November 23, 2011

Charm City Circulator sets Thanksgiving hours

The Charm City Circulator will operate on a modified schedule on Thanksgiving Day, taking off during the day but coming alive in the evening to get get fans to and from the Ravens game at M&T Bank Stadium.

Adrienne Barnes, a spokeswoman for the Baltimore City Department of Transportation, said the Circulator will operate from 5 p.m. until an hour after the Thursday night game ends. She estimated that would take the bus runs up to midnight.

 Barnes said the three lines of the free city shuttle bus would operate on a normal schedule Friday through Sunday.

Posted by Michael Dresser at 10:19 AM | | Comments (0)
Categories: City bus service

November 11, 2011

Cheatham wants another new Circulator line

After the recent launch of the third line of Baltimore's Charm City Circulator -- the Green Route serving Johns Hopkins Hospital, Fells Point and Harbor East -- former city NAACP chief Marvin L. Cheatham Sr. weighed in with a proposal of his own: a Blue Route between City Hall and the state office complex at Eutaw and Preston streets.

For Cheatham,now president of the Baltimore chapter of the National Action Network, the No. 1 argument his fairness. He says his proposed route would be one for "those who actually live and work in Baltimore city" -- implying that users of the previous three routes do not.

Cheatham complains that the Maryland Transit Administration routes on Eutaw Street are among the worst in the system. He believes there should be a free service for riders in that corridor.

I'm skeptical.


Continue reading "Cheatham wants another new Circulator line" »

Posted by Michael Dresser at 6:01 AM | | Comments (11)
Categories: City bus service

October 12, 2011

Circulator Green Route to debut Nov. 1

Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake is planning to announce that service on the Green Route of the Charm City Circulator, the third line of Baltimore's free shuttle bus service, will start up Nov. 1, according to the Baltimore Department of Transportation.

The Green Route will make a vaguely Y-shaped loop serving the Johns Hopkins Hospital, Fells Point, Harbor East and the City Hall area before retracing its course. It will intersect with the Orange Route, which runs east and west from Central Avenue to the Hollins Street Market, and connect with the Locust Point water taxi that docks at Maritime Park. According to the city, the newest addition to its fleet, the Orion VII BRT Hybrid bus, will be used on the route.

The Green Route does not connect directly with the north-south Purple Route, which serves the Charles-St. Paul-Light corridor between the Cross Street Market and Penn Station, but the two lines come within about two blocks of each other near City Hall. In the plans is a fourth route serving Fort McHenry from the Inner Harbor.

According to the Circulator web site, the Orange Route has added a new -- and much-needed -- stop at Howard Street to provide a better connection to the light rail system.


Posted by Michael Dresser at 4:40 PM | | Comments (6)
Categories: City bus service

August 18, 2011

Region has 6,000+ with no car, no transit access

The greater Baltimore region has more than 6,000 household that lack either a car or access to mass transit services, according to a report released Thursday by the Brookings Institution.

That number is overshadowed by the more than 114,000 regional households that own no vehicles but do have access to transit. That puts the region at 94.6 percent coverage for zero-vehicle households -- coming in 20th out of 100 metropolitan areas around the country.

The Baltimore numbers do show a significant gap between the city and the suburbs in transit access for such households, most with low family incomes. While the city has 100 percent transit coverage, according to Brookings, 85.1 percent of no-vehicle households in the suburbs have such access.

When it comes to providing no-vehicle households with access to jobs, the region doesn't fare as well.  The report days Baltimore provides 42 percent of no-vehicle households with access to jobs -- ranking 32nd out of 100. Of those households, 50.3 percent are in the city and 23.7 percent in the  suburbs.


Continue reading "Region has 6,000+ with no car, no transit access" »

August 15, 2011

Delegation members announce grants for Baltimore

A new Charm City Circulator route to Fort McHenry and a road project intended to reconnect West Baltimore communities divided by the "Highway to Nowhere" will receive federal funding from the U.S. Department of Transportation, four members of the Maryland congressional delegation announced.

U.S. Sens. Barbara A. Mikuslki and Benjamin L. Cadin, along with U.S. Reps. Elijah Cummings and John Sarbanes said the grants will provide $1.6 million for the new Circulator route and $1.7 million for the reconfiguration of the Fulton Avenue bridge in the part of the  U.S. 40 corridor known as the Highway to Nowhere.

The Circulator grant is expected to help the city get its free "Star Spangled" route in operation in time for the bicentennial observance of the War of 1812. The new route is expected to run from the Inner Harbor to the fort along Fort Avenue on a year-round basis. The grant will be used over three years and will cover 65 percent of the route's cost.

The West Baltimore project will reconfigure the five-lane Fulton bridge to integrate it with a pedestrian-bicycle network and to add landscaping and storm water management improvements. According to the delegation members, the project had been launched but was put on hold when funds ran short.



Posted by Michael Dresser at 2:52 PM | | Comments (4)

April 5, 2011

Circulator posts good numbers, gets compliment

Charm City Circulator Scott Solomon, who not long ago was recounting his grievances with the city's free shuttle services, thought it only fair that he pay tribute to recent improvements.

Solomon pointed to new statistics that show the Circulator maintained an average interval between buses -- known as headway -- in March of 11 minutes, 2 seconds on its two routes. The average ridership was more than 6,000 a day.

"The service has definitely seen an improvement!" said Solomon, a regular rider.


Posted by Michael Dresser at 5:30 PM | | Comments (2)
Categories: City bus service

January 31, 2011

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.

Continue reading "Bus, Metro riders' top gripe is on-time performance" »

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

January 27, 2011

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


January 26, 2011

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)

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?

Continue reading "MTA: Cards are good (even if drivers are clueless)" »

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

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


Continue reading "Readers offer opinions on Circulator" »

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

January 6, 2011

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

December 7, 2010

Fire-related street closings continue into tomorrow

All of the street closings that were in effect this morning as a result of the two 5-alarm fires in central Baltimore Monday and Tuesday will remain in effect for this evening's peak travel period  and the Wednesday morning rush hour, according to the Baltimore Department of Transportation. 
Posted by Michael Dresser at 4:26 PM | | Comments (0)
Categories: City bus service, MTA bus system, On the roads

Streets still closed after city fires

Some of Baltimore's most-traveled streets remain closed today after two five-alarm fires within 24 hours disrupted traffic flow and bus service in the center of the city.

City Transportation Department spokeswoman Kathy Chopper said Charles Street remains closed  from Centre to Madison Streets after an overnight fire in a building near Mount Vernon Square. Meanwhile, Madison Street is  closed at St. Paul Street and Cathedral Street is closed at Chase Street.

Baltimore Street remains closed between Holliday and Gay streets  and Holliday has been shut down between  Baltimore and Fayette streets as a result of  yesterday's fire  on The Block. Chopper said  Baltimore Street could  remain closed  for  the next  couple days, but she had no word  from the  Fire Department on how soon Charles might be opened.

The Charm City Circulator Purple Route stop at the Washington Monument  is  closed and the line has been  detoured. Meanwhile , Chopper said, service on the Circulator's Orange Route has been delayed by the  Baltimore Street fire.

Continue reading "Streets still closed after city fires" »

Posted by Michael Dresser at 10:45 AM | | Comments (1)
Categories: City bus service, On the roads

December 2, 2010

Circulator's misleading message blindsides rider

Alexander D. Mitchell IV of Baltimore is a rider of  the city's Charm City Circulator, but he wasn't at all charmed by what appeared to him to be a decision too suspend Purple Route service with  little notice.  Here's what he has to say:

Worked at Baltimore Streetcar Museum yesterday (library work), took Circulator Purple Line downtown to a meeting down on the unit block N.
Charles St.  After meeting, stopped off at a place on Pratt Street, wanted to take Circulator back north, have a pint or two at The Brewers Art, then go back to the BSM for a meeting.  Then I see the flashing message sign at the Circulator stop:

"Closed for WORLD AIDS DAY  Dec. 1st----- 5:30 pm - 8 pm."



Continue reading "Circulator's misleading message blindsides rider" »

Posted by Michael Dresser at 11:41 AM | | Comments (6)
Categories: City bus service

November 17, 2010

Circulator records millionth passenger

The Charm City Circulator has given a ride to its millionth passenger, reaching the seven-figure mark in less than a year since its launch last January, the Baltimore Department of Transportation said.

According to the department, the free shuttle bus service reached that  milestone  Tuesday -- far earlier than projected. The city said ridership over  the past month has averaged more than 4,840 a day on the Circulator's two lines -- the east-west Orange Route and the north-south Purple Route.

Service on the Orange Route began Jan. 11, while the Purple Route was introduced June 7.

Posted by Michael Dresser at 1:22 PM | | Comments (5)
Categories: City bus service

Riders rate 4 bus routes particularly low

The Central Maryland Transportation Alliance, which is surveying Maryland Transit Administration customers on the quality of service they receive, said it has identified four bus routes with a higher level of complaints than others.

With 1,450  responses to the Rate Yor Ride survey tabulated, the association said Routes 5, 15, 19 and 77 stand out with a high volume of negative comments. The association said lateness was the primary complaint,  along with missed stops and buses too crowded too pick up passengers waiting at stops.

The alliance said it met with  the MTA to discuss the preliminary findings. It said the survey so far shows the highest level of satisfaction on Routes 1, 46, 22 and 91.

Posted by Michael Dresser at 12:09 PM | | Comments (24)

November 12, 2010

MTA invites public to stuff a bus

The Maryland Transit Administration and two partners are inviting the public to stuff MTA buses with non-perishable foods for the Maryland Food bank this weekend in Baltimore and Howard counties.

The MTA, in partnership with Giant Food and MIX 106.5 FM, will station buses at the Giant stores at 7944 Honeygo Boulevard in White Marsh and 9200 Baltimore National Pike in Ellicott City. The buses will be open for stuffing Saturday from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. and Sunday from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.

Donations  will be used to stock the food bank and to help families in need.


Posted by Michael Dresser at 11:38 AM | | Comments (1)

November 9, 2010

Mrs. Smith gets her CharmCard fixed

Yesterday we recounted the  story of Bernard and Maria Smith and the hoops they had to jump through at the Maryland Transit Administration to resolve a problem of a defective CharmCard.

Today we can report that the problem has been resolved, though it took the Smiths three trips downtown to accomplish that. Here's the word from MTA spokesman Terry Owens:

Thank you for the opportunity to investigate and respond to a complaint about an inoperative CharmCard and MTA’s response.  Since hearing from you we did confirm that Mrs. Smith’s CharmCard is defective, and today she picked up a new card with its full value along with an apology for her wasted time.  Interestingly, there are currently 4,000 cards in operation and this is the very first report we have received about a defective card.

Continue reading "Mrs. Smith gets her CharmCard fixed" »

Posted by Michael Dresser at 5:09 PM | | Comments (4)

Transit savings in Baltimore put at $9,549 a year

The American Publiic Transit Association estimates that a typical commuter to downtown Baltimore could save $9,549 a year by taking bus or rail to work and jettisoning a car.

Now APTA is a trade group and lobbying arm of the nation's transit agencies, so the fact the organization has come up with a large number for Baltimore and other cities is hardly a surprise. (New York tops that list at $13,962 a year.) But for certain commuters who would like to cut household expenses, the Baltimore number might be worth considering. That's $796 a month, if APTA's calaculations are valid.

Here's APTA's explanation of its methodology:



Continue reading "Transit savings in Baltimore put at $9,549 a year" »

Posted by Michael Dresser at 10:45 AM | | Comments (7)

October 21, 2010

MTA: CharmCard a work in progress

JIn a recent email, Jerry McCann of Lutherville raised some interesting points about how the MTA's new CharmCard works  on the light rail. We posted it on this blog.

Now  MTA spokesman David Clark has replied on behalf of the agency. Here's what he had to say:

Machines at the Lexington Market Northbound Light Rail Station are temporarily unable to accept CharmCards due to underground utility problems.  Additional notices placed on the TVM’s inform patrons that the machines currently accept “Cash Only” and CharmCard access will be available soon at that location. 

Continue reading "MTA: CharmCard a work in progress" »

Posted by Michael Dresser at 6:03 PM | | Comments (6)

October 20, 2010

Clinton expected to bring heavy traffic to Federal Hill

The Baltimore Department of Transportation is warning motorists to expect congestion and parking restrictions tomorrow afternoon during former President Bill Clinton's visit to Federal Hill for a political rally.

The department said parking restrictions will be in effect along Warren and Battery avenues between noon and 5 p.m. Department spokeswoman Kathy  Chopper said no road closings  are planned, but she said riders on the Charm City Circulator Purple Route, which runs along Light Street into Federal Hill, could experience some delays.

Clinton is expected  to speak at a rally with Gov. Martin O'Malley, Sen. Barbara A. Mikulski and other Democrats on the Nov. 2 ballot. The city urged motorists to use alternate routes where possible.

Posted by Michael Dresser at 3:20 PM | | Comments (3)
Categories: City bus service, On the roads

October 14, 2010

CharmCard for seniors due in early 2011

This just in from the MTA website:

Based on card sales and fare purchases, MTA’s new CharmCard has been positively
received by full-fare customers.  The reduced-fare CharmCard for seniors is in the final stages of development, and is scheduled to be available in early 2011. 
When the Senior CharmCard is available the MTA will provide purchase information
at the MTA Reduced Fare Certification Office, at the Transit Store, on transit vehicles, and through direct mail.


Marathon to alter 24 bus routes

One of the charms of the Baltimore Marathon, beside the creative way it tests drivers' ability to cope with street closings, is the effect it has on public transit.

According to the Maryland Transit Administration. 24 of its local bus routes will be altered Saturday as a result of road closings associated with the marathon and its companion Baltimore Running Festival. Just put it down to the price you pay to live in a great American city rather than Palookaville.

The MTA said service would be affected on bus Routes No. 1, 3, 5, 7, 8, 10-13, 15, 19-23, 27, 29, 35, 36, 40, 48, 64, 91 and 98. Details can be found  at the MTA website.


Continue reading "Marathon to alter 24 bus routes" »

October 6, 2010

State starts '511' service for travelers

The State Highway Administration has announced it will launch a free. round-the-clock "511" telephone service to provide real-time traffic information to travelers in the state.

The new system, provided by Televent of Rockville, under a five-year contract with the state worth $4.7 million, will start up in fall 2011, according to Gov. Martin O'Malley.

The SHA wil manage the statewide service, under which the contractor will collect traffic information from a variety of sources and provide it to travelers who place calls to 511. The informatiion will also be  made available through social network operators and a website. The 511 system is later expected to add a personalized service that will alert subscribers to traffic conditions via text messaging.



Posted by Michael Dresser at 11:55 AM | | Comments (3)

October 4, 2010

MTA gets federal money for bus system

U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood is expected to announce $776 million in Federal Transit Administration grants to local transit systems today, and the Maryland Transit Administration is in line to receive about $14 million to replace its ancient Bush Street bus barn and to install a modern bus cleaning system.

 Here are the detaiils:


Maryland DOT
Project: Bus Shop Construction
Amount: $12,000,000

MDOT will use the funds to replace its 103 year-old Bush Street bus maintenance shop, which has exceeded its useful life.  The replacement facility will be used to maintain and accommodate 700 new hybrid and articulated buses.  Construction of the building will be complete with repair/inspection bays, space for parts storage, and a dedicated rebuilding area.

Maryland DOT
Project: Bus Wash Replacement
Grant Amount: $1,723,050

Maryland DOT’s old bus wash systems will be replaced with new energy efficient and environmentally friendly bus wash systems that can accommodate both conventional diesel and hybrid buses. A water reclamation system will recycle water used by the bus wash.


Posted by Michael Dresser at 11:29 AM | | Comments (0)

September 22, 2010

Book fair to divert MTA, Circulator buses

The Baltimore Book Festival will take over Mount Vernon Place Friday through Sunday, and one the events will be the traditional Rerouting of the Buses.

This year the Baltimore Department of Transportation will join the Maryland Transit Administration in the annual diversion as the fledgling Purple Route of the Charm City Circulator encouinters its first book fair. Riders can only hope it copes better than it did during Artscape.

The MTA announced that starting Thursday at 8 a.m. its northbound bus Routes No. 3, 11, 64 and 61 will be diverted  off Charles Street onto Centre Street and then Chase Street before rejoining Charles.  The southbound buses, which run on St. Paul Street, will need  no detour.

Continue reading "Book fair to divert MTA, Circulator buses" »

Posted by Michael Dresser at 1:58 PM | | Comments (0)
Categories: City bus service, MTA, MTA bus system, On the roads

September 20, 2010

Circulator rethinking schedule strategy

Last week Charm City Circulator riider Tim Patterson raised some concerns about two issues affecting the free city bus  service: the practice of interrupting normal pickups to get back on schedule and the tendency of certain street people  to take up temporary residence aboard the vehicles in a  most  un-fragrant way.


Sarah Husain,  transit coordinator for the Circulator, provided the following responses:

1. We’ve been experimenting with different ways to improve our evening peak headway times by trying new ideas in refueling the buses in the afternoons, but the “drop off” method that Mr. Patterson mentioned isn’t working well, so we’re changing that approach.

2. We have Downtown and Waterfront Partnership guides helping out to add an extra measure of safety and security on the Circulator on Friday and Saturday evenings, but if another passenger is causing an issue on the Circulator during other times, please let the driver know, who can then radio to dispatch that s/he needs assistance.

Suhain adds that the city is conducting a survey at its website in Circulator service and urges rider to sign on and give city officials some feedback on problems such as these.

Continue reading "Circulator rethinking schedule strategy" »

Posted by Michael Dresser at 4:52 PM | | Comments (4)
Categories: City bus service

September 17, 2010

Reader raises concerns about Circulator service

Tim Patterson, an employee at the University of Maryland, Baltimore who rides the Charm City  Circulator from the BioPark Parking Garage to campus every day, raised some  concerns about the city's new free shuttle bus service:

1)  The other day, I inquired of a driver why so many buses seemed to switch to "Not In Service" just as they approached the stop I was waiting at.  The answer:  Veolia has been getting fined for the un-even spacing, so what they will do is switch to a "drop off" only mode to space things out. Unfortunately, neither the LCD display on the front of the bus, or the online tracking tools differentiate between "Out of Service" or "Drop Off Only" mode.  It's pretty misleading.  They should really fix that (especially on the online tools) since many of us use the tracker to determine when to leave work and head to the stop... only to see the bus go by with "Out of Service" on it.


2)  There have been an increasing number of people on the west-bound leg of the Orange Route who seem drunk, or high, or at least "sailing".  They often are passed out or passing out, and frankly, REEK.  And this isn't at night, it's between 3 and 6 in the afternoon.  The Circulator bus drivers aren't cops, and have their hands full enough.  I would be interested to know what can be done to keep this service clean and hop-head free?

These are two valid concerns. I'm sure readers of this blog will be interested in what the city Department of Transportation has to say.


Posted by Michael Dresser at 5:34 PM | | Comments (4)
Categories: City bus service

August 25, 2010

Charles Street trolley idea looks like a non-starter

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

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

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

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



Continue reading "Charles Street trolley idea looks like a non-starter" »

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

August 20, 2010

BMC seeks comments on Circulator, Westport

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

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

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




Posted by Michael Dresser at 4:38 PM | | Comments (0)

August 18, 2010

Do Circulator and AT&T not get along?

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

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

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


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

August 16, 2010

Circulator bus stop closed for construction

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

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

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

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


Continue reading "Circulator bus stop closed for construction" »

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

August 12, 2010

Get breaking news on traffic, transit here

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

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

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


Posted by Michael Dresser at 5:28 PM | | Comments (0)

August 10, 2010

O'Malley supports Purple Line, dodges on gas tax

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

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

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

Continue reading "O'Malley supports Purple Line, dodges on gas tax" »

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

August 4, 2010

Circulator continues to post gains

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

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

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

Continue reading "Circulator continues to post gains" »

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

August 3, 2010

Pitcairn friend urges more transit options

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


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


Continue reading "Pitcairn friend urges more transit options" »

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

July 22, 2010

Bus rider urges: Give MTA a chance

Ada Orie of Towson recently contacted this after having difficulty getting her complaints dealt with. Our public airing of her problems helped bring out action from the MTA, including a  call from Administrator Ralign T. Wells, who apparently did a good enough job of responding to her concerns that she sent this email:

I was born, raised and have lived in Maryland all my life. I have been a MTA customer for about 15 years. I want to talk to you about MTA service and second chances. I have traveled on the MTA bus, light rail, MARC train and metro subway. I will say although the service has not been perfect in the last 15 years, I will say I always got to my destination safely and I am appreciative the fares have stayed the same for the last few years despite the economic downturn. As we are ten years into a new millennium, we have a responsibility to usher in positive change. Let us do it by opening up the lines of communication between the MTA and its customers.


Continue reading "Bus rider urges: Give MTA a chance" »

Posted by Michael Dresser at 3:40 PM | | Comments (1)

July 21, 2010

MTA backs off plan to close bus stops

The Maryland Transit Administration has backed off a plan to close about eight bus stops in the city after a protest from transit advocates.

The decision announced this morning came after the Transit Riders Action Council objected late Tuesday, saying the decision to close stops in Mount Vernon came without seeking the opinions of transit riders.

"To ensure that we hear from all voices on decisions that impact the communities (served),  MTA is reviewing its process for bus stop eliminations. Our drivers have been told to continue service at the stops in question until further notice," MTA spokesman Terry Owens said in an email.

While this defuses the immediate controversy, TRAC insists the proposed closings were  part of a broader trend toward eliminating stops -- often with little notice or discussion. According, the MTA has eliminated many bus stops in Baltimore in recent years -- making it more difficult for elderly and disabled riders to use the system.


Posted by Michael Dresser at 12:30 PM | | Comments (9)

July 20, 2010

TRAC protests bus stop eliminations

The Transit Riders Action Council of Metropolitan Baltimore is protesting a decision by the Maryland Transit Administration to eliminate at least several bus stops in the Mount Vernon area as early as Wednesday with what TRAC contends was inadequate notification.

Accoording to TRAC, signs have gone up notifying riders of closings at such corners as Charlles and Read streets, Charles  and Chase streets and St. Paul St. at Read. Affected lines include Nos. 3, 11, 61 and  64, according to TRAC.

The organization contends the closings are part of a broader pattern of bus  stop eliminations for reasons TRAC finds questionable. The group contends the elimination of stops poses  a hardship for elderly and disabled riders who have difficulty walking as far as other riders.

The MTA's public affairs was closed by the time the matter came to our attention, but we'll be seeking an explanation of the agency's bus stop closing policies.

Posted by Michael Dresser at 6:14 PM | | Comments (4)
Categories: City bus service, MTA, MTA bus system

July 15, 2010

City apologizes for Circulator follies

I reached a spokesman for the city, Barry Robinson, chief of transit/marine services. He acknowledged the city screwed up by changing the Purple Route before putting up signage. He said the route should have gone to a detour that still served Penn Station but instead went to Artscape route too soon.

He apologized for the problems, which he blamed on dispatch errors. He said signs notifying riders of closed stops were going up today.

Good apology but still shoddy performance. 

Posted by Michael Dresser at 10:01 PM | | Comments (2)

Bus rider weighs in on MTA

This blog gets a lot of email from MARC riders and relatively little from the long-suffering riders of MTA buses. But Ada Orie of Towson wanted to weigh in on the problems of the Route 120 bus. Here's what she had to say:

I would like to first thank you for your honest articles on public transportation. Thank you for not sugar coating anything and being honest. As a commuter is refreshing to read your articles. When I used to ride the light rail, I used to write you every now and again. I have been a daily rider for over a year of the 120 White Marsh Express bus. The concept is a good one. I can park my car and take a bus down 95.

There has been numerous problems with the morning service. Two weeks ago I wrote a complaint about a bus that never showed. The bus broke down and the replacement was on the way. The bus was due in White Marsh at 8:25 and I did not find out this information until 8:45. At 9:00am I got ride with someone downtown. I read about someone's generic response they got from the MTA about the MARC train. At least they got a response.

Today I waited for the 8:30 bus. I called and I was told a bus was pulled off the line. This in turn causes a delay. I was also told a bus was on the way and if it did not come by 8:40, to call back because then it was seriously late. I wrote another letter to the MTA which I am including below for you to read. I hope I get a response. I am on my late bus now as I write you  and my driver came at 8:42 and I am already downtown. Have a great day and keep writing the truth.

She added this update today:


Continue reading "Bus rider weighs in on MTA " »

Posted by Michael Dresser at 2:24 PM | | Comments (4)
Categories: City bus service, MTA, MTA bus system

Charm City Circulator: MARC on rubber wheels?

Has the Charm City Circulator morphed into a MARC train on wheels. Does Baltimore really need a second MTA? Has the Purple Route developed a circulatory disease?

All these snarky thoughts and more occurred to me today as I waited more than 40 minutes in 90-degree heat on St. Paul Street outside Penn Station for a Charm City Circulator Purple Route  bus that never did arrive.

To be sure, I could have cut the ordeal short by acting on my suspicion that the Circulator was messed up by the Artscape festival taking shape around the train station. But to the extent possible, I tried to replicate the experience of a visitor who had knew nothing about Artscape.

Let's just say that visitor wouldn't want to return to Baltimore -- or at least use its free shuttle service -- again any time soon.

It was 10:34 when I arrived at the Purple Route Penn Station stop. There was conspicuous signage for the Purple Route, along with  an electronic sign giving the time and the wait expected  for the next bus. It was noticeable that there was no signage up yet informing riders that the Penn Station stop would be closed during Artscape, but traffic along St. Paul was still running and the electronic sign kept promising an arriving bus. With advertised headways of 10 minutes, there was every reason to expect a bus by 10:44.

At 10:47 a.m. the electronic sign said a bus would come in 1 minute. A minute later, no bus. Then the sign rolled over to say the next bus would arrive in 18 minutes, leaving me and several other waiting riders puzzled. 

Continue reading "Charm City Circulator: MARC on rubber wheels?" »

Posted by Michael Dresser at 11:52 AM | | Comments (17)
Categories: City bus service, MARC train, MTA bus system

July 9, 2010

Maryland gets 3 transit grants -- 2 in city

Maryland projects have been awarded three grants awarded by the Federal Transit Administration, including two in Baltimore and one in Prince George's County.

The Prince George's grant  -- for circulator buses in the south county -- is by far the largest at $4.1 million. The two Baltimore projects are going to Westport ($516,000), where a major redevelopment project is taking shape at the water's edge near the light rail station, and Howard Street ($260,000), where the money will be used to replace light rail and bus shelters.

Greater Greater  Washington reports that the District of Columbia's application for funding of an extension of its H Street Streetcar across the Anacostia River was rejected.

Here's the FTA's description of the winning Maryland projects, which were among 53 selected nationwide

Continue reading "Maryland gets 3 transit grants -- 2 in city" »

Posted by Michael Dresser at 9:58 AM | | Comments (3)

July 1, 2010

MTA non-answers a rider's questions

On Wednesday night, both Maryland Transportation Secretary Beverly Swaim-Staley and Maryland Transit Administration chief Ralign T. Wells owned up to the fact the communication with riders is the agency's No. 1 weakness.

It's good that these officials, who seem genuinely concerned about providing good service recognize the problem. But it might be even worse than they think.

Consider the case of Melissa Schober of Baltimore, who wrote a well-reasoned and well-informed email to Wells after a particularly bad commute June 22 -- a night of troubles that was overshadowed by the even worse problems the night before. Schober also had the moxie to share a copy with Getting There, a  practice this blog enthusiastically encourages.

Schober's June 25 email and Wells' reply, attached below, provide a vivid picture of the brain death that affects parts of the MTA. Here they are, you judge:


Mr. Wells:

Tuesday evening I was subject to one of the worst commutes I’ve ever experienced. I boarded the 4:15PMWAS departure train to Baltimore Penn Station. A few minutes after pulling away from the platform, the train experienced partial engine failure. We reversed into the station – a process that took more than 30 minutes – and were shuffled onto another train.

Continue reading "MTA non-answers a rider's questions" »

Posted by Michael Dresser at 10:09 AM | | Comments (3)

June 28, 2010

Circulator marks best day yet

The Charm City Circulator bus system marked its most productive day yet last Friday as its two routes carried more than 6,000 riders, according to the Baltimore Department of Transportation.

The free circulator carried 3,368 riders on the east-west Orange Line and 2,742 on the north-south Purple Line, said Jamie Kendrick for a total of 6,110, deputy director of the department. Kendrick said ridership received a boost from the "Americans for the Arts" summit at the Marriott Harbor East.

Kendrick said Saturday was another strong performance, with 4,427 passengers between the two routes. A 4:05 p.m. Orioles game increased ridership that day, he said.

Continue reading "Circulator marks best day yet" »

Posted by Michael Dresser at 3:19 PM | | Comments (0)
Categories: City bus service

MTA email account: Return to sender

If the Maryland Transit Administration is really interested in public comments on its proposed bus route changes, perhaps it should set up an email account that works.

Readers have pointed out -- correctly --  that if you send a comment to the MTA's comment forum at, all you get out of it is a "message undeliverable" reply.

"This isn't the first time this has happened," one reader wrote. "This ranks with when you call to complain about a bus failing to show... the MTA hot line will put you on hold. You stay on the phone waiting for a representative to answer only to find you've waited long enough that the next bus has arrived."

UPDATE FROM MTA: Thank you for alerting us to a problem with the MTA Public Hearing comment email address.  In posting information on the MTA website regarding our public hearing process, the old email address from 2008 was inadvertently posted.  The current email address to send in comments regarding the Public Hearing proposals is  As Director of the MTA Office of Customer Information, I encourage our customers to send in comments until July 23, 2010, 5:00 pm.

Elaine Jones



Posted by Michael Dresser at 10:33 AM | | Comments (4)

June 16, 2010

For a second view of MTA event, grab a Brew

It never hurts to have a second view of a public event, and Fern Shen of Baltimore Brew provides another account of MTA Administrator Ralign Wells' appearance before the Transit Riders Action Council earlier this week.

For the most part, Shen's account tracks the one on Getting There. It needs to be pointed out that while Shen put a lot of emphasis on the Red Line controversy, it only came up in the last 15 minutes of a 2-hour presentation, and the discussion was for the most part nonconfrontational.

The members of TRAC are a politically savvy bunch, and they  know Wells was not in a position to back down on the Red Line. The current Red Line light rail plan, after all, represents a decision made by his ultimate boss -- Gov. Martin O'Malley -- as well as the institutional opinion of his agency. To their credit, TRAC members spent most of the time concentrating on matters they could influence. Then they got their requisite licks in on the Red Line.

Posted by Michael Dresser at 11:32 AM | | Comments (0)

June 14, 2010

MTA chief to speak tonight at TRAC

Maryland Transit Administration chief Ralign Wells will appear tonight at the general membership meeting of the Transit Riders Action Council of Metropolitan Baltimore tonight at 6 p.m.

Wells is expected to speak and answer questions at the meeting in the board room of the Maryland Association of Non-Profit Organizations, 190 W. Ostend St. It was nice of TRAC to point out that the location can be reached via the No. 1 and No. 64 buses, as well as light rail. It would have been even  better if the group had pointed out that the location is right on the route of the free (but non-MTA) Charm City Circulator Purple Line.

Posted by Michael Dresser at 12:48 PM | | Comments (0)

June 10, 2010

Purple Route has a fender-bender

Well, that didn't take long. On the fourth day in service, a bus on the Purple Route of the Charm City Circulator was sidelined on Calvert Street near Redwood Street about 9:15 a.m. this morning after what appears to have been a collision with a passenger vehicle. Police were at the scene.

Cathy Chopper, a spokeswoman for the Baltimore Department of Transportation, confirmed that there had been a collision there  this morning but said there was no damage to the bus  and minor damage to the car. She said there have been several minor accidents on the Orange Route, which started up in June, but nothing previous on the Purple.

It looks like Baltimore drivers might need a refresher course in how to interact with buses on the streets. Rule No. 1: A bus in the curb lane won't necessarily stay in the curb lane. 

Posted by Michael Dresser at 10:51 AM | | Comments (1)

June 3, 2010

Feds seek public input on transit project criteria

Here's an opportunity for those with strong feelings about the Red Line, Purple Line or other proposed transit projects to weigh in on the criteria the federal government uses to evaluate proposals for such infrastructure investments.

The Federal Transit Administration, which under the Obama administration has altered Bush administration rules subjecting such proposals to a rigid cost-benefit test,  is seeking public comments on changes to its rating system. According to the FTA, it is seeking better ways to reflect the community benefits of transit projects.

The FTA is seeking comments at the federal government's Regulations website as well as holding public meetings -- the first two of which will take place next week:

TRB Environment and Energy Research Conference
Raleigh Convention Center
500 South Salisbury Street
Raleigh, North Carolina 27601
Monday, June 7 at 4:30 p.m.
APTA 2010 Rail Conference
Hyatt Regency Vancouver
655 Burrard Street
Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada V6C 2R7
Tuesday, June 8 at 1:30 p.m. (Federal Register reflects 2:30 p.m. start time. It will be corrected.)


Posted by Michael Dresser at 11:09 AM | | Comments (0)

A view from the right on the MTA

For a view from the right on the Maryland Transit Administration, you need go no farther than the Red Maryland blog, where Brian Griffiths holds forth on the state of the MTA. It came to my attention recently that Griffiths was complaining that because of alleged leftist leanings I wouldn't link to his posts when I was linking to Maryland Politics Watch. In fact he never asked me to do so or even called attention to his work.

This doesn't constitute an endorsement of Griffith views, any more than I endorse those of Maryland Politics Watch. I would note, however, that the MPW article I most recently linked to -- though it had a point of view -- was solidly grounded in hard data.

The Red Maryland article, on the other hand, was almost entirely grounded in ideology. Entitled "Starve the Beast," it contains such gems as: "If I were in charge of the MTA, I would take steps to make the Agency profitable. There are ways to make the system self-sufficient without making the system unsafe or transit fares unaffordable to average riders."

Continue reading "A view from the right on the MTA" »

June 2, 2010

Brown announces guaranteed-ride plan

In his role as the state's coordinator of military base relocation actions, Lt. Gov. Anthony Brown says the state will spend  $200,000 toward creation of Maryland's first "guaranteed ride home" program to provide Fort Meade transit users with an emergency backup plan.

Brown, chairman of the Governor's Subcabinet on Base Realignment and Closure (BRAC), announced the ride initiative as part of an overall Transportation Demand Management Plan for Fort Meade.

The guaranteed-ride program is based on a 13-year-old program in the  Washington area that ensures rides home during the day for transit riders who need a ride home because of an unexpected emergency  or because they have to work unscheduled overtime.

Under that program, registered participants who use transit  twice a week or more are eligible for up to four free rides home each year. The rides are provided by taxi or rental car, depending on distance. Commuters must work in the Baltimore Metropolitan area and live in a somewhat larger region that includes the metro area plus  parts of the Eastern Shore and southern Pennsylvania.



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Posted by Michael Dresser at 5:15 PM | | Comments (1)

May 27, 2010

Camden Yards is scene of security exercise

If you're in the Camden Yards area this morning, you might notice an unusual amount of police activity. Don't worry. According to the Maryland Transit Administration, it's part of a security exercise. Here's the MTA's news release:


Local exercise will target MARC Train stations on the Penn, Camden, and Brunswick Lines.

(BALTIMORE, MD) May 27, 2010 - The Maryland Transit Administration (MTA) police will take part in a multi-jurisdictional police exercise to hone coordinated security monitoring skills on Thursday, May 27, 2010 as part of a major effort to enhance rail safety along the East Coast.

Continue reading "Camden Yards is scene of security exercise" »

Posted by Michael Dresser at 10:37 AM | | Comments (0)
Categories: City bus service, Light rail, MARC train, MTA bus system

May 18, 2010

Charm City Circulator Phase 2 (tentative)

The Baltimore Department of Transportation is cautiously looking at the first week of June for the launch of the second route of the free Charm City Circulator bus service.

Cathy Chopper, a department spokeswoman, emphasized that the target date for the start of the Purple Route has not been finalized. That route is expected to run from the Cross Street Market area to Penn  Station, intersecting with the existing east-west Orange Route from Hollins Market to Harbor East/Corned Beef Row.

Chopper said ridership on the Orange Route has been "fantastic" -- well in excess of original projections. But she said plans for a  third line, the Green Route, are "up in the air" -- with no estimated launch date. The Green Route would be a loop taking in Johns Hopkins Hospital, Fells Point, Harbor East and City Hall.

Posted by Michael Dresser at 10:52 AM | | Comments (3)
Categories: City bus service

May 12, 2010

MTA lists Preakness options

A reader had a reasonable inquiry about the avaialability of transit service to the Preakness on Saturday. Not long after that, the Maryland Transit Administration sent me the following news release answering those questions:

 (BALTIMORE, MD) May 13, 2010 – By taking MTA’s Local Bus, Metro Subway, or Light Rail services to Pimlico Race Course, Preakness fans can relax and avoid traffic delays and parking hassles.

On Saturday, May 15, 2010 shuttle buses will run between the Rogers Avenue Metro Subway station, the Cold Spring Lane Light Rail stop and Poly-Western High School to accommodate fans. All shuttle service will run from 8 AM until 2 PM and resume after Preakness (10th race) has been run until approximately 7:30 PM. Since each rail or bus boarding requires payment of a fare, riders are encouraged to purchase Day Passes for $3.50 ($1.20 for seniors and people with disabilities with MTA-issued identification).

The best transit options to Preakness are as follows:


Continue reading "MTA lists Preakness options" »

Posted by Michael Dresser at 3:11 PM | | Comments (0)

April 5, 2010

Circulator carries 100,000th passenger

The Charm City Circulator, the free bus service inaugurated by the Baltimore Department of Transportation in January, tallied its 100,000 passenger last week.

City officials say the bus service, which now consists of one route that runs from the Hollins Market to Harbor East, has been carrying about 1,200 riders a day. According to officials, the ridership has exceeded their expectations.

The city expects to  add two more routes when it takes delivery of enough buses to provide the service. One will run from the Cross Street Market area to Penn Station; the other will connect Johns Hopkins Hospital, Fells Point, Harbor East and City Hall.

City officials  identified the 100,000th passenger as Tyrone Harris of Baltimore, who boarded the bus last Thursday. He will be recognized in a ceremony Tuesday at Harborplace.

Posted by Michael Dresser at 6:38 PM | | Comments (7)
Categories: City bus service

March 30, 2010

MTA seeks volunteers to test new 'smart' card

The Maryland Transit Administration is seeking volunteers to help test its planned "smart" electronic fare card, which is now scheduled to roll  out this fall.

The new card will allow passengers to pay the exact amount of their fare out of pre-established accounts by tapping the card against a sensor or the gate or  farebox.

The test of the unfortunately named CharmCard -- aren't you all sick of this Charm City this, Charm Ciity that? -- will include local buses and the Metro subway as well as bus and rail transit services in the Washhington area.

Continue reading "MTA seeks volunteers to test new 'smart' card" »

Posted by Michael Dresser at 9:42 AM | | Comments (11)

March 29, 2010

MTA chief weighs in on communication issues

MTA Administrator Ralign Wells plans to disable some of the agency's less reliable email notification services and go back to the drawing board.

Wells says he's been disappointed with the performance of the services that are supposed to notify passengers of problems on the Metro subway and bus lines. He plans to discontinue them until they can be done right.

The MTA chief called to follow up on a complaint registered recently by Alisa Bralove-Scherr about a problem she had with the Metro in which the email notification service failed her. Bralove-Scherr had arrived at the Owings Mills station anout 9:30 one morning only to be told the station was closed and that she would have to go to Old Court to catch a train. None of the MTA employees she encountered could explain what happened.

Continue reading "MTA chief weighs in on communication issues" »

Posted by Michael Dresser at 4:28 PM | | Comments (4)

March 18, 2010

Peeling paint curbs bus lane enforcement

The bus lanes launched with considerable ballyhoo on Pratt and Lombard streets by Baltimore city late last year have reverted to their former all-purpose use after the paint used to designate them peeled off during snow removal efforts, a city official acknowledges.

Barry Robinson, chief of transit and marine services in the Baltimore Department of Transportation, said the city has put enforcement of the bus lane regulations on the back burner until it can reapply the paint marking the right lanes of those downtown streets for buses only.

The bus lanes were set up, with fines for other vehicles encroaching on them, as part of the preparation for the launch of the Charm City Circulator -- a free shuttle bus serving downtown. The Circulator's first route made its debut in January with the bus lanes in place, but by the time the last residue of February's two snowstorms was removed, so was much of the paint.

"Snow removal operations -- that has all  served to eradicate the striping on the bus lanes," Robinson reports.

Continue reading "Peeling paint curbs bus lane enforcement " »

March 9, 2010

MTA trip planner is up and running

The Maryland Transit Administration got some grief on this blog last week for the dysfuctional state of the trip planner on its web site -- and the fact the agency wasn't telling its customers the service was out of order.

But now the planner is back on line and dispensing useful information about which buses and rail lines will get you where. The MTA is to be commended for its timely recovery.


Posted by Michael Dresser at 2:26 PM | | Comments (4)

March 5, 2010

U.S. announces transit grants for Maryland

Maryland willl receive an additional $26.3 milllion in federal stimulus money for transit improvements ranging from buses in rural areas to better speakers at MARC sttations, U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood announced Friday.

According to the U.S. Transportation Department, the Maryland Transit Administration will receive these grants:

• $17.1 million toward rebuilding the  bus loop at the MTA’s Mondawmin Transit Center; heating and ventilation upgrades; light rail yard switches upgrades and replacement or overhaul of 24 rail substation circuit breakers.

• $4.3 million for facility renovations, preventative maintenance, shop equipment and parking lot construction.

• $2.9 million to improve MARC public address systems.

• $2 million to purchase nine buses for transit systems in rural areas of the state.

The money is part of the $48.1 billion available nationwide  under last  year's stimulus legislation for highway and bridge,  transit, shipyard and airport construction an repairs.

Posted by Michael Dresser at 12:36 PM | | Comments (4)

March 1, 2010

MTA hopes to have trip planner restored soon

The out-of-order trip planner on the Maryland Transit Administration web site will be back in operation soon, MTA spokeswoman Angela White says.

White said the service stopped working because of a snow-related lapse in recertifying the schedule information used to generate the trip plans. Google Transit, which provides the platform for the service, requires participating transit agencies to periodically certify that their information is correct.

White said the MTA was in the process of recertifying the data when the first of two snowstorms hit Feb. 5. She noted work at the agency was disrupted for about a week when state government was shut down and when many employees couldn't make it to work. She initally said it would be restored by late this week or early next week, but later said the service could be fixed even sooner.

The spokeswoman said she did not know why the MTA initially failed to post on its web site the fact that the trip planner was out of order. Before late Monday, when the MTA put up a notice in response to a call from Getting There, users of the service did not learn it wasn't working until they had filled out their address information.


Continue reading "MTA hopes to have trip planner restored soon" »

Posted by Michael Dresser at 3:03 PM | | Comments (4)

MTA trip planner isn't working

The Google Transit-powered trip planner on the Maryland Transit Administration's web site isn't working. According to a reader, it's been out of operation for several weeks.

These things happen, but why wouldn't the MTA put a notice on its web site informing customers the service is out of order? This appears to be part of a pattern with the MTA of treating its web site as an afterthought instead of using it as a powerful tool to communicate with riders.

Posted by Michael Dresser at 10:07 AM | | Comments (3)

January 28, 2010

Circulator trip planner doesn't plan on Circulator

Greater Greater Washington points out that Baltimore's new Charm City Circulator has a trip planner on its web site, linked to Google Transit, that doesn't include trip-planning data for the Circulator itself.

If you ask it to plan a theoretical route from the 500 block of South President Street to Hollins Market, the trip planner send  you there via the Maryland Transit Administration's No. 10 bus. That's awfully generous, but you'd think the Circulator's free Orange Route could at least be listed as an option.

Along with brochures that touted two routes  that have yet to be launched, a mistake that has reportedly been fixed, this is another example of the not-yet-ready-for-prime-time nature of the  city's free shuttle. Let's hope City Hall can get the bugs worked out before the new routes are launched and the the prime tourism season begins in the spring. Until then, the trip planner should be taken down from the site or be given the appropriate disclaimers.



Posted by Michael Dresser at 9:28 AM | | Comments (7)
Categories: City bus service

January 13, 2010

Charm City Circulator: West may be best

Much of the attention given the Charm Ciity Circulator's Orange Route has focused on its ability to draw downtown Baltimore closer to the trendy Harbor East area. But there's another end to that route where the iimpact could be even more profound.

On the far western end of the free shuttle route is the Hollins Market (right) -- in a neighborhood that has long teetered between blight and renewal. There's not a  lot there now -- the charming, down-home market itself  and a couple  of good restaurants -- but the city administration has high hopes that the Circulator coould make it a lunchtime desination for adventurous downtown workers.

The Sun/Michael Dresser

Continue reading "Charm City Circulator: West may be best" »

Posted by Michael Dresser at 4:41 PM | | Comments (2)
Categories: City bus service

Charm City Circulator: Dumb, dumb, dumb!

UPDATE: The city's very  smart deputy transportation director, Jamie Kendrick, was reached by cell phone while aboard a Circulator bus. He agreed the misleading information described below is a problem, and said it would be rectified quickly.

Perhaps time will prove me wrong, but the new Charm City Circulator seems like a smart idea on many levels. But two days after its debut, a ride on the newly opened Orange Route uncovered one of the dumbest examples of government misinformation that could be imagined.

At the front of each bus, the city is distributing brochures with the Circulator's routes and operating schedules. The brochures are very complete, including information about all three routes. There's just one small omission: The brochures don't inform riders that two of the routes -- Purple and Green -- aren't operating yet.

The Sun/Jed  Kirschbaum

Continue reading "Charm City Circulator: Dumb, dumb, dumb!" »

Posted by Michael Dresser at 3:11 PM | | Comments (3)
Categories: City bus service

January 12, 2010

Charm City Circulator provokes reader questions


Sun photo/Jed Kirschbaum

Veolia Transportation driver Paulette Coles drives the new Orange Route bus.

Monday's debut of the Charm City Circulator come a spate of reader questions about the conception of the new service. They're good questions, but the city's answers make a lot of sense too.

Johns Houst asks:

 If the circulator is such a great deal, why not extend circulator service to JHU’s Homewood Campus from Penn Station rather than install the “planned” trolley?

Jamie Kendrick, the city's deputy transportation director, said the planned Purple Route service due to open this spring will turn around at Penn Station for two basic reasons: cost and time.

Continue reading "Charm City Circulator provokes reader questions" »

Posted by Michael Dresser at 10:57 AM | | Comments (14)
Categories: City bus service

January 7, 2010

Charm City Circulator bus makes debut Monday


The Sun/Jed Kirschbaum

An early version of the city's Charm City Circulator bus is displayed at a 2008 news conference. 

The Charm City Circulator, Baltimore's long-awaited and long-delayed free downtown shuttle bus system, will make its debut Monday under less-than-festive circumstances.

One of the key initiatives of Mayor Sheila Dixon's transportation-minded administration, the Circulator will hit the streets just five days after the announcement that the mayor would step down from office next month as part of a plea bargain of in her public corruption case.

Before the announcement, the mayor had been expected to be the  headliner at a news conference to kick off the service.

Late Wednesday, just hours after the announcement, Dixon spokesman Scott Peterson said the mayor is still expected to show up Monday.

Continue reading "Charm City Circulator bus makes debut Monday" »

Posted by Michael Dresser at 7:00 AM | | Comments (13)
Categories: City bus service

December 31, 2009

MTA modifies bus routes due to snow

The Maryland Transit Administration is keeping its bus routes rolling, but in many cases, it has modified routes as a concession to the snow. Here's the damages, straight from the MTA:

10:00am latest update:

MARC Train is operating on S schedule and experiencing 10-20 minute delays.
Metro and Light Rail are on schedule.

The following diversions are posted on the website.  A link was put on the Special Announcements section.
No. 1 Terminates at Mondawmin.
No. 5 Bus by-passing Park ave.
No. 9  Bus terminate at  Ridgley and Cranbrook.
No. 13 Bus by-passing Edgewood, staying on Dennison.
No. 15 Bus terminates at Walbrook Junction. West bound left at Guildford, right at Fayette, right at Park, left at Saratoga. Will service White Marsh Mall.
No. 16 Bus by-passing Violet Ville and Brooklyn area.
No. 20 Bus is by-passing St. Agnes Hospital, and Culver and Monastery
No. 22 Bus terminates at Eastern &  Ponca – bypass Bay view.
No. 23 Bus  by-passing Wildwood Parkway
No. 23 and 40 use Lombard to Ponca to Eastern in both directions.
Nos. 27, 29, and 51 Buses are staying on Cherry Hill Road
Nos. 10, 35, 33 and 27 pulled off the street.
No. 36 Bus  by-passing Argonne Drive, staying on the Alameda
No. 40 WB will terminate at Edmondson Village, not servicing Rt 40 & Rolling Rd.
No. 44 Bus WB from Rosedale will terminate at Northern Parkway @ York.  EB from Security will terminate at Sinai.
***All services will by-pass the Bay view Medical Center***


Posted by Michael Dresser at 10:47 AM | | Comments (1)

December 23, 2009

Top 10 Md. transportation stories: 2000-2009

Apart from disasters, transportation stories tend to unfold over the course of many years. Some of the ones that garner big headlines at the time will be all but forgotten in a few years time. So in choosing the Top 10 Maryland transportation stories of the past decade, it helps to project forward to 2020 or 2030 and look back at what made a lasting difference.

A little disclosure is in order. I have covered transportation for The Sun since 2004 and before that followed many transportation-related stories as a State House Bureau reporter. So there might be a bias in favor of the stories I covered. (Thanks to my colleague Scott Calvert to reminding me of the Howard Street Tunnel fire, which occurred before my time on the beat.)

With those caveats, I present my top 10 in the bottom-to-top format made wildly popular by David Letterman:

10. Light rail double-tracking project completed. When Baltimore's light rail system opened early in the 1990s, it soon became clear that the system had been built on the cheap. The decision to run trains on a single track over long stretches led to constant delays and operational difficulties. Thus, under the Glendening administration, the decision was made to add a second track. The Ehrlich administration then made a tough decision to expedite the work by closing down the southern and northern stretches of the system for periods of about a year. It was a rough time for light rail users, but the project was finally completed in early 2006, and the result has been much more reliable service on this still image-impaired system.


                                                                                                 Sun photo/Amy Davis/2006      

Continue reading "Top 10 Md. transportation stories: 2000-2009" »

Posted by Michael Dresser at 7:33 AM | | Comments (7)

December 22, 2009

Md. cost of weekend snow removal: $26.9 million

Last weekend’s record December snowfall cost the Maryland Department of Transportation a budget-busting $26.9 million for snow removal, Transportation Secretary Beverly Swaim-Staley said Tuesday. The storm, which dumped an estimated 16-26 inches on various parts of the state, required a massive and expensive response by all of the transportation department’s operating agencies – from the State Highway Administration to the Motor Vehicle Administration.

The largest share was accounted for by the highway agency, with $20 million in costs. After several earlier snowfalls, the SHA’s spending on snow removal has reached $27 million this season -- exceeding its budget of $26 million with more than two months of winter to go, according to MDOT. Snow removal at BWI Marshall Airport cost $2.7 million, while the Maryland Transit Administration spent $2.3 million to keep its buses and transit lines rolling. The Maryland Transportation Authority spent $1.1 million to clear thhe state’s toll facilities, while it cost the port of Baltimore $533,000 to keep its terminals operating..

"Combating a storm like the one Maryland faced this weekend is a necessary but expensive proposition," Swaim-Staley said. "Agency administrators understand that they will have to make adjustments in other areas of their operating budgets to cover any overage of their annual snow removal budget."

December 4, 2009

Wells appointment getting good reviews

Gerald Neilly welcomes the appointment of Ralign T. Wells as chief of the Maryland Transit Administration in an article in The Baltimore Brew.

It's just one of the favorable reactions I've been hearing to the promotion of the 42-year-old former bus operator to the top MTA post.

Ed Cohen, former president of the Transit Riders Action Council, knows the Balltimore bus, Metro and light rail system about as well as anyone on the planet. His verdict: "He's the best guy MTA has."

Cohen said Wells, who had been the deputy administrator for operations, was the candidate transit folks had been rooting for ever since the departure of Paul J. Wiedefeld was announced.

"He loves his job. He loves trying to make transit better to the extent he can," Cohen said. "He's a guy that really relished tthe challenge and it'ss that character trait that is reallly going to  mean good things for MTA."

Meanwhile, deputy Baltiimore transportation director Jamie Kendrick called the choice by Transportation Secretary Beverly Swaim-Staley "phenomenal," adding that Wells  has the support of the agency rank-and-file.

Posted by Michael Dresser at 11:22 AM | | Comments (1)

December 3, 2009

New date set for Charm City Circulator

The first route of the Charm City Circulator -- the long-delayed free bus service promised for central Baltimore -- will make its debut Jan. 11, according to the city and the Waterfront Partnership.

Previous estimated start dates have come and gone for the project, but deputy city transportation director Jamie Kendrick insists this one is for real.

"That's a hard, fast and furious date," Kendrick said. He said the reason for the holdup was delay in receiving delivery of the clean-energy buses from the manufacturer.

The new bus service will be operated by Veolia Transportation  under a contract with the city Department of Transportation, Kendrick said. He said the  Waterfront Partnership will help with the marketing effort.

The first route to start operations will be the east-west Orange Route, connecting the B&O Railroad Museum with the Inner Harbor, Harbor East and Fells Point. Kendrick said two additional routes would start up over the next few months. One would connect the Cross Street Market area with Penn Station; the other would tie the Johns Hopkins Hospital with Fells Point and Harbor East.

Kendrick said people in the city might see some of the buses on the street even before Jan. 11 as operators get familiar with the routes. He said the city will begin putting down markings for bus and bike lanes on Pratt and Lombard streets Monday.

Posted by Michael Dresser at 4:38 PM | | Comments (7)
Categories: City bus service
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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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