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January 31, 2011

Light rail resumes normal operations

The Maryland Transit Administration has resumed normal operations on its light rail service after an incident in which an SUV slid off the Jones Falls Expressway and landed near the tracks in the vicinity of Northern Parkway.

MTA spokesman David Clark landed on its roof near the tracks between the Cold Spring Lane and Mount Washington stations just south of Northern Parkway. He said no trains were damaged by the crash, though service was briefly interrupted so police could complete rescue operations. For a time, the trains operated on a single track at reduced speeds around the crash site.

Clark said he had no information  on the condition of any occupants of the SUV. H said the crash was being handled by the Baltimore Police Department rather than the MTA police.


Posted by Michael Dresser at 6:55 PM | | Comments (0)
Categories: Light rail

How does your road look after the snow?

One would think that after dealing with three snowstorms of more than 20 inches each last winter, the measly 6-12 that fell on Maryland last week would be a breeze for local road authorities. But Getting There is hearing some buzz that there are still roads in the region where snow plows have yet to make an impression.

Please let us know about  the  state of  the streets in your neighborhood. Have the plows been through at all? Were the roads cleared but a hard pack left behind on the road surface? Are  you looking at bare pavement? We might want to follow up with an interview, so if you'd like to talk, send contact information to


Posted by Michael Dresser at 1:07 PM | | Comments (10)
Categories: On the roads

Light rail service to Hunt Valley briefly interrupted

The Maryland Transit Administration is working to get its light rail system back on schedule after an open circuit-breaker stopped service to the northern end of the line.

 MTA spokesman Terry Owens said the problem started about 9:30 a.m. when the circuit-breaker problem was detected at the Pepper Road substation. He said a crew was dispatched and fixed the circuit breaker at 9:58 a.m. During that time, service from Pepper Road north to to Hunt Valley was interrupted, Owens said.

Posted by Michael Dresser at 10:45 AM | | Comments (0)
Categories: Light rail

Bus, Metro riders' top gripe is on-time performance

Lateness was the No. 1 concern of riders on the Maryland Transit Administration's local bus system and Metro subway -- whether they were satisfied with the service or not --  according to a survey conducted by the Central Maryland Transportation Alliance.

The group's interim  report on the first three months of its "Rate Your Ride" survey found that Metro customers are significantly more pleased with their service than bus riders. On a scale in which a 1 indicated excellence and a 4 "major problems," riders rated the Metro 2.0 and the bus service 2.8.

The alliance received more than 4,000 responses to its survey via its web page and text messages. While  it sought responses from riders of all the MTA's  services, the group said it did not have enough responses from riders of MARC commuter trains, the light rail system and Mobility cabs and vans to include them in their results in the interim report.

The survey found that 87 percent of Metro riders use the system, which runs from Owings  Mills to Johns Hopkins Hospital, to go to and from work, while the reasons for using the bus system are much more varied.

When asked to rate the reasons for their ratings of  the  system, bus riders overwhelmingly pointed to on-time performance as their chief concern whether they gave the MTA high ratings or low. Subway riders who were happy with the system cited on-time performance  at roughly five times the rate of those who were dissatisfied. Unhappy bus riders were twice as likely to point to on-time performance as a concern than the satisfied ones.

Other top concerns of the dissatisfied bus riders were rude drivers, skipped stops and a general  feeling of discomfort. Among satisfied riders, however, the second-leading reason given for the high rating was friendly drivers. The number of riders praising the friendly drivers outnumbered those complaining about their rude counterparts  by 241 to 172.

The survey also sought to identify the bus routes with the most and fewest problems, as rated by all riders and by city public school systems. The highest-rated routes among all riders were 310. 120 and 411 -- express lines from the outer suburbs. Students gave their  highest  ratings to Routes, 33, 22, 64, 35, 91, 51 and 54.

The worst-rated bus routes among all riders were Nos. 77, 55, 15 and 27.  Students gave their lowest marks to Routes 27, 36, 21, 15, 5, 19, 8 and 40.

Michelle L. Whelley, president of the transportation alliance, said her group will work with the MTA and the Citizens Planning and Housing Association to identify remedies for the problems of the most troubled routes. She said the alliance's survey responses have already prompted the MTA to take corrective measures on Route 77.

Whelley said the survey will continue through May and that the group will produce a final report in June. She said efforts are being made to increase the sample of users of other MTA services.

Posted by Michael Dresser at 12:01 AM | | Comments (13)

January 28, 2011

Woman killed in 2nd Arundel hit-and-run in 24 hours

A Glen Burnie woman was killed by a hit-and-run driver Thursday night in the second such fatality in Anne Arundel County within 24 hours, according to police.

Meanwhile, police reported that the vehicle involved in the earlier death had been located and that a person was in custody.

In the most recent incident, officers found the body of Dawn Lynn Gable, 43, of the 200 block of Cross Creek Drive lying in the area of Cross Creek and Highlander drives about 10:17 p.m., police said. Gable had suffered massive trauma and was pronounced dead at the scene.

 Police said Gable’s body was apparently dragged east on Cross Creek Drive. No witnesses have been found, and police had no suspects and no information on a suspect’s vehicle except that it was black.

 Early Thursday morning. Richard Francis Oles, 77, of Pasadena was killed as he walked along Mountain Road in an incident they said was related to the overnight snowfall. Police said that the driver of the vehicle that hit him, described as a red Ford F350 pickup with a snow plow attachment, left the scene without stopping.

Lt. Michael Brothers of the county police said Friday afternoon that the vehicle had been located and that a “person of interest” was in custody. That investigation was continuing.

Anyone with information about the Glen Burnie incident is asked to call the traffic safety section at 410-222-8573 or 410-222-8577. Brothers said police had not yet determined whether that death was snow-related.

Posted by Michael Dresser at 5:35 PM | | Comments (0)
Categories: On the roads

GBC chief says state has lost way on transportation

Donald C. Fry, president of the Greater Baltimore Committe, has written an opinion article for Central Maryland that makes many of the same points made in a Jan. 16 Getting There column earlier this month about raids on the state's Transportation Trust Fund.

In it, he looks to the history of such raids in the 40 years since the trust fund was established and calls for a constitutional amendment to protect the fund from future diversions.

Personally, I don't see an amendment happening unless as part of some grand bargain that helps solve this year's budget shortfall. Even then, it's a long shot.


Posted by Michael Dresser at 4:48 PM | | Comments (0)

City's snow emergency still in effect

The Baltimore Department of Transportation has put out the word that its first-phase snow emergency plan remains in effect even though many of the city's main routes were cleared this morning.

The city reminded drivers that vehicles traveling on city roadways have to be equipped with chains, snow tires or all-weather radials. It said many streets remain slippery and urged drivers to show caution and to avoid following other vehicles too closely.



Posted by Michael Dresser at 12:40 PM | | Comments (0)
Categories: On the roads

January 27, 2011

Where the worst backups were

The State Highway Administration has released a short list of the worst of the worst backups that bedeviled drivers Wednesday night and early Thursday morning. The list does not include the Jones Falls Expressway in Baltimore, one of the most severely affected roads, because it is maintained by the city Department of Transportation.

Prudent motorists will file these locations away mentally because the same characteristics that turned them into parking lots could crop up again in a future snowstorm. In particular, drivers should be wary about getting on the JFX any time it's rush hour and there's snow in the forecast. You have a windy road that is one long bridge, with no shoulders for emergency vehicles to get through in some place -- and it's uphill from President Street to Baltimore County.

Drivers should also be aware that Interstate 70 at Route 27 in Mt. Airy seems to be the place for tractor-trailers to go to crash. And the hill at Braddock Heights isn't going to get any less steep.

Here's the list:

• I-695 between Reisterstown Road and Loch Raven Boulevard and I-83 between Padonia and Ruxton roads (creating residual delays and closures along I-83 in Baltimore City (JFX)). SHA worked together with Maryland State Police to tow a total of 46 disabled passenger vehicles and seven tractor trailers.

o Nine disabled vehicles were removed from I-83 between I-695 and Ruxton Road
• I-95/I-495 north of the Woodrow Wilson Bridge where 17 tractor trailers were disabled and removed from the travel lanes.
• I-95/I-495 at the American Legion Bridge was closed as a result of a total of four jack-knifed tractor trailers between approximately 7 – 11 p.m.
• Eastbound and westbound I-70 at Braddock Mountain west of Frederick, where dozens of tractor trailers were stuck and caused a major back up.  Most significant impacts were along Westbound I-70, where the road was closed at US 40 to free tractor trailers by backing them down the grade of Braddock Mountain one by one.
• EB I-70 near MD 27 was closed between approximately 5 p.m. and 11 p.m. and WB I-70 at
MD 27 and MD 94 closed between approximately 5 pm. and 2 a.m.  This incident involved dozens of disabled tractor trailers, which subsequently trapped passenger vehicles.

The list is far from complete. I understand there were also serious, hours-long backups on such roads as U.S. 40 at the Patapsco River and on U.S. 29 in Montgomery County. Where else diid people sit in traffiic  for hours at a time?


Posted by Michael Dresser at 12:27 PM | | Comments (8)
Categories: On the roads

Pedestrian killed along snowy highway in hit-run

The snowstorm contributed to at least one fatality overnight as a 77-year-old man walking along an Anne Arundel County road was struck and killed by an apparent hit-and-run driver.

Richard Francis Oles of Pasadena was killed about 2:36 a.m. Thursday when he was struck as he was walking along Mountain Road near the Brumwell's Flea Market, Anne Arundel County police said.

According to police, Oles was walking in the roadway because plowed snow prevented him from using the sidewalk or the shoulder. He was taken to Baltimore-Washington Medical Center, where he was pronounced dead at 3:30 a.m.

Police are seeking a vehicle described as possible a red Ford 350 pickup truck with a snow plow. The vehicle, which did not remain at the scene, was last seen traveling east on Mountain Road, police said.

The investigation is still under way. Police asked anyone with information about the crash to call 410-222-8573 0r 410-222-8610.


Posted by Michael Dresser at 9:33 AM | | Comments (0)
Categories: On the roads

SHA reports 'dramatic improvement' on roads

The State Highway Admoinistration is reporting much better conditions on state roads compared with those in the early morning hours, when it was still clearing up serious backups in the worst-hit areas of the state.

"it's a dramatic improvement on six hours ago," said SHA spokeswoman Lora Rakowski in an interview about 9 a.m. at the SHA's emergency operations center in Hanover.

Rakowski said many abandoned vehicles remain along state highways, with dozens in the area around the Beltway and Reisterstown Road -- the scene of one of the worst backups that affected Wednesday night's homeard commute.

Rakowski said some of the worst trouble spots overnight -- in addition to the Beltway at Reisterstown -- were along Interstate 70 at Route 180 in the Myersville area of Frederick County, along Interstate 270, Interstate 83 in Hereford and the American Legion Bridge on the Potomac River.

The spokeswoman said some of the toughest digging is occurring in the northern tier counties of Carroll, Baltimore, Harford  and Cecil where the accunulations of snow were greatest. She said thatin some cases the snow is too deep to plow and will have to be hauled out by front-end loader.

Posted by Michael Dresser at 9:10 AM | | Comments (0)
Categories: On the roads

MTA offers limited bus service; light rail delayed

The Maryland Transit Administration says it is providing only limited local bus service this morning because many streets remain impassable. Meanwhile the light rail system is experiencing 30-minute delays in trains from the southern ends of the system at BWI Airport and Cromwell Station.

 Here's the word on the buses:

 Local Bus Emergency News & Service Update

Last updated: January 27, 8:25 AM MTA local bus is operating with limited service. Customers should expect major delays. As roads become more accessible, additional routes will be added.

 The following routes are open: 1, 3, 5, 7, 8,10,13, 14, 15, 16, 17, 19, 20, 21, 23, 29, 33, 35, 40, 44, 48, 52,53, 54, 56, 57, 77


View from SHA operations center looks good

At the State Highway Administration Emergency Operations Center in Hanover, where I'm sitting now, one can view video feeds of traffic conditions around the state. For the most part, conditions are looking remarkably good considering the ferocity of Wednesday night's snowstorm.

Traffic appears to be light in most parts of the Baltimore-Washington area, and the main roadways are largely cleared to the pavement. But ice, slush and hard-packed snow can be seen on the ramps in places such as Interstate 83 at Shawan Road.

Traffic appears unusually light for this time in the morning on the Baltimore and Capital beltways, as well as on Interstate 95 between Baltimore and Washington.

One potential problem, however, is that many drivers are ramping back up to full speed long before conditions warrant. That includes many tractor-trailers along Interstate 83,, where conditions remain treacherous.

Posted by Michael Dresser at 7:57 AM | | Comments (0)
Categories: On the roads

Highways chief warns roads remain dangerous

Conditions on the state's highways remain "very dangerous" as abandoned cars and power outages continue to hamper cleanup operations, State Highway Administration Administrator Neil J. Pedersen said Thursday morning as Maryland commuters took to the roads.

             In a 7 a.m. interview at the agency's emergency operations center in Hanover, Pedersen said lanes were open on most highways and he predicted conditions would improve as the sun comes out and temperatures warm to about 40 degrees. But he warned that in many cases merge lanes have not been plowed and that interchanges remain treacherous.
 The highway chief said Wednesday's night's storms brought "challenges" that in some way were even greater than the twin snowstorms of more than 20 inches each that paralyzed the region last February. Pedersen said this storm struck at the height of the evening  rush hour and that snow fell so rapidly that salt trucks and plows could not get to many stretches of road before it accumulated. Snow totals were also greater than expected, with 8-12 falling in many places rather than the predicted 6-8, he said.
                Pedersen said cleanup efforts were complicated by a spate of tractor-trailer incidents around the state as the trucks either failed to make it up hills or jack-knifed. At one of the worst spots, on the Beltway between Reisterstown Road and Interstate 795, lanes were not reopened until shortly before the morning commute after 15 pieces of snow-removal equipment became trapped amid the stalled-out vehicles.
            "We literally had to go in and pull out seven tractor-trailers, and 13 cars had to be pulled out one at a time," he said.
              Compared with last year's storms, he said, "we had far more interference in our operations this year."
               Pedersen said the main challenges today are dealing with the abandoned cars that lined many highways and power outages affecting traffic signals, which were especially prevalent in the Washington area. Also a concern, he said, are the many patches of hard-packed snow.
"It's spotty," he said. "You can go along on a stretch of dry pavement and hit the hard patch," he said, warning that drivers should still take it slow. "Interchanges  are a hge challenge for us right  now. In a lot of cases, the ramps have the hard-packed snow on them."
          Pedersen warned against trying to resume normal highway speeds too soon.  "People overdriving the conditions will create a lot of accidents," he said.
  The highway administrator urged motorists who don't have to work today to stay home while his crews continue to clear the highways. He said those who do venture out should expect congestion because in some cases not all lanes will have been reopened.
Posted by Michael Dresser at 7:43 AM | | Comments (0)
Categories: On the roads

SHA: 'Domino effect' delayed the plows

A combination of fast-falling snow, unexpected accumulation rush hour traffic, multiple collisions, vehicles that couldn't get up hill, jack-knifed tractor-trailers and fallen trees and power lines impeded snow plows Wednesday night and turned an evening's commute into a nightmare for drivers across the region, according to the State Highway Administration.

Dave Buck, an SHA spokesman, said every piece of equipment the state owns or has under contract was deployed -- though many motorists were left wondering whether the agency had taken the night off. In many cases, he said, plow crews were pulled from their usual routes to deal with emergencies. In many cases, he said, downed trees had to be removed before plows could get through -- and it was the snow plow operators who had to take out chain saws to do the work.

 The snowfall of 10-14 inches was roughly double the forecasts issued earlier Wednesday -- and it came down with a vengeance. In a midnight interview, Buck said the heavy snow was falling at a rate of 2 inches an hours and that the plows just could not keep up.

"It was like a domino effect," he said.


All over central Maryland lanes or entire roadways were blocked by disabled vehicles. All lanes of the Inner Loop were closed near Reisterstown Road for hours Wednesday night because of one such blockage involving an estimated 10 vehicles.

"Anywhere there was a hill, anywhere there was any grade," vehicles were becoming stuck, Buck said. That was what happened on the Jones falls Expressway in Baltimore, he said, noting that the highway runs uphill all the way from downtown to Ruxton.

 North of Ruxton around Hereford, Interstate 83 was the scene of one of several crashes around the state involving jack-knifed tractor-trailers. A few hours earlier, Gov. Martin O'Malley announced the state was pre-positioning heavy tow trucks around the state in preparation for such incidents. By midnight, Buck said, the trucks had been given a heavy workout.

 At least two of the truck crashes occurred on Interstate 70 near Mt. Airy, Buck said. About 9:30 p.m., highway officials decided to close I-70 in the Frederick area in both directions to allow the snow plows to clear the highway.

Buck said that with the multiple obstructions on the highways, salt trucks could not reach many locations. Earlier, SHA officials said they could not pre-treat roads because the heavy rains that preceded the snow would have washed away the chemicals.

At midnight, with all but a few of the traffic backups alleviated and the snowfall tapering off, SHA salt trucks were beginning to get through, Buck said. He said that by later this morning, the public will see considerable progress in the clearing the roads.


Posted by Michael Dresser at 12:18 AM | | Comments (4)
Categories: On the roads

January 26, 2011

The State Highway Administration said the snow is tapering off across Marylande, though there may still be some accumulation in the northeast corner of the state. Here's the most recent statement:



"The snow is tapering off across most the the metropolitan areas with some additional accumulation in Cecil and Harford counties as well as on the upper shore until about 2 a.m.

"Driving continues to be extremely treacherous. SHA and contract plow trucks are having issues treating the roads as crews are stuck in the same traffic as everyone else.

"The storm produced intense snow over a ten-hour period and it will take time to get to bare pavement. Every available truck and driver will remain out overnight plowing and salting.

"Please do not attempt to go out unless absolutely necessary. 

"Allow the plow trucks the space they need to open lanes and make them passable.

"Drive safely and always buckle up !"

Posted by Michael Dresser at 11:50 PM | | Comments (0)

MTA curbs bus services; light rail delayed

The Maryland Transit Administration has suspended local bus service and expects it to resume at 5 a.m. Thursday. It has canceled all commuter bus services provided by contractors Thursday.

The agency said service on the light rail line is running 30 minutes late and is not stopping at the Woodberry station. It said the Metro has been running on schedule.

Posted by Michael Dresser at 11:41 PM | | Comments (1)

MARC service canceled on Camden, Brunswick lines

The Maryland Transit Administration has canceled service Thursday on the MARC Camden and Brunswick lines as a result of Wednesday's snow. The MTA said it will provide service on the Penn Line on a modified holiday "S" schedule. The agency said some midday Penn Line trains may be canceled because some Camden and Brunswick line equipment will not be available. 
Posted by Michael Dresser at 11:27 PM | | Comments (6)
Categories: MARC train

Snow holding off for now in central Maryland

At the State Highway Administration's operations center in Hanover,where there's a good view of traffic conditions around the state through the agency's network of road cameras, traffic appeaqrs to be moving normally on wet but not snowy highways in most of Maryland.

The exception, as usual, is Western Maryland. Near-whiteout conditionsappear to be prevailing at Cumberland and at the interchange of Interstate 68 and Route 219.

Traffic is backed up in some areas, but it appears to be typical rush hour congestion.

Any minute now, Gov. Martin O'Malley is expected to give a briefing on the state's snow preparations.

Posted by Michael Dresser at 4:15 PM | | Comments (6)
Categories: On the roads

MTA: Cards are good (even if drivers are clueless)

Chikwe Njoku wrote in with an inquiry about the Maryland Transit Administration's Transit Link Cards. Thanks to Terry Owens, spokesmam for the MTA, for providing a timely answer.

I have a MARC  TLC Monthly that I use to travel to/from DC. It is very useful since you can also use it on Metro Bus or Metro Rail once you get to DC. Like the Metro Fare Cards they often fail.. and then become a "flash card" that you show upon entering/exiting the station.
I have also used the fare card to ride both the Light Rail and MTA Bus at certain times between Camden and Penn Stations as needed. I have noticed that both the fare inspectors and drivers are becoming increasingly perplexed by the MARC TLC Monthly.  Many stare at it in amazement and one driver told me its not valid on the MTA Bus. I tried to explain to her what I thought the policy was and she said " There isn't anything about MTA Buses/Light Rail on here...." I was stunned... after I examined the card.. I realized she was correct unless the policy has changed?

The card references the MARC Train, Metro Bus, Metro Rail, but nothing about MTA Buses, Light Rail, or Metro Subway. With drivers being, hired, fired, and retired all the time.. I guess it can be hard to remember what this little card that MARC riders keep flashing is especially if it doesn't say anything, at a minimum, about the MTA.
Granted.. there is probably a warehouse somewhere with 10 million of these cards pre printed and no budgets to change them.. But maybe a simple solution, in addition to keep drivers apprised that it is still LEGAL for passage.. would be for the outlets that sell or distribute these cards simply ink stamp the MTA Logo somewhere on the back next to the Metro and MARC logos. Now that its visable.. less explanation needs to be given concerning its validity.
MTA is not alone.. occasionally when I am entering and leaving the MetroRail Station in DC.. I am stopped by a WMTA Police Officer or employee as I flash my defective MARC TLC.. They review it in amazement  as if its a passport and Im at the Border trying to flee the country. I feel like I have just passed through Immigration by the time they slowly open the gate for my passage... so MTA shouldnt feel all that bad....

Here's what the MTA's Owens hhad to say about that:

The MARC Train Transit Link Card (TLC) is valid for unlimited travel during a designated month on MARC Train, DC Metrorail, DC Metrobus (base fare only) in Maryland, DC and Northern Virginia, Montgomery County RIDE ON buses, Baltimore metropolitan area Local Buses, Light Rail, Metro Subway, Neighborhood shuttles, MTA Commuter Bus 991 between Frederick, MD and Shady Grove, and Frederick County TransIT buses. Users pay an additional $102 above the monthly MARC monthly ticket fare. Thanks for bringing this issue to our attention. I will ask that an alert be sent to operators reminding them of the card and where it can be used.

Posted by Michael Dresser at 2:14 PM | | Comments (1)
Categories: Baltimore Metro, City bus service, Light rail, MARC train, MTA

Air Tran adding San Francisco flight out of BWI

AirTran Airways will add a daily nonstop flights from Baltimore-Washington International Thurgood Marshall Airport to San Francisco this May, giving travelers  an alternative to United Airlines' flight to that city.

The airline will launch the spring-to-fall service to San Francisco on May 26 with a daily 8:14 p.m. departure. The return trip will be a red-eye flight leaving San Francisco at 11:59 p.m. 

The airline will also resume seasonal service to Los Angeles on May 8 and Seattle on May 4.

AirTran had previously announced plans to add a nonstop flight out of BWI to San Juan, Puerto Rico, April 5. It is also adding a second daily flight to Montego Bay, Jamaica, Feb. 26.

Posted by Michael Dresser at 12:42 PM | | Comments (0)
Categories: Air travel

January 19, 2011

Pedestrian deaths largely flat in U.S., Maryland

The number of pedestrian deaths in Maryland decreased slightly over the first months of 2010 -- but not by enough to stand out as an identifiable trend. The state continued to rank among the most dangerous for pedestrians -- with one of the highest rates of such fatalities in the country.

According to the Governors Highway Safety Association, there were 50 pedestrian fatalities in Maryland between January and June last year compared with 54 in the same period of 2009.

The small change reflected a national trend that showed pedestrian deaths almost unchanged despite a strong decline in traffic deaths overall. Nationally, there were 1,891 pedestrian fatalities ion the first six months of 2010 -- seven more than in the first half of 2009 for a statistically insignificant 0.4 percent increase. Overall fatalities are estimated by the federal government to have dropped 8 percent during that period.

Maryland was one of only  four jurisdictions where pedestrians made up more than 20 percent of the total traffic deaths, the association reported.  The others were the District of Columbia, New York and New Jersey. Nationally, 12 percent of those killed on the roads were pedestrians.

Maryland is also one of only three states, plus D.C., where the pedestrian fatality rate is  more than 2 per 100,000 residents per year. The others were Florida and Louisiana.

Since 1999, Maryland's fatality count for pedestrians had bounced between 91 and 116 per year with no clear trend in either direction, said lead researcher James Hedlund.

Posted by Michael Dresser at 6:48 PM | | Comments (1)
Categories: On the roads

Shuttle service from BWI to serve Western Md.

A Salisbury-basee shuttle service that now serves the Eastern Shore from BWI Marshal Airport and other transportation hubs has expanded its service to Western Maryland, the company has announced.

Bayrunner Shuttle is now providing round-trip van rides serving Frederick, Hagerstown, Hancock, Cumberland, Frostburg and Grantsville from BWI airport and train station as well as the Greyhound Bus Terminal in Baltimore. The service is financed with the help of a Federal Transit  Administration grant.

Bayrunnner will provide four trips a day to Frederick -- two of which will continue to the other stops before reaching its terminus at Grantsville in Garrett County. Single-passenger tickets will range from $37 to Frederick to $61 to Grantsville.

The shuttle service will provide the rides using 15-passengers Chevy Express vans. The company, founded in Salisbury  in 2005, has set up a  branch office in Frederick to oversee its Western Maryland operations.

The company now offers van trips from the same Baltimore stops to Ocean City, making stops at Kent Island, Easton, Cambridge and Salisbury.

Posted by Michael Dresser at 6:12 PM | | Comments (3)

January 18, 2011

Camden Line fully reopening

This just in from the MTA's David Clark:

The Camden Line has reopened between Washington and Baltimore.  Train 853 is departing Dorsey operating approximately 45 minutes late.  Northbound Camden Line trains will operate through to Camden Station.  Expect 5-10 minute delays due to single tracking between Savage and Dorsey.  I have no update on what the incident involved, but the scene has been cleared for MARC traffic in both directions.

Posted by Michael Dresser at 4:34 PM | | Comments (0)
Categories: MARC train

MTA rider has bus service blues

Baltimore resident Eric Stull is a hard-working guy with two jobs and a rough commute from Northeast Baltimore to Timonium via two bus routes. But lately the Maryland Transit Administration hasn't been making it any easier. Here's his story:

  1.  I thought I’d give you an account of my experience riding MTA buses in Baltimore in recent days.  I live in northeast Baltimore, near the intersection of Old Harford Road and Northern Parkway, which is where I get off and on the #55 bus.  From the #55, I connect at the Towson Town Center to the #8 bus, which takes me to or from the Lutherville Station, where I walk to or from my work in Timonium.  The length of the journey is eight miles, and on most days, I do this only one-way, usually homeward in the evening, catching a ride to work with my wife in the morning.  When I commuted regularly by bicycle to work, as I have often done over the last four years for many months at a time, most recently from last April until the middle of November, at which point I had to stop because of cycling-induced pain, pedaling took forty-five or fifty minutes on average.  After first attempting to read the schedules and plot my own course, I started using the MTA website’s Trip Planner to plan my bus-riding time most efficiently.  Both before and since beginning to use the Trip Planner, my journey routinely takes an hour and a half or more.  The chief reason for this seems to be that some scheduled buses simply do not come.  

Last week, on Wednesday the 5th, I left work a few minutes after 5PM to walk to Lutherville Station to catch the 5:26 #8 bus, so as to make the transfer to the #55 at 5:42.  The #55 was thence to set me down at Northern Parkway and Old Harford Road at 6:08.  A few minutes later, as I imagined, I would be joining my wife and four boys, who had prepared a birthday dinner for me.  Following this schedule was one of the options the Trip Planner had recommended when I put in my information.  I arrived a few minutes beforehand, caught the #8, made it to the transfer point a few minutes ahead, watched expectantly as a #55 arrived a couple of minutes later – only to go immediately out of service.  By the time I actually got on a #55 more than forty-five minutes later at 6:26, I had seen three or four #48’s stop in front of me, two or three #11’s, and at least two #19’s.  I asked the drivers of the #11’s if they were about to run the #55 route, which sometimes happens, since the Town Center is their switch-point, but neither was about to change from the #11 route.  The clock was about to strike 7 when I arrived home that evening. 
Two nights ago, on Tuesday the 11th, the 6:16 arrived at the Town Center sometime well after 6:30, which meant that, having left work at about 5:30, I arrived home at 7.  Last night, Wednesday the 12th, both buses were on-time: I caught the 6:54 #8, made the transfer to the 7:07 #55 (not the #48 which would shortly turn into the #55, as the Trip Planner advised),  got off the bus at 7:30, and walked home.  This was the best of my last four rides: one hour from door to door.  This morning, fresh off last night’s success, I attempted to take the bus to work, because my wife had to take two of our boys to an appointment at 8:45.  I checked the Trip Planner, picked the 8:49 #55, which would get me to the #8 in time to make it to Lutherville by 9:30.  So, I walked to the stop at 8:45, then waited until 9:15 without seeing a single westbound bus (and only one eastbound) on Northern Parkway.  At this point, likely to be horribly late for work if I waited much longer, I decided to walk to the office on Harford Road where I expected my wife still to be.  On the way there, I decided to call the MTA to complain, as I had done last Friday to complain of last Wednesday’s fiasco.  As I finished giving an earful to a nice lady on the other end, my wife walked out of the building with our sons and drove me to work, where I arrived at 10, about a half-hour later than I had hoped. 
Fortunately, I do good work and have an understanding boss, but like many people with families, I have to work two jobs to support mine (rather meagerly); like other people who stake a claim on at least nominal sanity, I value my free time.  Does the MTA value it?  Does it care if I get to work, for that matter?  I have gotten on nearly all the buses I have taken these two months during or just after what most people would call rush hour, i.e., between 8 and 9:30 in the morning and 5 and 6:30 in the evening.  If the MTA doesn’t care about ordinary people’s work or free time, I can’t imagine why it operates a bus system.

So what about it, MTA? What's the problem wiith the No. 55 bus?


Posted by Michael Dresser at 4:18 PM | | Comments (12)
Categories: MTA bus system

Camden Line update: Partial service resumes

Partial northbound service has resumed on the Camden Line despite a possible hazardous-material incident aboard a CSX train near Jessup.

MTA spokesman David Clark said northbound Camden trains will run as far as Savage. He said passengers bound for Dorsey and St. Denis will be met there by buses that will take them to their stops. Clark said passengers going to Baltimore's Camden Station are being asked to take the Penn Line and to catch the light rail back to Camden Yards.

 Southbound service is not running. There's no word yet on when full service will be restored.

Posted by Michael Dresser at 4:08 PM | | Comments (0)
Categories: MARC train

Brunswick Line reopens, but Camden is halted

The Brunswick Lines has been reopened after power lines that had fallen on the nearby Metro Red Line tracks west of Rockville were repaired. But service on the Camden Line has been halted because of a hazardous materials incident aboard s CSX train near Jessup.

MTA spokesman David Clark said Brunswick Lines trains No. 873 and 891 are expected to depart Union Station at or close to their scheduled times. He said Metro Red Line service has also resumed.

On the Camden Line, CSX halted a train after workers on an Anacostia River bridge reported respiratory illness after a CSX train passed. The train was stopped near Jessup, where there is little population near the tracks, so authorities could investigate.

The CSX train was 98 cars long, of which 14 carried hazardous chemicals. The Camden Line shares the tracks on that line with CSX freight traffic, as the Brunswick Line does in Rockville.



Posted by Michael Dresser at 3:47 PM | | Comments (0)
Categories: MARC train

York bus service likely headed for Towson

A bus service that now runs between York, Pa., and the Hunt Valley-Timonium area is likely to be extended soon to several stops in Towson, a move it hopes will give it the "critical mass" to make it a clear success.

rabbittransit, the York transit provider, is in the final stages of gathering public comments about the proposed  service and is  tentatively expecting to launch the Towson service in mid-February, said executive director Richard Farr.

Farr said rabbittransit now offers three round-trip buses each evening and three each morning from York to the Hunt Valley and Timonium light rail stations. If the plans go as he hopes, he said, those rides would be extended to three bus  stops in downtown Towson.

According to Farr, the service that connects to the Maryland Transit Administration's light rail has shown signs  of growth since it was launched in February 2009. He said it's December ridership had shown a 57 percent growth between 2009 and 2010.

"I wouldn't say it was wildly successful," he said. ""I think it continues to grow in the direction we want it to go."

Farr said he thought Towson, unlike northern Baltimore County, has the required density to make the line as successful as rabbitransit hopes it will be.

"There were many requests to go to the Towson area," he said.

The proposed stops in Towson would be at 111 W. Chesapeake Ave, the Towson Commons shopping center and the  Black & Decker building at 107 E. Joppa Road.

The transit agency is still taking public comments at its web site.

Farrr said most of the passengers are commuters from southern Pennsylvania to Baltimore County, but he said the service is also used by shoppers and travelers who connect with the light rail to BWI Marshall Airport. He said there are also a handful  of reverse commuters who take the bus to jobs in York.

Posted by Michael Dresser at 3:23 PM | | Comments (0)
Categories: Local bus lines

Downed power lines shut MARC Brunswick Line

The Maryland Transit Administration has suspended operations on the MARC Brunswick Line this afternoon because of downed power lines near its tracks west of Rockville.

MTA spokesman Terry Owens said MARC service to Western Maryland was interrupted by the same power line problem that has disrupted service on the Washington Metro Red Line today. He said the power lines  had fallen on the Metro tracks close to where they parallel the CSX tracks the MTA uses for the Brunswick Line service.

Owens said Brunswick Line riders were being urged to take the Red Line to either the Silver Spring or Twinbrook stations and to catch buses provided by the MTA to reach MARC stations on the line.

Neither the Penn Line nor the Camden Line, which travel the corridor between Baltimore and Washington, were affected, Owens said.


Posted by Michael Dresser at 2:38 PM | | Comments (1)
Categories: MARC train

ICC project chief named a 'top news-maker'

The Engineering News-Record, a top publication in infrastructure circles, has named the 37-year-old head of Maryland's Intercounty Connector project as one of its top 25 news-makers of 2010.

Melinda Peters, the State Highway Administration's ICC project director, was selected for her roles as construction boss and the public face of the project.

In an article about her selection, the ENR said Peters "finds herself continually in the spotlight as the human face of the largest, greenest and most controversial highway to be built in metropolitan Washington, D.C., in decades."

The first 7.2 mile leg of the $2.6 billion ICC is expected to open early this year. The main segment of the highway, which will connect Interstate 370 and Interstate 95, is scheduled to open about a year later.

Sun photo/Jed Kirschbaum


Posted by Michael Dresser at 11:59 AM | | Comments (0)
Categories: On the roads

One lane of eastbound I-70 reopens after crash

One lane of eastbound Interstate 70 has  reopened but the other two are expected to remain closed until early afternoon near Mt. Airy  hours after a tractor-trailer carrying embalming fluid and other chemicals turned over on the icy highway.

Maryland State Police spokesman Greg Shipley said the1999 International tractor, which was pulling two trailers, ran off the right side of the eastbound roadway just east of Route 27 in Carroll County and jack-knifed. He said that after the crash, a pickup truck ran into one of the trailers.

Shipley said the truck driver,  59-year-old Lanny W. Denver of Dundalk, was transported to Howard County General Hospital with what were believed to be minor injuries. 

The spokesman said the driver of the vehicle that hit the trailer, 56-year-old William E. Boyle Sr., of Hagerstown, was not injured. The crash remains under investigation and no cause has been determined.

The truck was carrying 55-gallon drums and other containers, Shipley said. The cargo included embalming fluid, refrigerants and wood preservative -- some of which spilled, the spokesman said. Shipley said Haz-Mat crews and the Maryland Department of the Environment were at the scene. Police said they closed the road because of debris from the crash and icy conditions.

Shipley said the truck had been turned upright but the cargo would have to be taken off the trailers before the road could  reopen. Police said there was no danger to nearby residents.

Eastbound motorists were being diverted onto parallel Route 144 via Route 27, Shipley said.

The crash was the second tractor-trailer incident to close I-70 near that point in the last three days. Another truck crash, involving a propane truck, closed the highway for several hours Sunday.

Posted by Michael Dresser at 9:37 AM | | Comments (0)
Categories: On the roads

January 16, 2011

Gas prices level off in Maryland

Gas priced leveled off in Maryland last week as the cost for a gallon of unleaded held steady at $3.09 -- high by historical standards but still more than $1 below the 2008 record, according to AAA Mid-Atlantic.

Nationally, the price crept up from $3.09 to $3.10. Crude oil closed at $91.43 Friday.

AAA remains pessimistic about the near-term prospects at the pump, saying that it is not a  question of if, but when, crude oil prices will top $100 a barrel.


Posted by Michael Dresser at 3:38 PM | | Comments (2)
Categories: On the roads

January 14, 2011

Light rail now running to Hunt Valley

Light rail service to Hunt Valley has been restored and trains are now running north of Timonium for the first time since Tuesday.

Maryland Transit Administration spokesman David Clark said full service on the light rail line resumed at 1:15 p.m. after testing showed the repairs on the overhead power lines and signal system at the Warren Road crossing had been successful.

Service was interrupted there early Tuesday morning when a salt truck that had not lowered its bed hit the catenary wire, bringing it down and damaging the signaling system.

Posted by Michael Dresser at 1:42 PM | | Comments (0)
Categories: Light rail

Light rail section could reopen soon

The Maryland Transit Administration has powered up the overhead electric lines that were damaged early Tuesday and if test show it works, service could be restored to the northern end of the line before this afternoon's rush hour.

MTA spokesman David Clark said the agency will soon run a test train through the Warren Road crossing, where a salt truck that had not lowered its bed brought down catenary wires and damaged the signaling system. If the systems function properly, light rail service to Hunt Valley could be restored this afternoon, he said.

Since Tuesday, trains have been stopping at Timonium and a bus bridge has carried passengers to the station north of there.


Posted by Michael Dresser at 11:34 AM | | Comments (3)
Categories: Light rail

January 13, 2011

Route 100 gets darker as part of pilot project

If you drive regularly along Route 100 in Howard County, you might just notice the lighting along the road is a little dimmer than it used to be.

The State Highway Administration says it had cut back its overhead lighting on a 6-mile stretch of the road between Coca-Cola Drive near the Anne Arundel County line and the western terminus of the limited-access highway at U.S. 29. According to the agency, about 75 lights have been "deactivated" as part of a pilot project to evaluate whether the state will be able to cut the amount of power its uses to illuminate state roads without compromising safety.

For now, the light poles remain in place. But if the test is successful, the SHA may remove them and recycle them in other locations. The primary aim, said SHA spokesman Charlie Gischlar, is to reduce energy consumption as a "green" initiative. But he said any cutback in energy use could also yield savings in operating costs.

Another important consideration, Gischlar said, is safety. If the state can reduce  the lighting, he said, it can also cut the number of poles that  vehicles can run into.

"It's fewer fixed objects on the side of the road," he said.

Gischlar said that if the results from the year-long test are favorable, the state could look at reducing lighting on other highways.  He said Route 100 wash chosen largely because it is a relatively new road -- opened in the late 1990s -- where the lighting exceeds federal requirements.

Gischlar said the SHA is keeping its lighting at past levels at certain "decision points" -- near interchanges, bridge and curves -- but cutting back in other places. He said SHA engineers are confident they can reduce lighting without any negative impact on safety because modern headlights are  much more advanced than the "glorified flashlights" on cars when federal lighting standards were originally set. In addition, he said, the reflective quality of road signs and other markings has improved in recent decades.

Another important test of whether the experiment worked is how the public views it. You can tell the SHA  how you feel or you can share your views with Getting There.

So what do you think? Did you even notice the reduction? Do you feel any more or any less safe? Do you prefer a really bright highway at night or would you prefer some glare  reduction? Please share your thoughts.



Posted by Michael Dresser at 3:49 PM | | Comments (8)
Categories: On the roads

Light rail still closed north of Timonium

The MTA light rail line will remain closed north of Timonium at least until tomorrow after crews discovered more extensive damage than originally estimated at the scene where a truck brought down power lines Wednesday morning.

Henry Kay, deputy MTA administrator, said workers discovered damage to the light rail's signaling system as well as the overhead catenary line. The damage occurred shortly after 1 a.m. Wednesday when a Baltimore County contractor's salt truck tried to use the Warren Road crossing while  the truck bed was still up.

Until service is restored, the MTA will continue to serve the Hunt Valley end of the line with a bus bridge from Timonium.

Posted by Michael Dresser at 2:33 PM | | Comments (0)

MTA hires Red Line community liaisons

The Maryland Transit Administration has hired five liaison workers to help work out issues in the communities affected by the planned construction of the east-west Red Line through Baltimore.

Henry Kay, the MTA's deputy administrator for planning, said the liaison team are undergoing training and will be introduced at a Citizens Red Line Advisory Committee meeting tonight. He said the team members have been hired as full-time consultant employees, rather than as permanent workers, and will work flexible schedules.

"They'll be out in the community. They'll be available at night," he said.

Kay said the MTA is still in the process of refining its final application to the Federal Transit Administration for financing to build the 14-mile, $1.8 billion light rail line between Woodlawn and Bayview.

Kay said the recent change of control in the House  of Representatives will not make approval of financing for the Red Line or the $1.6 billion Purple Line in suburban Washington any easier. But he said it's too early to tell specifically what the changed congressional cllimate  will mean for the process.

Kay said the projects would have had to  compare well with others around  the country  no matter how the  election had turned out.

"They're all going to have to go through a rigorous process  to be competitive," he said. "I don't think the federal budget situation is going to help."

Even if the federal government does come up with the money for the projects, the  state is likely to have to kick in a 50 percent share -- a tall  order given the current state of the Transportation Trust Fund.



Posted by Michael Dresser at 2:20 PM | | Comments (0)
Categories: Red Line

MARC plans process for schedule changes

The Maryland Transit Administration will outline a series of schedule changes on the Penn Line Jan. 20 before the MARC Riders Advisory Council as part of a plan to run more trains but with fewer cars.

Henry Kay,  the MTA's deputy administrator for planning, said the agency believes that running lighter trains could relieve some of the burden on its locomotives, which are prone to breakdowns when carrying heavy loads in hot weather. He said MARC is now working with Amtrak -- which owns and operates the Penn Line -- to determine how to make the changes work with Amtrak's  own schedule.

"They agree in principle," Kay said.

If the changes pass muster with the advisory council, Kay said the proposed changes would be presented to a broader group of riders at a series of "town halls" around the region. If the reaction from riders  is favorable, he said, the changes would be brought to the  Board of Public Works for final approval. He said the board would have to review the changes because they would involve a change to the MTA's contract with Amtrak. Any schedule changes, he said, would have to coincide with the next overhaul of Amtrak's timetable this spring.

Kay said the change would give riders more choices of times to catch a Penn Line train. But he added that the MTA can't assume riders will welcome the plan.

"We know riders get comfortable with one train or another," he said. "We want to be sure the riders see this as an improvement."

Posted by Michael Dresser at 12:31 PM | | Comments (1)
Categories: MARC train

Crosswalk violations call for strategic plan

Jen Gaffney of Baltimore raises what has become a perennial issue in Baltimore -- one that the city needs to address with a comprehensive strategy rather than a Band-Aid. It's  the penchant of local drivers to tune out the existence of pedestrian crosswalks. For a past column, I observed the behavior of Baltimore drivers around a well-marked pedestrian crosswalk. What I found is that any pedestrian who relies on a crosswalk to assure the right-of-way better have paid-up life insurance.

Here's Gaffney's account:

I work in Harbor East, and along with many other people, I park in the Little
Italy parking garage on Exeter Street. Each morning and evening, we have to
cross Eastern Ave at Exeter, where there are lines in the intersection which
indicate a pedestrian crosswalk. There is no stop light at this intersection,
which means no pedestrian lights. However, motorists do not stop for pedestrians here, and actually it seems like they speed up when they see someone trying to
cross the street.

Since it's a busy street, pedestrians wait a very long time
for traffic to clear in both lanes. When people get impatient, it becomes a
dangerous situation as they dart out in between cars.

Do you know how to request the city install a "Stop for Pedestrians" sign like
I've seen in other neighborhoods? (Looks like this: I feel
like this would make the Exeter at Eastern intersection much safer.

I'll pass along this request to the city and I hope transportation officials will put a sign in place. But even if they do so, I doubt that alone will make crossing safe. What this city requires is a coordinated strategy of using signage, advertising, law enforcement and political leadership to send a message to drivers to watch out for pedestrians -- or else. At the same time, city officials ought to show they're ready to crack down on wayward pedestrians.

First, that would involve a signage strategy. The city should start with the premise that what it's doing now is insufficient to grab drivers' attention. After all, it's tough to talk on a cell phone and look out for pedestrians entering crosswalks. Flashing yellow lights might help, along with pedestrian-activated crosswalks.

That's expensive though. And by itself, it's likely to be ineffective.  Baltimore drivers are just too used to plowing through crosswalks without slowing down.

What's also needed is a highly visible, well-publicized enforcement campaign. The police ought to set up sting operations at strategic crosswalks such as the one in Harbor East and relentlessly ticket drivers who fail to stop. Special attention should be given to those who plow through crosswalks while talking on cell phones.

Cadets could be tasked with playing pedestrian -- as they could be trained to assert their rights while obeying the law. They could also accompany officers to court.  After all, learning to testify is part of the job.

The city shouldn't just pick on errant drivers. The officers should be just as aggressive in issuing  jaywalking tickets to pedestrians who fail to observe the law.

When the sting occurs, local news media ought to be invited to cover the event. Believe me, they'll show up for that. It's great street theater. Repeat a few times at different locations, back up the message with a  public service ad campaign, and the message will filter out.

Don't count on police to make this a priority on their own, however. It would likely require a push from the mayor herself. And to get the mayor's attention, it sometimes requires the City Council to weigh in.

So what does the city have to say to this? Getting There invites a response.

Posted by Michael Dresser at 10:37 AM | | Comments (14)
Categories: On the roads

January 12, 2011

Light rail down at line's north end after truck mishap

Light rail service is expected to be curtailed north of Timonium through Thursday's morning rush hour after a truck driver's error tore down the wires that power the trains.

An MTA spokesman said a bus bridge is maintaining service to Hunt Valley as crews work to repair the damage caused when a salt truck driver under contract to Baltimore County went through the Warren Road crossing without lowering the bed on the truck. According to the Baltimore County police, the call came in at 1:09 a.m., shortly after the service was shut down for the night. 

"The truck really ripped things up," said the  MTA's David Clark. He said the MTA had a bus bridge in place in time for Wednesday's morning commute.

A spokeswoman for the Baltimore County Police Department identified the driver as Arnold Criss, 29, of Aberdeen. She said no charged have been filed.

Clark said he doesn't know whether the MTA would seek to recover damages from the contractor. "Right now they''re just trying to get it fixed,"  he  said.



Posted by Michael Dresser at 2:58 PM | | Comments (1)
Categories: Light rail

SHA names new Baltimore-Harford engineer

The State Highway Administration has named 14-year agency veteran David Peake as its district engineer for Baltimore and Harford counties, replacing the recently retired Dave Malkowski.

As engineer for SHA District 4, Peake will be responsible for maintenance, design, construction and  emergency response along all non-toll state routes in the two counties. The University of Maryland College Park graduate had until recently been deputy director for operations in the SHA's construction office.

Malkowski had been with the SHA for 34 years before his retirement.


Posted by Michael Dresser at 1:56 PM | | Comments (0)
Categories: On the roads

Bicycle activists push tougher negligence law

With the opening of the General Assembly session today, Maryland's bicycling advocates are renewing their effort to pass legislation addressing a gap in the law between simple negligent driving and the criminal offense of negligent manslaughter by automobile.

Concerned that drivers in fatal crashes are getting off too easily under the negligent driving statute -- a ticket-able offense that can be resolved without trial by paying a fine --  the advocates are trying to create an intermediate charge of "manslaughter by motor vehicle -- criminal negligence."

That charge, which would apply when a sober driver kills someone through gross negligence not related to intoxication, would be a serious misdemeanor carrying a potential term of three years in prison and a $5,000 fine.

The current criminal manslaughter by motor vehicle charge carries a potential 10-year, $5,000 penalty. In practice, it is very difficult for prosecutors to reach the level of proof necessary to win a conviction on that charge.

Bicyclists are especially sensitive on that point after a series of crashes in which bike riders have been killed through driver error and the motorist faced no charge more serious than negligent driving. Bike Maryland is leading the charge to change the law.

There's a lot of merit to the idea of creating an enhanced version of negligent driving to cover cases that are grossly negligent but not willful. But the proposal being advanced by the advocates carries the flaw of many such laws: It punishes the result and not the conduct. It would make more sense to create a misdemeanor charge of "grossly negligent driving contributing to a crash" that could be applied whether or not a victim died. One year should suffice as a penalty; three strikes me as overkill unless there was actual intent to cause harm.

For reasons of fairness, and despite the fact such instances are uncommon, the statute should be applied to bicyclists whose gross negligence contributes to a crash. There have been cases in the United States where misbehaving bicyclists have killed or seriously injured pedestrians. There's no reason the charge shouldn't  apply in those cases as well. Supporting such an amendment would be a show of good faith on the part of advocates showing that they too recognize that Maryland has a problem with a minority if bicyclists who are as reckless as any driver.

Posted by Michael Dresser at 10:29 AM | | Comments (0)
Categories: Bicycles

MVA offices closed Saturday-Monday

Maryland Motor Vehicle Administration offices and Vehicle Emissions Inspection Program stations will be closed Saturday and Monday because of the Martin Luther King Jr. holiday.
Posted by Michael Dresser at 10:23 AM | | Comments (0)

January 11, 2011

State roads get pass for evening peak

Dire predictions that central Maryland could be  socked with a snowstorm at the peak of the  evening rush hour don't seem to be materializing. A survey of state traffic cameras around the state show no signs of anything more serious than flurries except in the mountain of Western Maryland, and even there we're seeing only a modest accumulation.

Traffic appears to be moving briskly in most of the places surveyed -- including locations in the Baltimore and Washington regions, on the Eastern Shore and in Frederick County. Only the troublesome Thomas Johnson Bridge in Southern Maryland was backed up, and that did not appear too have anything to do with snow.

Of course, the predicted storm could  still bedevil overnight travelers and cause problems that linger into the morning peak travel time, but conditions now hardly seem to justify panic runs to the grocery store.


Posted by Michael Dresser at 5:13 PM | | Comments (1)
Categories: On the roads

Street closings coming for MLK Day Parade

Baltimore will be closing parts of Martin Luther King Boulevard and its cross streets Monday for the annual King holiday parade, the city has announced.

The parade starts at noon, but some of the closings take place as early as 9:30 a.m.  The city listed the following closings:



Franklin Street between Greene Street and Fremont Avenue from 7:30 a.m. until 3:30 p.m.
Eutaw Street between Dolphin Street and Martin Luther King, Jr. Boulevard from 9:30 a.m. until 2:00 p.m.
Preston Street between Madison Avenue and Eutaw Street from 9:30 a.m. until 2:00 p.m.
Madison Street between Dolphin Street and Martin Luther King, Jr. Boulevard from 9:30 a.m. until 2:00 p.m.
Baltimore Street between Martin Luther King, Jr. Boulevard and Poppleton Street from 9:30 a.m. until 5:00 p.m.
Fremont Avenue between Baltimore and Fayette Streets from 9:30 a.m. until 5:00 p.m.
Southbound Martin Luther King, Jr. Boulevard between Eutaw and Lombard Streets from 11:30 a.m. until 3:30 p.m.
The left turn lane of northbound Martin Luther King, Jr. Boulevard from Washington Boulevard to Eutaw Street between 11:30 a.m. and 3:30 p.m.
Eastbound Mulberry Street will be reduced to two lanes between Fremont Avenue and Martin Luther King, Jr. Boulevard.

Posted by Michael Dresser at 3:09 PM | | Comments (0)
Categories: On the roads

Where's CHART on SHA web site?

Periodic redesigns of government web sites are a good thing. You don't want to let them get stale. But sometimes the quest for a new look leaves it difficult to find basic services.

That's what happened when  the State Highway Administration revamped its web site in a way that makes its useful CHART system -- which tracks current conditions on main Maryland roads -- difficult to find.

Don't believe it? Go to the SHA web site and see whether you can find a link to the service that offers live camera shots, frequently updated incident reports and real-time measures of how traffic is flowing. Oh, there's a way. You can pull down the  tab that says  "Commuter & Travel" and go down to "Live Traffic" and you'll end up  at the CHART opening page. But after all the work SHA has done to build up a brand identity for CHART, why is the name suddenly banished from its web page?

Somehow I have  to believe that was not the intent.


Posted by Michael Dresser at 2:39 PM | | Comments (1)
Categories: On the roads

SHA gears up for likely snow

The State Highway Administration is standing by for snow-plowing operations as a storm heads up the coast from the south, expecting nothing out of the ordinary on a January day.

SHA spokesman Charlie Gischlar, deployed to the agency's operations center in Hanover, said crews are "ready to roll" at the first sign of accumulation. As of about noon, the only sign of snow was flurries in Southern Maryland and parts of the Eastern Shore, but 1-3 inches have been predicted for Central Maryland, he said.

"We pretreated yesterday  and finished up this morning and now the waiting game begins," he said.

Gischlar said most of the pretreating had been done with salt brine. But in Frederick and Howard counties, he said, the agency uses a mixture of brine and sugar beet molasses that's "less corrosive." He said that by the end of this winter, the agency will expand the mixture's use to suburban Washington and Southern Maryland.

Posted by Michael Dresser at 12:06 PM | | Comments (0)
Categories: On the roads

Bicycle projects found to have jobs payoff

A study by a researcher at the University of Massachusetts in Amherst, focused on projects in Baltimore, suggests that they payoff in terms of job creation from bicycle and pedestrian projects significantly exceeds that from work on road infrastructure.

In her paper, Heidi Garrett-Peltier concludes that bicycle-pedestrian projects such as hiker-biker paths and the creation of bike lanes yield 11-14 jobs per $1 million spent, compared with seven for road work.

The technical study, which can hardly be recommended as exciting reading, says that bicycle and pedestrian projects typically involve a  higher percentage of labor and engineering costs than spending on materials  when compared with road projects.

The study will come as good news for bicycle advocates, whose environmental case for  investment in hiker-biker infrastructure will now be bolstered by economic evidence. Whether that yields much investment in the current budget climate remains to be seen.



Posted by Michael Dresser at 11:04 AM | | Comments (0)
Categories: Bicycles

U.S. gives Baltimore County grant for traffic safety

The U.S. Department of Transportation has awarded the Baltimore County Police Department a $415,000 grant to bolster its traffic enforcement efforts -- especially those involving heavy trucks.

Among other things, the grant money will be used to buy 200 electronic ticketing machines  for police cars in an effort to improve the efficiency of traffic stops -- getting officers back on the road more quickly to catch more violators.

The award was announced Monday at a news conference involving County Executive Kevin Kamenetz, police Chief Jim Johnson and Bill Bronrott, deputy administrator of the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration.


In addition to the electronic citation system, the money will be used to develop an education program for police and court officials on traffic enforcement for commercial vehicles such as trucks. Bronrott, a former Maryland delegate, said the money would be used to beef up enforcement in such areas as speeding, drunk driving, seat belt use and distracted driving.


Posted by Michael Dresser at 10:38 AM | | Comments (1)
Categories: On the roads

January 10, 2011

Flooding forces lane closings on St. Paul Street

The Baltimore Department of Transportation has closed several lanes of St. Paul Street between Fayette and Baltimore streets until further notice because of flooding in the William Donald Schaefer Building at the corner of St.  Paul and Baltimore.

The department said the closures are expected to continue as the work continues during the afternoon and perhaps into the evening rush hour. The closings could also change locations.

The city is urging motorists to to avoid the area. Southbound travelers are advised to turn left on Lexington Street to Guilford Avenue or right on Fayette to Park Avenue.

Updates are available at

Posted by Michael Dresser at 11:50 AM | | Comments (0)
Categories: On the roads

January 7, 2011

Readers offer opinions on Circulator

Last week, Getting There asked readers for their views of the Charm City Circulator, the city-run free bus service that made its debut a year ago Tuesday. Folks were more than willing to share their opinions. Here's a sampling of their views:


I use circulator orange line from Pratt and Calved  streets to little Italy and from Little Italy to Lombard and Light
I think the circulator is great and use primarily in frigid weather. The cold also causes certain users to ride who either are homeless or close to it, I wouldn't be surprised if they ride most of the day. Additionally, the tend to speak loudly and scream back and forth to each other . I believe there is a shelter or some sort of a soup kitchen near Central Avenue.. When I leave the little Italy stop heading in a round about way to  downtown the bus stops maybe 3/4 of the time to change drivers at Market place. This is ok but often you need change to another bus because they tend to get to close in time to each other. They also will sometimes sit for 5-10 minutes to allow the bus ahead of them to space itself. Would think they could do a better job of keeping to schedule

L. Stephen Hess


I'm a frequent user of the Circulator Purple Line.  This winter, due to a knee injury that kept me off my bike, I've used the Circulator to get to work on a daily basis, and I've developed a real love/hate relationship with the service. 
I'm a big supporter and user of public transit.  The Circulator is a great concept. The fact that ridership is high in spite of the serious ongoing scheduling problems is great proof-of-concept, but it still needs a LOT of work.  All my comments below apply only to the Purple line, I don't ride the Orange enough to see if the same problems exist there.  
The cons:
- Extremely unreliable and infrequent service.  10 minute headways remain a pipe dream.  Many days this winter during peak hour the bus tracker map shows only two buses on the entire Purple loop.  However, during off-peak, I've seen as many as five buses showing.  This flies in the face of normal transit operation where you would put more, not fewer, buses in service during peak hours.   As a result, the buses become very crowded.  Yesterday, at 5pm, the Purple line was showing 38 minute headways. As a result, buses were crowded standing room only. One year in, they should be doing much better than this.  I don't know if it's a mechanical reliability problem, or scheduling.  This should be investigated, as even the suspiciously optimistic headway averages reported by Circulator are WAY off their supposed 10 minute performance standard, and have never even been close.  Veolia is a big name in transit, why can't they get this right?????  The lack of predictability keeps a lot of commuters away.  I'm averaging about 50% riding in the morning riding the Circulator versus getting fed up and hopping on a 64, 61 or 3 MTA. 
-Rude and mis-informed front-line employees.  This has honestly improved noticeably but still need improvement.  One vehicle operator told me, when I asked why it was running 30 minute headways instead of 10, that "because it's free you ain't got no right to complain."  When I informed him that I'm a voting taxpayer, he said "No taxes pay for this.  It's all free."  Obviously untrue.  I carry the Circulator number with me, and nearly every time I call to ask about the extended wait, I'm told "It's shift change."  I'm no transit operator, but there has to be a way to do shift changes when it's not rush hour. . .  "Construction" is also popular, when I pointed out to the dispatcher that there was currently no construction anywhere on the Purple line they sounded flummoxed.  Circulator needs to own its failings- not give excuses, otherwise they will never be able to improve. 
-Inebriated indigent "circuit" riders.  This is a touchy issue.  I understand that homeless people lead a harsh life, and I generally don't begrudge them seeking what limited services they can access.  But when three inebriated gentlement delayed the 5pm commute this evening, causing disruption and discomfort as well as a delay as the operator tried to talk them off the bus, it's hard to keep that perspective.  Operators should be instructed to refuse service to disruptive and obviously impaired passengers during crowded rush hours.
-It's freakin slow!!!  Painfully slow!! I don't know what the deal is- drivers are instructed to drive slow, try to hit lights red so they have time to charge the batteries (I honestly believe this is the case- just watch sometime, they slow down for greens so they hit it red, not kidding), not sure- but the MTA buses do my stretch in just about 1/2 the time of the Circulator, in spite of MTA having a posted stop every block on St. Paul/Light.  This is a true story: I once left the Superfresh with a backpack full of groceries, walked to the Pleasant St. stop, a bus pulled up, I thought, heck it's a nice night- so I started walking up Charles.  The bus and I arrived at Biddle Street exactly together. 
-Poor information systems.  The phone number is not posted at stops, and since there is no time-point schedule, calling is the only way to find when the next bus arrives (if you don't have web access on your phone).  The stops that have the time display are inaccurate- I timed the one at Pleasant street one night, it displayed "6 minutes" for 3 minutes, then switched to 17 minutes, then said "Arriving", all with no bus in sight.  I walked home.
-Last, the limited operating hours. 
HOWEVER, I remain positive:
-It's FREE!!!
-Supposedly it's green!   But why don't they publish the real world operating costs though so we can see?  (Anecdotal evidence suggests the buses are expensive white elephants- I hope not, but wonder. .)
-The route is pretty well thought out- a few changes could help, but generally the stops are proper distances, and in good locations. 
-Lots of riders, and I suspect it has attracted non-traditional transit users.
What I would like to see in the future:
-More transparency about the operating problems, more responsive mangement.  I've left several messages for Mr. Johnson with never a call-back. 
-I think an extension of the Purple line to Station North/Baltimore Museum of Art/Hopkins would be a natural, and a huge boost for tourism in that area.  Maybe the city can form a partnership with JHU to replace the Hopkins Shuttle with the Circulator in exchange for financing the service?  They are both run by Veolia. . .
-Not sold on the Green line.  Why doesn't the Orange go down into Fells?  Johns Hopkins has the Subway, why a Circulator line out there as well?
-I'd like to see the city require Circulator to meet it's operating goals on the Purple and Orange lines, and only once they are reliably meeting scheduling, only then open the Green line.
-Speaking of scheduling, why not just put it on a timed schedule?  That would eliminate a lot of the uncertainty that keeps commuters off now.
Myron Burkholder

Since I live at the bottom of the Purple line, about two blocks from the nearest stop, I use the circulator about twice a month.  Living in the SOBO/Federal Hill neighborhood means two things:  (1) you don't have to leave very often because everything is close and (2) it's hard to leave and expect to find parking after 9 pm.  With the circulator I can and do easily go to Mt. Vernon and Habor East without having to worry about parking.  It's a great service and one that I'd even pay for--I hope they keep it up and expand it.
Joe Kennedy
Federal Hill

I no longer live in Mt. Vernon (moved to Hampden), and now use the Circulator more as a tool to get around with friends after work and on the weekends. I think it's well suited for that and I have no complaints. It's significantly improved since launch. Anyone who thinks it is a drain on city $ simply doesn't know how successful cities operate (or they are willfully ignorant). Friendly competent public transit is a requirement to Baltimore's successful future, and relying on car commuters to save the city won't work.

Few suggestions:
• City should (upon launch of green line) negotiate with JHU to partially pay for expansion to Charles Village--eliminating need for some of the Hopkins shuttles.
• Buses should go faster. Idling down St. Paul is painful.
• Buses should get bike racks installed on front like MTA buses.
If anything, I think the continued growth of ridership on the Purple Line demonstrates we can't build the Charles Street Trolley fast enough.

Jed Weeks

The Circulator is great, but I don't see why they're the only buses in Baltimore that don't have bike racks! A route between Penn Station and Hopkins Homewood campus (and maybe all the way to Towson?) would be great, too.


I totally disagree with the City expanding the service. Baltimore is cutting services left and right so how does the city have the money to operate a free bus service for mostly affluent neighborhoods. The majority of the riders use the free bus for entertainment purposes, if we can afford free buses they should be for low income workers traveling to and from work. 

Ricarra Jones

The Circulator is a huge success in my view.  Living in Mid-Town, I use if frequently:   the Purple line to go downtown, and also connect with the Orange Line to connect with Harbor East and the Light Rail.   While the project had a rough and uneven startup, by and large it works quite well, is on time and is clean.  In addition to the commuting locals, it seems to carry a fair number of out of town visitors.

While this is a "free" service, I believe that it more than pays for itself  by way of decreased traffic, less parking problems, and happy visitors who boost the economy.

Abel J. Merrill



I sold my car in 2007.  Living downtown (Seton Hill), I generally don’t need a car. If I do, I take a zip car.  My Quaker meeting  is right off the orange line (Jewish Museum stop).  I can go to meeting for free using the purple line (St Paul @ Centre) and transferring to the orange. I can get to Whole Foods via the orange, and the buses are MUCH easier load get granny carts!  I take the metro to work (State Center to Milford Mill), and then walk to my school from there (about 3 blocks).
Because I hold a monthly pass on my charm card, I sometimes combine the circulator and mta buses.  Thankfully, Google has also combined these two systems which makes getting around the city that much more convenient.
I appreciate the GPS devices in some of the stops that let me know the wait for the next circulator bus. I wish these devices were on all MTA buses!  I could get so much more done in my day if more bus stops had these devices!
One complaint is the speed at which the circulators drive. They creep along the routes under the speed limit which not only is a pain if one is driving behind these buses but also is frustrating to those of us who see MTA buses whizzing by.
My greatest complaint is the complete lack of manners that the drivers of the circulators have. Many do not greet customers when they board the bus, even if the customers greet them first.  They talk to customers like children and many times I’ve heard them yell at customers.  If the job is miserable, get a new one. They do not help the city’s image of poor customer service at all.
Finally, I wish the circulator was a trolley.  Buses are not good for our streets and even if the circulator buses are greener, they do create pollution.   If this system becomes successful and the ridership increases, the city should explore bringing back the trolley system, and allowing Veolia or another private entity to maintain it.  Or, even allow a private entity to build and run it, subsidized by the city coffers. 
Kevin-Douglas Olive

I've used the Circulator bus last week, to get from my office at Pratt and Howard Streets to deliver some material to my financial advisor on South Exeter St. in Inner Harbor East. The material was time-sensitive, so I couldn't rely on snail mail. Although I would normally walk the 50 minute round-trip, it was a cold, very windy day, so I took the Circulator. It was great. I waited about five minutes before boarding, and the trip took about 10 minutes, each way. It was comfortable and pleasant. If all public transit was as efficient, pleasant and comfortable, (and free), people would leave their cars at home.  Talk about a National Energy Policy.


Posted by Michael Dresser at 6:10 PM | | Comments (3)
Categories: City bus service

Insurer offers deal: monitoring for discounts

Progress, the auto insurance company with the ultra-chirpy television pitch woman, has virtually built its business around the word "discounts."

Now it's going to offer its Maryland customers a discount deal that could produce cuts of up to 30 percent off its regular rates. What you have to do to get them is let the company monitor your driving electronically for six months.

The new program, called Snapshot, replaces an 2008 plan called MyRate that also involved installation of an electronic monitor. But where the old one carried the risk of a rate increase if the results proved unfavorable by  the  company's standards, the new on has no downside risk, according to Progressive. And where the MyRate program involved monitoring for the life of the policy, with Snapshot, it's six months and out.


Under Snapshot, approved by the Maryland Insurance Administration last fall, Progressive will offer  customers or prospective customers the option of installing the device in the data port standard on cars manufactured  since 1996. The company says the device will monitor the number of miles driven, the time of day the vehicle is  on the road and the number of instances in which the operator hits the brakes hard.

The theory is that risk increases with the number of miles the car is on the road, the amount of those miles driven during the more dangerous nighttime hours and the frequency with which the driver has to mash on the brakes -- Progressive's measure of how well a person drives. (The company explains that one won't lose points for that one hard braking incident that prevents a crash but will if there's a repeated tendency to make quick stops.)

And in the insurance industry, it's all about predicting risk.

According to Progressive, the device will send a wireless signal to the company, which will compile the state. After the first  30 days, customers will receive whatever preliminary rate they're entitled to. After 6-months, the company figures it will have all the data it needs to set a more-or-less permanent rate. The customer can then mail the device back to the company.

According to Progressive, discounts under the program could go as high as 30 percent.

The company is  assuring customers that the technology does not use GPS and will not allow the company to track where customers drive -- just how many miles. Nor will the data be used to drop coverage on drivers that don't qualify for discounts, Progressive says. Customers will be able to track their individual results online, the company says.

This attempt to more precisely assess the risks of insuring a particular driver reflect a growing trend in the industry toward what is known as usage-based insurance.

Certainly there are upsides for some customers. If you drive only a few miles a week -- to the grocery store and to church on Sunday -- and if  you seldom venture out in the wee hours, you have two of three factors going for you right there. And if you're a 20-year-old male who drives very carefully, seldom mashes the brakes and doesn't go clubbing at night, the program could be a counterweight to the negative stereotypes driving up your rates now.

But the potential downsides are also there: How voluntary is the program really? How do  you know what the device is really telling the company about you? Does the company's theoretical  model really reflect the risk of insuring you?

Getting There would be interested in hearing from readers about whether they would take Progressive up on its offer. Does the penalty free nature of the offer make it more attractive than MyAlert? How much of a discount would persuade you to allow such monitoring?

Please post your thoughts or send an email to If you send email, please add a phone number if you're willing to answer follow-up questions.





Posted by Michael Dresser at 5:03 PM | | Comments (3)
Categories: On the roads

Lane closings to start at U.S. 40 Patapsco bridge

Traffic disruptions are about to become a way of life for a while for motorists crossing the U.S. 40 bridge over the Patapsco River between Catonsville and Ellicott City.

The State Highway Administration will begin single-lane closings in both directions at 9 a.m. Wednesday as construction crews begin preparatory work for a rehabilitation project slated to start in the spring. The agency is replacing the deck and much of the supporting structure of the aging bridge, which dates back to 1936.

The SHA said single-lane closings, which will allow equipment too be moved into the bridge area safely, can  take place any time between 9 a.m. and 3 p.m. It said the preliminary work includes construction of a temporary construction access road on  the eastbound side,

Eventually, eastbound and westbound traffic will be routed onto a pair of temporary bridges over the deep river  valley while the existing bridge is demolished and a new one built in its place.



Posted by Michael Dresser at 3:46 PM | | Comments (0)
Categories: On the roads

MARC: The good, the bad and the ugly

MARC riders are reporting it was a rough morning on both the Penn and Camden lines, with breakdowns, delays, slow trains and missed communication -- par for the course.

But  here's some man-bites-dog good news. Here we have a Maryland agency saying it intends to keep doing  its job even in the snow. Amazing. Here's the announcement from the MARC web site:

MARC Train will operate full service on Friday, January 7, 2011.  Given the forecast for light snow showers, please keep the following safety tips in mind to ensure that you get to work safely. 1) Wear sturdy footwear--we strongly discourage heels, men's dress shoes, and other footwear with limited tread and stability. 2) Roads, especially local and lightly-traveled roads will be very slick. Please drive carefully. 3) Arrive at least 15 minutes before train departure to allow extra time to park your car, WALK to the station or platform, and board your train. 4) NEVER run or walk fast on icy and snow covered platforms.  Thank you for riding the MARC Train Service.

But there's also some ugly to go along with it:

MARC Tracker Problems--The company that services the MARC Tracker system is having server problems which affects the operation of the system.  A new computer has been ordered and will be installed by Friday.  For this week (January 3-7), it is likely that the system will display incorrect or outdated information.  Email updates will be sent about delays as they occur.  Click here to sign up for email alerts and updates.  MARC Train regrets this inconvenience and appreciates your patience.



Posted by Michael Dresser at 10:42 AM | | Comments (3)
Categories: MARC train

January 6, 2011

UPDATE: Some roads closed, traffic being diverted downtown

Update: A suspicious package was also found at 201 W. Preston Street in Baltimore, according to Chief Kevin Cartwright, a spokesman for the Baltimore Fire Department.
Only the mailroom of the building, which houses the Maryland Department of Health and Mental Hygiene, was being evacuated at about 4 p.m. and the streets around it have been closed.

Howard Street and Martin Luther King were closed at Preston during rush hour. Cars going south on Howard were diverted west onto Dolphin Street. Eight police cars and one bus, unmarked cars, a hazardous material truck and U.S. Homeland Security truck were parked outside the complex.

Police are investigating a suspicious package at the Clarence M. Mitchell Jr. Courthouse in Baltimore. Workers have been evacuated and traffic, which normally flows on both sides of a monument on Calvert Street, is being limited to the east side, along the courthouse annex. Cars and pedestrians were also diverted in front of the Public Defender’s Office at 201 St. Paul Place. Although no streets are closed, motorists may want to avoid this area during the evening commute. At this moment, according to Mike Dresser, the effect on traffic is minimal and there's not a huge backup.

Posted by Michelle Deal-Zimmerman at 5:04 PM | | Comments (0)
Categories: On the roads

Charm City Circulator turning 1

The Charm City Circulator free bus service reaches its first anniversary next Tuesday, and city officials are delighted with its ridership so far.

The city launched its venture into transit service, previously the province of the Maryland Transit Administration, last Jan. 11 with  the inauguration of its east-west Orange  Route. It  followed in June with its north-south Purple Route. So far, the city says ridership has surpassed expectations.

The service had gone through some awkward moments during its maiden year, especially when it discovered the hybrid diesel buses it bought for the service were less resistant to summer heat than  they anticipated. It also performed poorly at times when city events forced detours -- such as during Artscape.

Nevertheless, the city  plans to  forge ahead with the launch of a third line this year.

Getting There is interested in how users of the Circulator view the system. Let us know whether you think it's a boon or a bust for Baltimore. Tell us how you put it to use. Give us your views on whether the city should expand service -- and if so, how.

Please send your comments to and put Circulator in the subject line. Please include a phone number where you can  be reached for follow-up questions.


Posted by Michael Dresser at 12:31 PM | | Comments (14)
Categories: City bus service

January 5, 2011

MTA introduces CharmCard for seniors

The Maryland Transit Administration said that on Monday it will roll out a version of its CharmCard fare collection system that will reflect the discounts available to seniors.

The new, bright orange CharmCard for Seniors will be available to riders over 65, charging them the reduced fares already available for older MTA customers.

The original CharmCard, introduced last year, offered  automated fare collection using a plastic card with an embedded microchip that stores and spends the monetary value  the customer adds to the card. But at the time of its launch, the system was unable to account for senior fares.

The new senior card is intended to remedy that omission. It can be used on MTA local buses, the Baltimore subway and light rail, as well as Washington-area buses and that city's Metro. It is not accepted on MARC trains, where the ticketing is integrated into the Amtrak system.

According to the MTA, customers can carry up to a $200 balance on their cards at any time. It said the cards will be registered so that value is protected in case the card is lost, damaged or stolen. Seniors are eligible for such discounts as 55 cents  for a regular one-way fare, compared to the standard $1.60, and $1.20 for a day  pass, compared with $3.50 for other riders.

The reduced-fare senior cards  willl be available at  the  MTA certification office at 6 St. Paul St. in downtown Baltimore. A valid Photo ID will  be required to  prove eligibility. The cost of the senior  card is $2, but it comes pre-loaded with that amount in transit fares.




Posted by Michael Dresser at 4:19 PM | | Comments (0)
Categories: Baltimore Metro, Light rail, Local bus lines, MTA, MTA bus system

Council seeks stories of getting around Baltimore

Auni Husted, a program assistant at the Maryland Humanities Council, said the group is planning a transportation-related event in Baltimore in early February, and is putting out a public call for true transportation stories from local residents. Here's the message:

Maryland Humanities Council and The Stoop Storytelling Series present "Moving Stories: Getting Around Baltimore"
Do you have a tale about riding the bus in Baltimore City? Do you feel safe walking or biking around town? Are you a taxi driver, a senior citizen or a carpooling mom? Do you take the light rail or subway? Do you get stuck in traffic every morning on the JFX? Do you kayak to school or take three buses? 

We are looking for storytellers to tell a five-minute true personal tale about their experiences of navigating Baltimore--the good, the bad, and the ugly--for "Moving Stories: Getting Around Baltimore" on February 10 from 6:00-8:30 pm at The Walters Art Museum. Send three sentences about your idea to Beth Barbush at
If your story is chosen, you must be available to take part in a free Stoop Stories workshop with Laura Wexler and Jessica Henkin at the Maryland Humanities Council (108 West Centre Street, Baltimore) on Sunday, February 6 from 1:00 – 4:30 pm. You may have the opportunity to share your story in performance, print, or audio recording. Five performances of the stories will be presented at the Walters Art Museum on February 10, followed by small group discussions and debates on transportation issues.
For more information contact Beth Barbush at, call 410-322-7080 or visit our website ( and visit the Stoop Story Telling website (

Posted by Michael Dresser at 1:44 PM | | Comments (0)

State employee describes MLK dangers

Georgia Corso, a 12-year state employee who works at the State Center complex in Baltimore, wrote Getting There to describe the problems she sees with  the pedestrian crossing of Martin Luther King Boulevard between there and Maryland General Hospital.

The crossing was the site of a fatal incident Tuesday in which a bus struck a man in a crosswalk. Police attributed the death to pedestrian error. Getting There passes on Corso's email in a lightly edited version.

The  center is bordered by Howard Street on the east, Eutaw Street on the west, and the heavily-trafficked six-lane divided highway of Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd to the south. On the north side of MLK Blvd are the 5th Regiment Armory and the Maryland State Office Complex, comprised of three buildings full of offices. To the south are the Maryland General Hospital complex, the Baltimore School for the Arts, and a myriad of restaurants and shops. There is one crossing for pedestrians across MLK Blvd and I would venture that easily 750 people use that particular crosswalk everyday.

The problems
It takes forever to get across the street; the signal is not coordinated with the ones at Eutaw Street and Howard Street. At rush hour, pedestrians are crossing through stopped traffic that is gridlocked. The light signal changes green for pedestrians every two minutes, according to Mike Harrington of Baltimore City’s Transit and Traffic, although I have not yet had the stopwatch to time it. But when you are standing on the sidewalk waiting for your chance to cross, it seems much longer than that indeed.

The signal does not respond to the Pedestrian Crossing Button, and you can punch on that button forever to no avail. Additionally drivers exhibit a flagrant disregard for the red signals in both directions and pedestrians cannot depend on the signal to stop traffic. Since there is not a street intersection affiliated with the red light, just a pedestrian crosswalk, drivers feel that stopping for the red light is optional, and it makes no sense to stop for the possibility of a pedestrian. Sometimes drivers are running the light because the existing signals are too high in the air for drivers near the crosswalk to see the light. The crosswalk painting on the street has faded and worn.

People who have to cross are usually on a 30 minute lunch break, or are trying to get to work on time and cannot afford to stand on one side of the street waiting for the long two minute series to finally change, particularly when it does not seem to really make a difference to the passing cars. They take their chances and cross halfway, standing on the narrow median, under four feet wide, waiting for the other side to clear and then to make a break. I call it playing Frogger. Oftentimes, pedestrians will get caught on the median, with traffic rushing dangerously past on both sides. It was only a matter of time.

I started making calls back in October. I was told the signal had already been examined and to try calling 311. That did nothing. I kept calling. Finally, Mike Harrington came out to the site and when I spoke with him afterwards, he said he made the green signal for pedestrians longer, giving them more time to cross. Of all the issues I had with the signal that was not one of them. I called then again on December 16, 2010, and told him I was getting a petition together and I was going to send it to the Mayor’s office. I was terrified of the idea of watching someone get hit and having to live with that specter the rest of my life. Plus I truly care about the people I work with, not to mention my own safety. I sent out an email  to everyone in the Laboratories Administration and started gathering signatures. In talking with my co-workers, many told me that they had also called about the intersection and there was no action taken.

Finally, yesterday, January 4th at approximately 3 p.m., a man was attempting to cross and was hit by a (bus). A coworker in the Department of General Services saw it and told our security guard that people lifted the man and carried him into the Linden Deli, and that he watched as workers from Maryland General Hospital worked to resuscitate the man. When I heard about the incident yesterday afternoon from Department of General Services Police officers, I called Transit and Traffic and told them that I was the woman who had spoken to them, requested a camera, requested other safety issues, additional lower traffic signals, and was getting a petition together.

And that now there had been a fatality, just as I feared. I could not get any information from the Baltimore City Police, naturally, but there were eight patrol cars on the scene when I left work at 5:15 p.m. and there were city police officers from the Crash Unit on hand, the crossing was taped off, traffic on the west bound side was detoured, and officers were bustling about still. It is a horrible thing that someone has to die, a family has to lose a loved one, before something is done about a situation that is well-known for many years to hundreds of people.

Getting There has contacted the city and is looking forward to hearing its response to Corso's concerns and any plans it might have for addressing pedestrian safety issues there.


Posted by Michael Dresser at 1:06 PM | | Comments (6)

Pedestrian killed in bus crash near State Center

A 47-year-old Baltimore man was killed Tuesday when he was struck by an intercity bus while crossing Martin Luther King Boulevard near State Center, according to Baltimore police.

Police spokesman Det. Jeremy Silbert said Stanley Price Jr. of the 700 block Poplar Grove St. apparently stepped off a curb into the path of a BoltBus near Eutaw Street just after 3 p.m. Silbert said Price was taken to nearby Maryland General Hospital, where he was pronounced dead at 3:26 p.m.

According to a preliminary investigation, Price was in a crosswalk but was crossing against the signal while the bus had a green light, Silbert said. He said police had tentatively ruled the fatality a case of pedestrian error.

Workers at the state government complex have raised concerns  with the city about the safety of the crossing of Martin Luther King between State Center and the hospital. Georgia Crosso, a state employee at the complex, said she that even before Tuesday's crash she had circulated a petition among co-workers seeking changes in the signals at the complicated intersection.

Corso said that even before the fatal incident, she had gathered 50 signatures on the petition seeking a red light camera and other improvements in the area.

Bonnie Bastian, a spokeswoman for BoltBus, confirmed that one of  her company's vehicles was involved. She said the company  is conducting a full internal investigation and assisting in the police inquiry.

Bastian said the driver, who was not cited for a violation, has been with the company since 2009 and is "a respected member of our driving team."

Posted by Michael Dresser at 11:47 AM | | Comments (24)
Categories: On the roads

Greyhound launches service for rural Maryland

Greyhound and the Maryland Transit Administration have launched a new service connecting communities in Northeastern Maryland and Delaware with the intercity bus company's national network with prices of $21 a ride or less.

The new Baltimore-Wimington line is the first of what could be several short-haul intercity bus lines serving rural Maryland, including routes in Western Maryland and the  Eastern Shore, said MTA spokesman Terry Owens.

The first phase of the Greyhound Connect program, which made its debut this week with promotional fares of $1 through Monday, is part of the MTA's Rural Intercity Bus Program. It will serve Baltimore, White Marsh, Aberdeen, Edgewood, Elkton, Perryville and North East in Maryland as well as Newark and Wilmington in Delaware. Buses will run once a day, 7 days a week in each direction and will connect with the national Greyhound network at stations in Aberdeen and Baltimore.

According to  Greyhound, the program was launched  after a needs  assessment by the state that identified regions of Maryland that now lack "daily, scheduled and affordable" transportation. The service will be underwritten by a grant by the Federal Transit Administration for the next 18 months. Greyhound will contribute by linking the service to its online ticketing system.

Maureen Richmond, a spokeswoman for Greyhound, said the Northeastern Maryland service could be a first step toward extending bus service to other rural areas of the state. She said Maryland officials are looking into the idea.

"I think that's something they're definitely taking a close look at," she said.

Richmond provided the following timetable:

Wilmington, DE ET 14:10
Newark , DE  14:40
Elkton , MD 14:55
Northeast 15:15
Perryville 15:35
Aberdeen 15:50
Edgewood 16:05
White Marsh Station 16:20
Baltimore, MD ET 16:40

Baltimore, MD ET 11:15
White Marsh Station 11:35
Edgewood 11:50
Aberdeen  12:10
Perryville 12:25
Northeast 12:40
Elkton  13:00
Newark ,DE  13:15
Wilmington, DE ET 13:45

Tickets can be purchased online at or 800-231-2222.

Posted by Michael Dresser at 11:05 AM | | Comments (2)
Categories: On the roads

January 4, 2011

Transportation funding panel wants 2011 action

A commission studying how to bolster Maryland's anemic fund for transportation has reached an apparent consensus to recommend that the General Assembly take action to raise hundreds of millions for such projects this year.

The Blue Ribbon Commission on Maryland Transportation Funding plans to hold a special meeting Jan. 24 to decide on how much money it will urge legislators to raise to replenish the Transportation Trust Fund. Members of the panel discussed sums ranging from $300 million to $650 million a year -- an amount that would likely require an increase in the state's gasoline tax.

Sen. Rob Garagiola,a Montgomery County Democrat who is a member of the commission, said the panel believes Maryland is under pressure from other states that are moving to shore up their transportation funding in anticipation of an improved economy. 



"It seems like the commission has not kicked the can down the road and put the focus on a revenue package for the 2011 General Assembly," Garagiola said.

The hopes of panel members to find more money for roads, bridges, transit and other projects has been complicated by a proposal gaining traction in the General Assembly to divert some of the sales tax money now slated to go to the Transportation Trust fund to close the general fund budget shortfall by an estimated $200 million a year.

Transportation Secretary Beverly Swaim-Staley said it would take a 7-cent increase in the gas tax simply to make up for the money lost to the trust fund in sales tax revenue. That would mean a 10-cent increase supported by some transportation advocates would yield only a net gain of a little more than $100 million for transportation -- a fraction of the state's identified needs. Swaim-Staley questioned whether the 20-cent gas tax increase  needed to raise $650 million would be politically feasible.

The panel's recommendation could counter inclinations by some legislators to defer the transportation funding issue to 2012 while it grapples with the general fund shortfall. The panel is not expected to present final recommendations until late 2011. However, the commission's concerns about transportation could be overshadowed by the desire of some General Assembly fiscal leaders to use the gas tax to close the general budget shortfall.


Gus Bauman, a Washington-based transportation and land use lawyer who chairs the panel, said there was also consensus on the commission to call for a "firewall" around transportation revenue to keep it from being diverted to the general fund -- as the General Assembly and governors often do when the state runs into tight budget times. 

 Bauman acknowledged that past proposals to create a "firewall" as a constitutional amendment had repeatedly failed. He suggested there might be a statutory way to require a super-majority to tap into the trust fund.

But Garagiola said the legislature would "probably not" be able to erect an enforceable super-majority firewall without an amendment.

 The senator said he would prefer not to tap the sales tax for general fund purposes. But he said it is important to act on any transportation revenue increases because expected toll increases this year could sap the Assembly's political will to deal with other transportation needs.










Posted by Michael Dresser at 8:32 PM | | Comments (4)

Maryland ranks 9th in seat belt use, CDC says

The federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports that Maryland ranks 9th in the nation in the percentage of residents who report that they always wear a seat when driving or riding in a car.

Maryland's seat belt use of 89.6 percent lags just over 4 percentage points behind that of Oregon, which ranked first among the states, District of Columbia and Puerto Rico with 93.7 percent, according to the CDC survey.

Like all of the top 14 in the ranking, Maryland has a primary-enforcement seat belt law, which allows officers to stop a motorist on a violation without observing another offense. Roughly half the states have such laws, while most of the others have secondary laws, allowing enforcement only when a seat belt is not work while another offense is being committed. New Hampshire has no seat belt law of either kind.

The report comes as some highway safety advocates are considering a push in this year's legislative session to toughen the penalties for violating Maryland's seat belt law, which now provides for a $25 fine and no points.

"We  believe there seems to be that hard core," said Robert McKinney, president of the Maryland Highway Safety Foundation. He called the percentage of Marylanders who still drive without belts "unacceptable." The foundation's board will decide the group's legislative priorities next week.


The survey found that compliance was significantly higher in the primary enforcement states -- 88.2 percent -- than in New Hampshire and the states with secondary laws, where  79.2 percent reported they always wore seat belts. The lowest compliance rates were found in the  Dakotas, where they dipped below 60 percent.

The survey results differed from others that use different methodologies. For instance, a survey of 2009 data by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration found generally higher compliance rates around the country, including a 94 percent rate in Maryland.

The CDC researchers said  that if primary laws were in effect in all states, an additional 7.3 million Americans would be regularly buckling up.

According to the agency's Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report, seat belts reduce the risk of death in vehicle crashes by 45 percent and serious injuries by 50 percent.

The report says seat belt use has increased nationally between 2002 and 2008 from 80.5 percent to 85 percent.

According to the survey, compliance is significantly higher among women and older drivers than men and younger people. It found that Hispanics are  more likely to use seat  belts than either blacks or whites, and that seat belt use among rural drivers is significantly lower than among those in urban and suburban areas. 


Posted by Michael Dresser at 11:31 AM | | Comments (3)
Categories: On the roads

January 3, 2011

MARC rings in new year with delay

Riders reported engine trouble on Train 538 was delaying service on the Penn Line this evening. You can learn a lot more about what's going on -- and more quickly -- by following #marcfail on Twitter than you'll learn from the MTA.

And why is it that the MTA can't get the times right on the notices posted to its web site? The notice marked as being posted at 7:14 p.m. was up there by 7:04 p.m. It would be nice to think a transit agency that lives and dies by schedules knew what time it was.


Posted by Michael Dresser at 7:05 PM | | Comments (2)
Categories: MARC train

SHA to examine Tipsy?Taxi! performance

The State Highway Administration, one of the sponsors of the Tipsy?Taxi! program, was contacted by The Sun for a comment on the problems with the service described below. Here is the reply from the SHA's Lori Rakowski:

Tipsy?Taxi! is a tool to remove would-be impaired drivers from behind the steering wheel on holidays associated with drinking in order to keep Baltimore area roadways safe.  The Maryland State Highway Administration is very concerned that people who wanted to take advantage of the Tipsy?Taxi service were unable to do so and is investigating the complaints brought to our attention by the Baltimore Sun.  The three partners - SHA, AAA Mid-Atlantic and Yellow Cab are working together to determine what can be done differently in the future and will be meeting together in the next month.  Some holidays are more challenging than others - on New Year's Eve the demand outpaces capacity for any cab service. With the increase in Tipsy?Taxi!'s popularity, we will look at ways to communicate with patrons and deliver on the program's mission to provide safe rides home - just as it has more than 2,500 times since the program's start in July 2006.  While the primary message is to plan ahead and seek alternatives to drinking and driving, Tipsy?Taxi! is one option among many such as transit, other cab companies, or designating a sober driver. Whether a holiday or just an ordinary Friday night, personal responsibility and making the right decisions are always key.  For those who made the responsible choice this New Year's Eve - Tipsy?Taxi!, another cab service, public transportation or the use of a designated driver,  we thank you for your partnership in keeping Maryland roadways safe.  Our ultimate goal is to save lives, one person at a time.

It's a good thing that the SHA and its partners plan to take a look at the performance of the program. More generally, I would hope that the state and the taxi industry find a way to promote the use of cabs after a night on the town whether it's a holiday weekend or not.

The partner that's conspicuously missing in this whole equation is the broader alcoholic beverage industry -- both those who make the drinks and those who serve them. One of the big barriers to the use of taxis is the perception that taking a cab is prohibitively expensive. It would be in the interest of all parties -- and the citizens generally -- to defray that cost for restaurant and tavern-goers. A voucher program, underwritten in part by the alcohol industry, could make a lot of sense. They have a big stake in getting their customers home safe and handcuff-free. 

Posted by Michael Dresser at 4:17 PM | | Comments (2)
Categories: On the roads

Census shows transit lags in Baltimore County

Baltimore County slipped from fourth to a tie for fifth place in Maryland in the percentage of workers who use public transit to get to work, according to the U.S. Census Bureau.

The bureau's 2005-2009 American Community Survey shows that fast-growing Charles County jumped past Baltimore County to come in No. 4 among Maryland jurisdictions in transit use. Transit use there more than doubled from 2.4 percent in the 2000 Census to 6.2 percent in the more recent survey -- likely  reflecting a sharp increase in the number of commuter buses serving the Southern Maryland County.

Baltimore County, meanwhile, slipped from 4 percent transit use in the 2000 Census to 3.9 percent in the survey. That put it in a tie with Howard County, where transit use grew from 2.5 percent in 2000. Baltimore County, parts of which are served by the Maryland Transit Administration, is the largest jurisdiction in the state without a locally operated bus system.

The same survey showed that Maryland ranks fifth among the states -- or sixth if the District of Columbia is included -- in transit use at 8.7 percent of the population. In 2000, the state's percentage stood at 7.2 percent.

Not surprisingly, the top jurisdictions in Maryland in transit use are Baltimore, at 18.6 percent, Prince George's County (17.4 percent) and Montgomery County (15 percent). The two suburban Washington counties are served by that region's extensive Metro subway system.

But Baltimore's percentage of transit use is a slip from its 2000 Census level of 19.5 percent, while both of the Washington area counties showed gains. Prince George's, which had been at 11.9 percent, moved into second place, while Montgomery, where 12.6 percent used transit in 2000, fell to third. 

The Baltimore suburbs show a generally low level of transit use compared with the Washington region. Anne Arundel County stood at 3 percent, up from 2.5 percent. Harford increased from 1 percent to 1.6 percent. Carroll, where political opposition to public transit is strong, fell from 1.3 percent in 2000 to 0.8 percent.

Nationally, the leader in transit use is the District of Columbia at 37.1 percent. The top states are New York (26.5 percent), New Jersey (10.4), Massachusetts (9), Illinois (8.8) and Maryland.



Tipsy?Taxi! fails to deliver

It's been many years since this blogger has gone out bar-hopping on New Year's Eve, but this year I was able to call on the services of a 21-year-old surrogate to put the services of Tipsy?Taxi! -- the free cab ride service promoted at various holidays as an alternative to driving -- to the test.

It flunked.

The young man and his friends were well prepared with the phone number of the supposed service as  they headed to Federal Hill to welcome the new year at one of that neighborhood's saloons. But the next day he reported that repeated efforts to get through to the Tipsy?Taxi number were met with a busy signal.

Fortunately, the young men had prepared for the possibility of disappointment by carrying the extra  cash it took to hail a cab and return to Towson when the night's festivities concluded about 2 a.m.

This is not the first report Getting There and other Sun blogs have received about Tipsy?Taxi! failing to come through. Certainly the service's sponsors -- including Yellow Cab, AAA Mid-Atlantic and the State Highway Administration -- are well-intentioned, but if people can't rely on it, why continue it? 

Yellow Cab and AAA are private entities, so what they do is up to them. But the SHA's sponsorship gives the service a government seal of approval that it appears not to deserve. If the agency can't provide the personnel to answer the phones, it ought to drop its participation.

Ragina Averella, a spokeswoman for AAA, said the organization still believes Tipsy?Taxi! is a useful service that provides a good alternative to driving home from a bar of holiday weekends. She said AAA's preliminary tally shows that 92 rides were provided by the service on New year's Eve.

"We will be looking at how we can possibly improve that service," she said. "I think we did a great job of getting the word out about it -- maybe too good."

Dwight Kines, general manager of Yellow Cab, said the was an "overwhelming demand" for taxis that night -- both for the free rides and paying customers. On a good night, he said, the company might miss 4-5 percent of its calls. On New Year's Ever, Kines said, "we were fully staffed and we might have missed 18 percent of our calls."

Kines said that Tipsy?Taxi! service, which is financed by a state grant, went to the front of the line. "The paying customer waited longer than Tipsy?Taxi!," he said.

Avarella and Kines both said their organizations would look into the possibility of adding more people to answer calls on the lines dedicated to Tipsy?Taxi! use.

Maybe this is a service that can be fixed so that people can really rely on it. But the sponsors might also want to re-examine whether this is the best way to deliver the excellent message that taxis make a lot of sense for holiday revelers.

Rather than promote the notion of a free ride, perhaps the sponsors could deliver the message that a taxi -- even at the full fare -- is a great bargain compared with the cost of a drunk driving arrest or alcohol-related crash. The key may be to persuade people to take a cab at the beginning of the celebrations -- using vouchers, discounts, guaranteed pickups by the same company -- rather than counting on a tipsy person to have the presence of mind to summon a taxi once the drinks have begun to flow.


Posted by Michael Dresser at 10:09 AM | | Comments (2)
Categories: On the roads
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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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