August 12, 2010

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Posted by Michael Dresser at 5:28 PM |

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)

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 " »

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)

October 26, 2009

Reader suggests trolley add-ons

Chikwe Njoku of Baltimore has some suggestions for the people working to get the Charles Street Trolley up and running. I thought they wqere worth passing along.

One suggestion that I would like to offer is that they consider adding a spur from that line at Penn Station up a short segment of Falls Road and connect with the Baltimore Street Car Museum. This spur would allow for them to partner with the Museum and run special excusion trains on selected dates that would certainly enhance efforts to bring more tourists downtown. It may provide the perfect lure to make people venture up Charles Street from the Inner Harbor. Who wouldn't want to catch a vintage trolley at the Inner Harbor or Penn Station and make the loop around the city?

The other part of that suggestion is to take the southern portion of the Charles Street line, which turns off of Conway Street at Light street down Light Street to Hanover Street down onto the line that runs behind The Sun"s facilities at Port Covington on to the cruise terminal. Port Covington is supposed to be redeveloped and could include the Sun building that's down there. If they run the vintage trolleys on cruise weekends it may lure not only tourists but people may stay in the city before and after their cruise and explore the city via this trolley connection.


Posted by Michael Dresser at 9:41 AM | | Comments (5)
Categories: Streetcars & trolleys

September 9, 2009

Blog weighs in on Yellow Line idea

I just stumbled across the Transport Politic blog, which gives some extensive coverage to a recent proposal to advance the proposed Yellow Line from Towson to Columbia ahead of an extension of the Green Line.

I share the concerns that light rail to Columbia may be too slow to compete with autos. The public transit solution I'd suggest for Columbia is an express bus between the BWI Business District Light Rail station and Columbia Town Center. I don't see that it would kill the 310 or 320 commuter  bus routes, as one reader suggested, though it might lead to their being reconfigured. I see the express bus serving a much broader group of riders with seven-day-a-week service that would extend the existing light rail without the expense of an actual rail line.

Any thoughts?




Posted by Michael Dresser at 4:48 PM | | Comments (8)

July 2, 2009

Reader warns of irrational transit-phobia

Every once and a while I get an email that displays uncommon good sense in the face of nonsense. This, from Terry Shepard of Baltimore, is one of them. After passing  along some compliments that are too extravagant to inflict on readers, Shepard writes concerning the June 22 Metro crash that killed nine in Washington:

The Sun and other papers continue to run follow-up stories on it and that is understandable.  What is less explicable is the employment of this accident by some to spread fear of and opposition to public transit.  Auto commuters say "See, that's why I don't ride transit" and even the Sun ran one of its reader polls on whether this would make people less likely to do so. 

Meanwhile, a June 30 story in the Sun reports on "a tractor-trailer that plowed into stalled cars in a turnpike accident that killed 10 people" and no one is running polls or saying "See, that's why I don't drive on the highway."  (I realize that crash was in Oklahoma, but you get the point.)

This despite the fact, reported in a June 24 story in the Sun, that:  "According to the National Safety Council, the number of accident fatalities per vehicle miles traveled is about 14 times worse for passenger cars than trains and subways. Only transit buses are considered safer."

Perhaps you could repeat those statistics and interview a psychologist who works on transportation as to why people refuse to accept this (beyond the obvious answer that many Americans reject facts that suggest they should get out of their cars and ride on public transit with people they don't know.)

As you know and have argued, more and better mass transit are both possible and absolutely vital if we are to avoid killing our environment, our cities and ourselves.  Americans must get past their unreasoning fear of transit and you can help them do it:

I have to disagree, Terry. If anyone, you are the one that can help them do it. And just have. Thanks.

I don't think you need a psychologist to explain what's at  work: Transit is unfamiliar to most middle-class, auto-oriented Americans. Cars are something they encounter every day. That  which is unfamiliar is more scary than what is familiar, even when the familiar is demonstrably more dangerous. Transit also involves contact with unfamiliar people.

The point on the poll is well-taken. It should be noted that it comes with the disclaimer: "results not scientific." Still, it is encouraging that only 17 percent answered yes. And I'm going to venture an unscientific guess that those most of those folks don't ride transit now.



Posted by Michael Dresser at 12:32 PM | | Comments (1)

May 4, 2009

Streetcars finding more desire

There's an interesting article -- and even more facsinating chart -- about the national revival of streetcar lines at The Infrastructurist: America Under Construction.

The chart notes that Baltimore is among the cities with a line in the preliminary planning stage -- connecting Johns Hopkins University with downtown.

There is a certain irony in seeing the U.S. auto industry on the ropes and streetcars on the rebound. The postwar American love affair with the auto has more than a little to do with the demise of an earlier generation of streetcars.

Posted by Michael Dresser at 12:58 PM | | Comments (2)
Categories: Streetcars & trolleys
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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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