresswoman said the House of Representatives has passed several job creation measures only to see them go nowhere in the  Senate.

"They have been laid to waste in the Senate because Senate  Repubblicans have blocked the way," she said. "They're playing politics with paychecks and we're going to put a  stop to it."

Republican have generally argued that deficit reduction, rather than job creation programs, should be the focus of the U.S. economic strategy.

The Laborers chose the site of the rally largely because of the presence of the bridge, which they identified as one of 372 deficient  spans in Maryland. Adrienne Barnes, a spokeswoman for the city Transportation Department, said Baltimore plans to rehabilitate the  bridge but that it is in line behind other projects.

Maryland is the fourth state in which the Laborers have launched a ccampaign for infrastructure spending. The effort is expected to include billboards in the vicinity of bridges such as the one on Wilkens, as well as  other advertising.

 

Posted by Michael Dresser at 4:42 PM | | Comments (4)
Categories: For policy wonks only
        

Pitcairn friend urges more transit options

Monday's Getting There column in The Sun suggested ways in which the Maryland Transit Administration could make its bus service more attractive to travelers coming in to Penn Station -- especially late at night. That drew the following response from Danielle  Gilkes, a friend of Stephen Pitcairn, the young Johns Hopkins researcher whose murder prompted the column:

Michael:

I am a friend and colleague of Stephen Pitcairn who worked with him at Johns Hopkins. I wanted to say thank you for printing suggestions that could potentially save other people’s lives when traveling within Baltimore. Your ideas for MTA are excellent.

 

I have been trying to get Hopkins officials to consider increasing their transit options. Stephen went to New York by Bolt bus often and would be back in time to catch the Hopkins shuttle from Penn Station to 29th Street (one block south of his residence). I am not sure if he decided to stay late that night or if the bolt bus was somehow delayed. The final Hopkins Shuttle bus Service is 9:30 pm  on Sunday nights (6:30pm on Saturday).  Unfortunately, the afterhours van escort service that Hopkins offers for its employees stops two blocks shy of Penn Station and therefore this was not an option for him.

 I (like you) hope this will initiate change within Baltimore City as well as Hopkins. Please continue to push … I know I will.

Thank You.

Best Regards,

Daniele

COMMENT: Hopkins, like any operator of transit services, has to make rational choices about the hours during which it offers service. The university isn't wrong because it  has  set limits. However, it would be an abdication of responsibility of Hopkins officials didn't re-examine its previous decisions in light of this incident. The best outcome would be if multiple players who serve Penn Station came  up with a creative solution. Perhaps Hopkins could offer vouchers good for taxi fare in lieu of running a late-night shuttle -- or at least do more to educate students and employees on the MTA routes that stop at the station and the need for caution in walking the streets at night.

Posted by Michael Dresser at 3:33 PM | | Comments (4)
        

Proposed ICC bus routes lean one way

The Maryland Transit Administration's proposed bus routes to operate on the Inter-county Connector lean heavily toward bringing workers from homes in the Interstate 270 corridor and Frederick-Hagerstown area to jobs in the Interstate 95 corridor -- with relatively little in the mix for Baltimore-area workers traveling the other way.

The MTA outlined its ICC commuter bus plans at the first of three informational meetings Tuesday night in Laurel. It was a lightly attended, confrontation-free meeting at which MTA officials spent much of their time listening to suggestions from attendees -- especially representatives of employers in the area.

There's a lot to like about the MTA's plans, which go a  fair way toward realizing the promise that the ICC would be a significant mass transit corridor. But the proposal isn't very reassuring for those who hope to see the controversial toll road become a truly two-way road instead of one that carries traffic east in the morning and west in the evening. One of the selling points for the ICC was that it would more firmly bind the two largest regions of  the state together as an economic unit. This plan, while it may be a realistic appraisal of the current market, fails to significantly advance that goal.

In short, Baltimore remains an afterthought.

The MTA proposal would begin unfolding late this year or early next year when the first segment of the ICC -- about 7 miles between Interstate 270 and Georgia Avenue (Route 97) -- opens. It would consist of two routes -- a No. 201 between Gaithersburg and BWI Airport and a No. 202 between Gaithersburg and Fort Meade. Both would follow the course of the first ICC segment and then use parallel older routes for the rest of the journey. When the second phase, which will take the ICC all the way from I-270 to I-95, opens in late 2011  or early 2012, the buses will take the speedier trip on the toll road's full length.

The 201 route is in some ways an exciting development. It  would operate seven days a week, with 14 round trips a day, at a relatively modest $5 one-way fare and  generous discounts for commuters. This opens up a transit gateway between northern Montgomery and BWI that doesn't  exist now, but the destinations are stacked in favor of Montgomery-Frederick residents and against those who live in Baltimore. That's because the I-270 corridor residents are given a real destination -- BWI -- while the stops in Montgomery County are mostly park-and-ride lots instead of actual employment centers. Yes, westbound commuters will be able to make connections with Montgomery bus  routes and the Metro at Shady Grove, but that makes for a grueling journey on an everyday basis.

The 202 route to Fort Meade is a 5-day-a-week route that is explicity designed to carry Montgomery commuters to the fort in the morning and home in the evening. There's little doubt this will be a useful route, particularly because  the MTA and the Army have worked out security issues so the buses will be able to deliver workers to on-base stops. One can hope the MTA finds a way to use that newfound access to benefit Baltimore-area commuters who take some of the growing numbers of jobs coming to the fort because of base restructuring. But  there are no plans to do so now. Perhaps the combination of MARC and shuttle vans will suffice. But  it would be useful to have that discussion.

Routes 203, 204 and 205 would all open when the ICC is complete from I-270 and I-95 (a final sgment from I-95 to U.S. 1 has been postponed).

Route 203 would operate from Columbia to Bethesda and would highly useful for Howard County residents with jobs in the I-270 corridor at such places as the Naval Medical Center and the National Institutes of Health. It's a two-way, five-day-a-week service between two major employments centers and should be highly successful. What is questionable is how much it will attract riders from parts of the Baltimore region other than Howard County. Would many people drive to a park-and-ride in Columbia to take a bus? Could the ICC support another route from a  point closer to Baltimore to Bethesda? Baltimore transportation leaders should press the MTA for answers.

Routes 204 from Urbana to College Park and 205  from Greenbelt Metro to Germantown are peak-hour services that will take mostly shuttle people between PPrince  Geoorge's and  Montgomery counties.  Neither will have much effect on Baltimore-area commuters. The 204 route seems to me to be well-conceived, delivering riders to such workplaces as the Food and Drug Administration in White Oak and UM in College Park. The five-day Route 205 is  explicitly aimed at getting Priince George's residents  to jobs in the I-270 corridor. And it's hard to envision many Baltimore  commutters taking the MARC Camden Line to Muirkirk and picking up the 205.

What seems to be missing is any attempt to connect Baltimore wiith the high-paying jobs that abound along I-270 -- or to give  Baltimore employers access to the talent pool in Montgomery. The MARC train shows there's a lot of people who want to work in the Washington area but take advantage of the lower cost of housing in Baltimore.

Why not a two-way express route departing Camden Yards for White Flint and the National Institutes of Health in Bethesda? (Ben Ross, president of the Action Committee for Transit, thinks it would be more practical to feed into the Shady Grove Metro and let riders transfer there. He knows Montgomery a lot better than I do.).

This is admittedly a seat-of-the-pants criticque from a Baltimore-centric source.  It would be much better to get active  participation from Baltimore-area transit advocates when the MTA holds its final meeting on the plan Wednesday night at the Spring Hill Suites at 7544 Teague Road in Hanover, near BWI.

At Monday night's meeting, there were no prominent  transit advocates in sight. Many of them opposed the ICC and remain bitter over its approval. But it's a fact of life now, and we'd better make the best of it. It's time for former ICC foes to stop sulking and become advocates again -- this time for the best possible transit on the ICC.

 

 

Posted by Michael Dresser at 10:01 AM | | Comments (4)
        

Thieves' favorite ride? Cadillac Escalade

It's a peculiar form of honor, but America's car thieves have voted with their felonious feet to make the Cadillac Escalade No. 1 on the nation's most stolen list, according to the Highway Loss Data Institute.

The luxury SUV ranked first  with overall theft losses of $128 per  insured vehicle  per year -- compared with an average for all vehicles  of $14.  The theft losses  figure rises to $146 for the  Escalade EXT 4-door, 4-wheel-drive version.

Large luxury SUVs were favorites among car thieves. Among the others on the Top 10 most-stolen list were the Hummer H2 four-wheel drive, the Nissan Pathfinder Armada,  the Chevrolet Avalanche and the GMC Yukon.

Bloomberg News photo

Large pickup trucks were also much prized by the grand theft auto crowd. No. 2 on the theft-loss list was the Ford F-250 crew four-wheel drive. The Chevrolet Silverado came in at No. 9. Kim Hazelbaker, senior vice president of the institute, said big work trucks such as the Ford F-250 are attractive to thieves not only for their own value but also for the tools and cargo they often carry.

While it isn't stolen all that often, the Chevroler Corvette Z06 made the list because of its extraordinarily high average insurance payment -- $41,229.

Other favorite targets of thieves were the Infiniti G37 two-door and the Dodge Charger HEMI.

Showing that safety isn't a big priority among thieves, the institute ranked the Volvo S80, a large luxury car, as the lowest in theft losses. In a virtual tie were the Saturn VUE 4WD, Nissan Murano, and the regular Saturn VUE.

Mileage doesn't appear to be a big selling point -- or is it stealing point? -- among ride-grabbers. The hybrid  Toyota Prius made the Bottom 10, as did the  Mini Cooper. Other minimally stolen cars includes the  Honda Pilot 4WD, the Subaru Impreza, the  Toyota Tacoma double 4WS and the Toyota Sienna 4WD.

It does appear that the nation's car thieves have a red, white and blue streak -- or at least they prefer to Steal American. All of the models in the bottom 10 are made by foreign-based car  companies. Eight of the top 10 were made by the U.S. Big Three.

Unlike other rankings of most-stolen cars, the institute weights its rankings by the number of vehicles on the road.

 

Posted by Michael Dresser at 12:01 AM | | Comments (1)
Categories: On the roads
        

August 2, 2010

BWI sets June passenger record

Baltimore-Washington International Thurgood Marshall Airport set a record for June traffic this year as 2,085,293 commercial passengers passed through the airport that month, according to the Maryland Aviation Administration. That total represents an 8.9 percent increase over June 2009.

It was the second-busiest month ever at BWI, falling just short of the record set in August 2001 -- the month before 9/11 sent the airline industry into a  prolonged slump.

More than half of BWI's June passengers -- 1,111,896 -- flew on Southwest Airlines, which tallied a 14.9 percent increase over the previous year. Southwest is now making 182 daily departures from BWI, its highest level since it began operations there.

AirTran, BWI's second-busiest carrier, posted a 9.9 percent increase in passengers for June.

 

 

Posted by Michael Dresser at 11:55 AM |
Categories: Air travel
        
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About Michael Dresser
Michael Dresser has been an editor, reporter and columnist with The Sun longer than Baltimore's had a subway. He's covered retailing, telecommunications, state politics and wine. Since 2004, he's been The Sun's transportation writer. He lives in Ellicott City with his wife and travel companion, Cindy.

His Getting There column appears on Mondays. Mike's blog will be a forum for all who are interested in highways, transit and other transportation issues affecting Baltimore, Maryland and the region.
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