Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Fells Point DuClaw DeClawed


(photo credit, The Baltimore Sun)

Word on the street is that the Fells Point DuClaw is closing after tonight. I saw in Sam Sessa's blog earlier today, and that was confirmed by Elizabeth Large and BeerInBaltimore. I guess I am a little surprised, I did enjoy going out there when I lived in Fells Point. While the service wasn't the best, it was nice to have a few beers out on the porch in nice weather. It was off the street, and you have a nice view of the harbor.

Apparently business wasn't so hot in the winter season, how I have no idea, but anyways they did. This complicated with lease disagreements has caused this location to close up shop. The other four locations in the burbs will not be affected. There aren't many brew pubs in the city, and it's a shame to see this one go. Ideally it would be nice if another one opened up in town.

Now with DuClaw gone, and in this type of economy, we get to look forward to months and months of a large, empty space in Fells Point! So, if you loved DuClaw, or atleast tolerated it, head on down tonight for a pint or two, because tomorrow they'll be no mas.

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Bus Lanes are Only Effective if Properly Enforced

Over the past few weeks the Traffic Division has been busily painting the new Bus Lanes on Pratt St. Starting on the 17th the city placed Variable Message Signs up alerting drivers that the lanes would go into effect on December 28th.

Yesterday, being the 28th, I took a walk down to Pratt St after work during the evening rush to see how things were going with the new bus lanes. What I saw brought me to the conclusion that "bus lanes are only effective if properly enforced". I stopped along Pratt at Commerce for a few minutes and watched as about two dozen cars zoomed along the bus lanes as if nothing had ever changed. Apparently they were oblivious to the new solid white lines, Bus Lane pavement markers, and Bus/Bike/Right Turn only signs. I would have to say that some of the culprits were taxi drivers, but most were everyday drivers not paying attention. (Thankfully, the bikers were being smart and stayed in the protected bike lane on the inside of the orange barrier.)

Suprisingly, I didn't see any Police or Traffic Officers writing tickets! Generally speaking, if you want to get the word out, the lanes need to be enforced. Unfortunately, I just don't see this happening in Baltimore. Maybe things were different in the AM rush, maybe, but I only saw what was going on in the PM.

Suggestion to the City: if you want some turn around on your investment, first of all get the cars out of the Bus Lanes. Secondly, consider painting the lanes another color like many other cities

Friday, December 25, 2009

Merry Christmas, Baltimore!



Wishing Everyone a Merry Christmas!
Many Hopes to a Wonderful Day!
 
Baltimore Skyline will be returning to its regular posting after the long weekend with its usual vigor! There are only six days left in 2009, that's plenty of time to do a recap of the year and a look forward to Baltimore in 2010. Until then, enjoy the time off if you have it!
 
 

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Baltimore Blizzard Update



Here are some photos I took while walking around downtown late this afternoon during the Blizzard. It was really quiet out on the streets other than the occasional car or snow plow passing by. Almost every store and restaurant was closed, even the 24-Hour Subway on Calvert, with a few exceptions. The Nest on Pratt was still open, so was the Cheesecake Factory at the Inner Harbor. I guess they figured they would get 100% of the hungry tourists.

The Light Rail was still running during the peak of the storm, and there were some brave folks huddling at the Convention Center stop waiting for a northbound train. They told me they had been waiting for a little while, as no northbound trains had come. They were on their way back to Mount Washington, and eventually one came.

There were a decent amount of people taking in the winter wonders. It isn’t frequent that you can be downtown on a Saturday and have the sidewalk to yourself, or even walk down the middle of the street!

The snow plows are out now, and the snow is tapering off. I can expect things to be pretty much back to normal tomorrow. Hope everyone enjoyed the pre-Christmas snowy weather. This apparently is the most snow Baltimore has seen in December in a long, long time.

Friday, December 18, 2009

Winter Weather is Coming


Brace yourself folks, the white squall is upon us. A Winter Storm Warning is in effect with snow beginning after 10pm tonight, becoming heavy overnight, and continuing through tomorrow. The Weather Channel is calling for anywhere between 10 and 20 inches of the white stuff.

Whatever the total snow fall will be one thing is for certain, Baltimore will be a mess tomorrow! We all know what happens here when it rains too hard, imagine with this much snow! I doubt the snow will be dumped in the harbor like the city did in 2003 blizzard, but anything is possible.

Let me know how you fair out there this weekend. I'll be sure to be out with the camera tomorrow as the storm comes through. Here's to the first storm of this season!

2009 Baltimore Christmas Wish List


(flickr photo, jayunsplanet)

As Christmas is fast approaching, Santa Claus is busily preparing his list of presents and goodies to give out on December 25th. Here at BaltimoreSkyline, I'm putting together my own Baltimore Christmas Wish List for all the gifts we would all like to have this year.

Charm City Circulator - This one we might actually get this Christmas, thanks Santa! The Bus Only lanes are getting painted on Pratt Street with Lombard Street soon to follow. The lanes go into effect on December 28th, and the Orange Route of the CCC starts January 11th (the Green and Purple Route will be in the Spring). http://www.charmcitycirculator.com/

More Forward Movement on the Red Line - 2010 could be the big year for the Red Line. Advanced planning and engineering may start, and funding could be granted. The city has revamped their website, http://www.gobaltimoreredline.com/ already, and the MTA' site http://www.baltimoreredline.com/ will be shortly.

 Charles Street Trolley - Sure there has been a lot of hoopla on this issue, but it's still on my Christmas Wish List. Baltimore needs better, fixed intercity mass transit, and this is a good start. A fixed connection along our North-South Corridor will create better connectivity with current and future transit, businesses, museums, and schools. I say build it!

More Downtown Retail - Bing sang about dreaming of a White Christmas, I'm dreaming about decent shopping downtown. The downtown residential population is growing, and we don't want to truck out to Towson, White Marsh, or Columbia to do all of our shopping, we want places downtown that we can go that aren't Subway, 7-Eleven, or CVS.

Continued Development on Howard Street - A lot of good things have started along Howard (and Eutaw for that matter). Here's to continued success with the Westside Development. Howard St can return to its formar glory with some time, effort, politicians with guts, and $$$.

A Competitive Orioles Team - Dear Santa, please bring Baltimore a competitive team in the American League East this Christmas. There is still time in the Winter Meetings for Angelos to pick up somebody. Please put them on your good list this Christmas.

Bike Lanes - Sharrows are only as good as the temperment of the car drivers. I'm wishing for some dedicated bike lanes in the downtown area in the near future. Maybe Santa will bring copies of bike lane plans that Philadelphia, Washington, and New York have made for the city planners as light reading material.

MTA Charm Card - The trial period was apparently a success for the Metro Subway, so much so that they decided that the MTA needed to do further study for the Light Rail and Bus before rolling the Charm Card out full time. Here's wishing to smart cards in 2010 (only a short 4 years after the TVMs and Fare Gates were put in).

From Baltimore Skyline to you, Happy Holidays and a have Wonderful New Year!

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Finally, a Detailed Website

http://charmcitycirculator.com/

There you go folks. The full details of the charm city circulator. Route maps, stops, and schedules. Tentative opening for the Orange Route will be January 11th.

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Fire Company Update

The city changed its mind today and decided only to close one station, Truck 16. Instead of closing all three, the city will add 4 companies to the rotating closure list.  Apparently, there was enough of an outcry from the public and the BCFD to encourage a compromise.

Good work people.

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Closing Firehouses Not the Answer


A recent plan from City Hall would have three BCFD fire companies close after the New Year. Engine 14, Truck 15, and Truck 16 would be closed after January 1st if the city has its way. The firefighters from those companies would be assigned to other houses. This year, in an attempt to curb overtime costs, the BCFD has rotated closings where certain fire companies would be closed on certain days of the week. These three companies are currently a part of that rotation.

Engine 14 is one of the oldest companies in the Baltimore Fire Service, having opened in 1888 at Hollins St. in West Baltimore. The station house is the original building, and according to the Baltimore Sun, is one of the oldest fire houses on the East Coast. With Engine 14 closing, the station house will remain for storage, which will most assuredly mean its deterioration. The company’s first response was on July 15, 1888, and after 121 years will make its last in 2010.

The consequence of closed stations is reduced service and longer response times. Recently, when Banners Bar in Locust Point caught fire, (coincidently a bar owned by firefighters), the local fire company Engine 26 on Fort Ave was closed on rotation, and the back-up was already out on a call, so it took a while for the engines to finally arrive.

There needs to be a better solution to this problem. The city cannot just close Fire companies because of budget; a policy like this can be a risk to public safety and fire fighters lives. The Baltimore Sun article did bring up the idea of having volunteers as auxiliary firefighters. Interestingly enough, when you look at Engine 14’s original roster they had 5 permanent fire fighters, and 6 at call members (part-timers). Not a bad idea right?

Monday, November 30, 2009

Did MARC Go on Vacation Too?


(flickr photo, jacorbett70)

Here is a picture I found on flickr of a MARC train crossing the Schuylkill River in Philadelphia that was taken on Sunday. What is a MARC train doing so far North? Just when you thought this was weird, guess where it started out from:



I would like to know what this was all about.

Credit Card Readers at Shot Tower Station

I was riding the subway today and I saw that workers finally installed credit card readers on the Ticket Vending Machines at the Shot Tower/Market Place Station. They also replaced the stickers on the faregates that read "Charm Card" now.

I did not see this at the Charles Center Station or Hopkins Hospital, and I rarely ride the line further past Lexington Market, so I have no idea if this has been added anywhere else. Has anyone seen these elsewhere?

How come MTA hasn't made some announcement about this. I would have added this under "Press Release" worthy.

Mike Dresser Details the New MARC Coaches

Recently the 13 new bi-level coaches that MARC aquired from VRE went into service on the Penn Line. This allowed MARC to remove all single-level coaches from the Penn Line, and replace then with full bi-level trains, increasing seat space. Apparently, this is not all great news. As Mike Dresser from the Baltimore Sun explains, the new coaches are a little different from the bi-levels MARC riders are used to.

New MARC cars have more seats, less comfort -- baltimoresun.com

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Friday, November 20, 2009

Request to Metro Subway Train Operators - Change Your Destination Signs!


Are the Metro Subway Train Operators just getting lazy, or is there seriously a problem with the metro cars? The last few times I have taken the metro subway, I've noticed a few things. First the train operators neglect to change the desitnation signs on the cars. I've noticed several times, just this week, that trains leaving the Johns Hopkins Hospital station still have "Johns Hopkins Hospital" displayed on all the cars as it's heading toward Owings Mills. In addition, several times, operators have not turned on the Automated Station Announcement system. It's not helpful for people riding along when either no station stops are being announced or they hear "Next stop is Shot Tower/Market Place" as the train pulls into Charles Center.

Now as a normal commuter we all know where we are going, and let's be honest the Metro Subway is one line, how could you possible get lost? That isn't the point though. What is important is proper protocal for Train Operators. When they aren't putting the train in the appropriate mode, they are not doing their job.

This problem definitely doesn't make it easy for visitors or first-time riders who are unfamiliar with the system. Someone trying to go to Johns Hopkins may inadvertantly be heading west bound. More importantly the automated A/V signs are supposed to help hearing and visually impaired riders to know what stations are coming up. In this case the Train Operators are doing a terrible disservice.

Has anyone else noticed these problems? I don't think I've ever seen this on the Light Rail, and those Operators have always been fairly consistant with calling out stations (although not always audibly). Let me know!

Thursday, November 19, 2009

One For the Birds

A brand-spankin new flamingo returns the facade of Cafe Hon in a victory for small business in Baltimore!

A new, improved flamingo -- baltimoresun.com

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Monday, November 16, 2009

The Hopkins Shuttle: A Love Hate Relationship

For many people affiliated with the Johns Hopkins University and Hospital, the Hopkins shuttle that connects the Homewood Campus with the Medical Campus. The convenience is great, the experience, sometimes, isn't as much. If any song fit this situation the best it would be U2's "With or Without You". In the few months that I have moved from Fells Point to Mt Vernon, I have relied on the Hopkins Shuttle almost daily to get back and forth from work. Unfortunately, so do many other students, faculty, and staff that utilize the line.

 
For those of you unfamiliar with the service, the shuttle runs North-South along Charles St and St. Paul Street turns at Mt Vernon and runs East-West along Monument St and Madison/Orelans Streets between the two campuses. Simple right? Tell that to the shuttle drivers. Sometimes you'll notice if you ride many days in a row, your shuttle might not go the same route twice. Some drivers diverge and continue down Madison Street, while others cut along Guilford to make it to Mt. Vernon. Just the other day, I saw what appeared to be an Express bus turning up Calvert Street.

 
Riders must also face overcrowded shuttle buses and extra long wait times, since shuttles must routinely pass some stops because they are too full. Exacerbating the problem is the services reliance on coach style and school buses. While coach style and school buses are great for one stop commutes, they do not serve best on multiple stop shuttle routes. The one door entrance makes for slow boarding and egressing at stops, lenthening the overall trip. Complicating this is the fact that many buses are full with standees, forcing many to walk off the bus to let sitting riders get off.

Shuttle stops markers are non-existant, leading many new riders to guess where the bus stops at a given mark on the map. Nor does the shuttle beneit from Next Vehicle Arrival System which many college shuttle systems use (e.g. Loyola University, Towson University, and University of Baltimore). When the Hopkins shuttle is running late (which can be frequently) or if a crowded bus has to pass a stop by, riders have no idea when the next shuttle may be coming.

Potential Solutions:
  1. Clearly marking shuttle stops with Hopkins Shuttle signage
  2. Adding a NVA system for all stops 
  3. Replacing coach style buses with more two-door buses (with front-door entry, rear-door exit policy)
Love it or Hate, if you ride it, you know how convenient it can be, but we all know how better it could be.

Saturday, November 7, 2009

Getting a Bit Rediculous

Charm City Circulator could take until 2010 to start circulating - Baltimore Business Journal:

This was from last week, but I literally just saw this. Seriously, this is getting really ridiculous. It wasn't in time for the summer tourist season, or the majority of the football season, now it's going to miss the winter tourist season, and 2009 all together. Production delays of the hybrid buses are pushing the Charm City Circulator till at the earliest January 2010.

I know they say that the best things come to those who wait, but will this really be the best? I'm hoping it will be, but I would like to see it up-and-running, and not running late.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Fall Classic Begins!



(image credit, wikipedia)

Game 1 of the World Series between the Philadelphia Phillies vs the New York Yankees begins tonight up in the Big Apple. The Evil Empire against the defending champion Fightin' Phils. I'm from Philadelphia, so I cannot hide my enthusiasm for this one.

Let's go PHILLIES!

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

MARC Back on Track After Morning Problems

Here's a summary of some of the problems here this morning, late trains here, cancelled trains there. All kinds of messed up commutes this morning.  How did everything turn out?

Camden Line: Northbound trains are experiencing 15-20 minute delays though the Muirkirk/Laurel area due to signal problems.



Penn Line Update #6: Due to its severe delay, train 407 is cancelled and will depart from Baltimore as on time train 417 (8:10am), Southbound trains 513 (7:15 am) and 415 (7:40am) will operate on time making the normal stops. Northbound Express train 406 ( 7:21am) is cancelled the next northbound train will be train 408 (7:40am)


Penn Line Update #5: Due to the severe overcrowding of train 509 it will discharge passengers only from BWI station and points south. The next southbound train will train 411 expected to depart Baltimore on time (7:00 am) , again with expectations of crowded conditions. Updates to follow.


Penn Line Update #4: Train 407 will be delayed for an uncertain amount of time due to mechanical problem. The next southbound train will be train 509 maiking its normal stops. Expect overcrowded conditions. Updates to follow .


Penn Line Update #3: Train 400 enroute to Baltimore is cancelled today, train 402 (6:45 dep Wash) will make all train 400's stops to Baltimore.


Penn Line: Update #2: Train 401 departed Baltimore 30 minutes late. Due to this severe delay train 400 (5:54am dep Wash) will be cancelled, train 402 (6:45am dep Wash) will make all stops north to Baltimore.


Penn Line Update #1: Train 401 is expected to depart Baltimore approximately 30 minutes late. Updates to follow.


Penn Line: Train 401 is experiencing mechanical problems in Baltimore, expected delay approximately 15 minutes. Updates to follow.



Sunday, October 18, 2009

Hooked It

(photo credit The Baltimore Sun)

You have to give the Ravens a whole lot of credit, they fought their hardest to get even within a snowball's chance in hell of winning today's game. For the most part the Ravens just got out-Favred, but battled their way all the way to the end.

Hauschka hooked it, that's all that can be said, tough break, but that's the way football is; nothing is certain in this game.

Friday, October 16, 2009

Praising Crema Coffee Company


(flickr photo mddailyrecord11)

My new favorite place has to be the revamped Hollywood Diner at 400 E. Saratoga Street.  It was reopened by Crema Coffee Company which has two other locations at UB.  This adds a nice spot downtown close to City Hall which is a true welcome for those of us that live nearby. Sitting along Saratoga it sits on the way from the parking lots under the JFX and the City Hall buildings down Holliday Street.

Though you won't find a true diner short-order menu, the new Hollywood Diner has a decent selection of sandwiches, soups, salads, bagels, and of course coffee. To tell you the truth, I've really only stopped in there in the mornings to get coffee, but there seems to be a decent following so far.

Their hours are pretty standard, 7am-5pm Monday-Friday, with Sunday morning hours from 8am-12pm (only May-Dec) to catch the crowds going to and from the Baltimore Farmers Market (brilliant!). They even have hours from 9pm-2am on Friday and Saturday to entice the club going folks to stop in an sober up. (This is actually one gripe I have, as I live nearby, I'd rather have the club goers go home at 2am and not stick around being loud).

One major problem I have seen though is that still the place is Cash Only. They have yet to hook up a Credit/Debit reader. I feel this has a serious effect on patronage, because being cash only in the 21st century is tough to pull off.

In any case, rock on Crema Coffee Company, and thanks for bringing some new life downtown. My suggestion to you all, stop in, get a coffee and a sandwich; but don't forget to bring cash!

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Another Jones Falls Mill to be Remade

Here's a good article from the Sun paper about the proposed renovation of Mt Vernon Mill No.1 into mixed use apartment/office space. This follows on the heals of Clipper Mill and other mill rehabs that have been done in the past couple years.

The nice thing about these from a historical preservation standpoint is that it lets us connect back to the rich history of Baltimore. If these building were left to languish or were knocked down completely, we'd lose it.

Historic mill project planned in Baltimore -- baltimoresun.com

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Sunday, October 4, 2009

Thank You O's

(photo credit, The Baltimore Sun)

With one last victory the Orioles are done for the season. One we would probably hope to forget, but there were many times that you entertained us, and we thank you! When you thumped the Yankees 10-5 on the first day of the season, and made C.C. Sabathia's Yankees debut a short one, we cheered! We had hoped it would have been much better after that, but unfortunately it wasn't your year. Sure it was a downer for most of the season after June, but you brought up a lot of young players and gave them their MLB debut. Thank you for bring up Matt Wieters, and Nolan Reimhold, and Brad Bergeson, young players we know will make a difference in the future with you.

We also thank you for bringing back Baltimore to your jerseys, by returning it to its rightful place on your road jerseys. That made us feel good about ourselves when we watched you on the road either following you at the stadium, or on tv. I am sure the birds and ornithologists thank you for making the Oriole bird on your hat more ornithologically correct this year. I know we didn't notice it, but they did.

Thank you for keeping the ticket prices down, having great giveaways and promotions, giving us more bobble heads, and having an amazing stadium right in the heart of this city. You entertained us on Sunday afternoons and balmy evenings all through out the summer. You let us forget about the worries of the world, and simply enjoy the American pass-time. Thanks for the smell of the grass, the crack of the bats, and the cheers of the crowd. Even when the outcome of the game wasn't great, the experience was always great.

Lastly, thank you, so much, for not losing 100 games this season. I'm not sure that would have been a milestone any one of us wanted to go through. With your backs against the wall, you won your last four games, and staved off that mark, and we thank you for that!

Enjoy the off season Orioles. We'll see you in April where we'll have a clean slate again!

Thursday, October 1, 2009

Unlucky 13


(image credit, The Baltimore Sun)

A season that couldn't get any worse is tetering on getting worse. With last night's loss the Orioles sit at 60-98, two losses shy of 100 on the season.  Last night was also the 13th straight loss for the Birds.  They will have to go at least 3-1 in their last four games to avoid hitting the 100-loss mark. What started off as a promosing season, has now turned into a demoralizing tale spin that can't wait to hit the end.

Friday, September 25, 2009

Loyola is dead! Long Live Loyola!


Today marks the name transition of one of Baltimore's institutions of higher education. Loyola College in Maryland, founded in 1852 by the Jesuits on Holliday Street in downtown Baltimore, officially changes its name to Loyola University Maryland. While the school has had university status for many years, last year Loyola decided that a change of designation was in order to reflect its growing identity.

Over the past few weeks Loyola has been busy preparing its campus for the new name. Old signs have been brought down and replaced with shiny new ones. A grand convocation is also planned for today with two honorary degrees being awarded. Fireworks will cap off the night.

Not everyone is fine and dandy with this new name. Over the past year many students, staff, and especially Loyola alumni have voiced their opinion in opposition to the designation change. Many feel that this isn't the best decision, while others feel it's a waste of money during tough economic times (a name change can cost millions of dollars), and even others think the university is losing its tradition and commitment to the small liberal arts values, all in the name of rankings and business.

Whatever the case may be Loyola College in Maryland is out and Loyola University Maryland is in.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Charm City Circulator - Running Late Now...Because They Didn't Get Their S*** Together

First it was "Coming This Summer" then it was "Coming Late Summer" now it's "Coming This Fall" The Charm City Circulator keeps getting pushed back due to, as the website states, "the global economic downturn and problems with the automated supply train" Maybe they wouldn't have had this problem if the city didn't ask for a last minute design change to the front of the bus that necessitated the windshields and front panels to be replaced.

The hints should have been coming that the CCC was in fact not going to start any time soon, if you ever took a look around the proposed routes. All summer there were no signs, no dedicated lanes, no shelters, or anything going up that screamed "There's where the new circulator will be!". Instead all of these have just been recently added to along the first line along Lombard and Pratt streets.

What does "Coming this Fall" mean anyway? It's clearly not by the Autumnal Equinox, because that was yesterday. Maybe October? November? Sometime prior to the start of winter on December 21st? I would sure hope it's before that day, since the third of three lines is supposed to be operational by the end of December. That's the one that will go along Charles St. and St Paul.

Maybe the CCC missed the opportunity for all the summer tourism we get in the city, but that's OK, the three lines will be operational for all the Holiday tourists, you know the ones that do their Christmas shopping at all of the downtown retail we have out in the counties.

I'm sure this will be great when it gets up and running, but making vague announcements about start times, and proposed routes without anything definitive, does not encourage us. In fact, we're as confused as ever.

City Paper Awards "Getting There"

The Baltimore City Paper awarded Michael Dresser's Baltimore Sun blog "Getting There" as the city's Best Newspaper Blog for 2009.

Thanks for keeping us up-to-date on what's going down on the roads and rails in Baltimore!

Best Newspaper Blog: Getting There | Baltimore City Paper

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Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Defenders' Day Wash Out

(flickr photo by Ash Crowe)

That last holiday of the summer, the one after Labor Day, the one that is really only a Maryland Holiday, and pretty much only celebrated in Baltimore, was a total wash this past weekend thanks to Mother Nature. What is usually a grand celebration of history and Baltimore with fireworks, food, picnics, and cannons was mostly turned into a subdued event due to the rain.

Baltimore area school children were left with running between buildings on Friday morning during the Young Defenders program, to keep out of the steady light rain. The Living Flag program for them was cancelled. A gray Saturday morning turned into another afternoon of mistiness that left Fort McHenry with lower than anticipated attendance.

The fireworks were as grand as usual Friday night, but the crowd seemed much smaller then in the past due to the unpredictable weather. The major change this year from previous was in the setting. The crowd gathered near the statue of Orpheus rather than on the large field near the Inner Harbor, due to the construction of the Park Service's new Visitor Center. Although different this allowed for a great sight, watching the fireworks explode in a brilliant variety of colors and shapes behind the Star Spangled Banner.

Being as this was the 195th Anniversary of the Battle of Baltimore and the writing of the Star Spangled Banner, Gov. O'Malley (say what you will about him, but the man loves and knows his history) announced the official beginning of the Maryland War of 1812 Bicentennial Commission that will be the counterpoint of the 200th anniversary beginning in 2012.

Although this Defenders Day was lesser than usual, expect the celebrations to become grander over the next few years as the City and State get closer to the 200th. I wouldn't be surprised if Defenders' Day was reinstituted as a State Holiday.

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Links from Our Friends on the Web - Baltimore Transit

Here are two responses from some good blogs on the webs about the Central Maryland Transportation Alliance's recommendation that the proposed Yellow Line, an extension of the current Central Light Rail south from BWI to Columbia and north from Penn Station to Towson, be moved ahead of the next scheduled project, the extension of the Metro Subway past Johns Hopkins Hospital.

The Transport Politic - Baltimore to Advance Yellow Line Project Ahead of Metro Extension?

Greater Greater Washington - Baltimore needs central transit, not Yellow Line extension

I'm still formulating my own take on this, since I haven't had the change to fully dive into the plan, but from what I see of it so far, the extension of the current light rail past BWI to Columbia doesn't sound like the best idea at all. It doesn't make a quick trip to anywhere. I'll get back to you all on my full report in a later post.

You can view the full report of the CMTA recommendation here: Central Maryland TOD Strategy.

Saturday, September 5, 2009

So Long Sweet Summer

Your Baltimore Skyline is taking a little "last weekend of the unofficial summer vacation" to the New Jersey shore for Labor Day, so we'll see you in a few days. Wow did this summer fly by! It feels like only yesterday that we were celebrating Memorial Day drinking some cocktails, bbqing, and enjoying the nice weather in Baltimore, and now it's September. Where did you go summertime?

Now it's time to transition into Fall. School's back in session, the Ravens will be rocking M&T Bank Stadium soon, and the Orioles won't be playing October baseball (ok, so the regular season goes into the first week of October this year, but you know what I mean). It will be Defenders Day in another weekend, and right before you know it, it will be time for the B'more Book Festival, Free Fall weekends, and somewhere there will be a brand spanking new Charm City Circulator.

Anyways, enjoy the long weekend Baltimoreans, hope you don't sit on the Bay Bridge for too long. Break out the grill one last time, pop open a beer, and enjoy the weather, it'll be great!

Friday, September 4, 2009

Red Line Video

http://www.baltimoreredline.com/

Check out the new Red Line video on the project website. It's a nice 3-d visualization of the line from Poppleton to Canton.

Things I've noticed:

- The Howard Street stop will have an entrance right at the Light Rail station.

- The pedestrian connector at Charles Center to the metro subway will have a moving walkway. I am disappointed that they only have 1 station entrance planned here, and not an additional one on Redwood Street halfway along the pedestrian connector.

- The light rail tunnel comes back to the surface at Hudson Street in Canton. I'd be interested to see how this plays out.

Let me know what you think. It's September folks, enjoy your Labor Day weekend!

Monday, August 31, 2009

Recession Claims More Restaurants

Damn you economy! Damn you! Now you're taking restaurants away from me!

This current recession has been hard on all aspects of the economy, but the restaurant business has been hit especially hard. Instead of heading out to eat dinner, many customers are cutting back; going out less, eating less when out, going to cheaper places, etc.

In Baltimore we've lost a number of places that just couldn't weather the storm. Just today news that Babalu Grill and Blue Sea Grill in Powerplant would be closing. Last week, the popular Mt. Vernon spot the Brass Elephant shut its doors, potentially for good. It joins a list of other places that have closed recently: Ixia, Bicycle, Fin, The Spice Company, and a few others.

If you don't want to see more of your favorite places turn their lights off and lock the doors for the last time, do them a favor and patronize these places. Now I'm not suggesting eating out everywhere, every night, but go out there and give them some business. Every little bit helps.

Saturday, August 29, 2009

$1 Orioles Tickets

(image credit, baltimore orioles)

Probably the greatest idea the Baltimore Orioles have ever done. In addition to $6 College Night Fridays and $8 Bargain Tuesdays, $1 tickets in September and October are an excellent promotion.

Now the catch: These only counts for non-prime games, so no Yankees or Red Sox for a buck. There are also only 500 tickets per game for this price, so you need to be quick about it. Lastly, you can only get them online. You can't walk up to the Ticket Booth for these. Plus, there is a $.50 internet fee, so really it's the Buck-Fifty promotion, but that just doesn't sound as good.

Only a few more home series: Yanks, Texas (just in case you couldn't tell by the uniforms the Rangers are from Texas), Rays, and BoSox. So go out and see the Rangers and Rays with the family or your friends, for a hell of a lot less. Make it a whole lot cheaper by getting your dogs and sodas out at the vendors on Conway Street or Paca Street.

Now if only there was the MASN MAXIMUM ACCESS BEERS, maybe next season O's?

Monday, August 24, 2009

The CharmCard is Here...Almost

(image credit, www.mtamaryland.com)

Baltimore's smart card has a name, the CharmCard!

Riders can sign up to participate in a 60-day field test of the CharmCard on the Metro Subway between October 1st and November 30th to test the new system. Eventually riders can use this on the Light Rail and the Bus in Baltimore, as well as the WMATA system in DC.

This is a long time coming, but it is finally here! Riders will be able to load cash value onto the card or passes; day, weekly, monthly. Enabling for a smoother and quicker fare paying process.

Having thought about this for a while, there are a few issues that I am wondering how the CharmCard will address.

- How will this work on the Light Rail? There aren't fare gates at the stations, and the Light Rail works as a proof-of-payment system. Will the fare inspectors carry portable card readers? Maybe they could add card readers onto the trains so that CharmCard uses can tap-in and tap-out when they get on and off.

- Will this eventually be able to work on the MARC? If the solution to issue #1 is portable card readers, then maybe it will one day.

- If you can have cash value on the card, and you ride the subway multiple times in a day, will CharmCard keep charging you $1.60 every ride, thus racking up the fares, or will it register you as if you had a Day Pass and just charge you $3.50?

-Follow up to Issue #3. If you have both cash and day passes on your card, will it know the difference? i.e. will it only charge you $1.60 if you do a single trip. If so, I guess that answers the previous issue.

- Will the Ticket Vending Machines ever be debit/credit card friendly? CharmCard can take up to $200, but you don't see me carrying around that much money in Baltimore.

- Will the CharmCard be able to be reloaded or bought on mtamaryland.com in the future? This will save riders even more time, so they can load up before they even leave their house.

We'll see how this works. This is a true positive for Baltimore public transit. I'm guessing after the 60-day field test there will be a review period for sometime, probably with a full release sometime in early 2010.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

MTA adds QB 48

MTA Maryland is going to add a new QuickBus Route, the 48, to it's schedule starting this Fall. The Limited Service bus line, like the QB40, will make the trip between Towson and UMB a whole lot quicker.

The service will run Monday-Saturday, with Evening and Sunday service covered by the No. 8 bus route.

I'm wondering if MTA will improve signage along this corridor to make this line more visible. Many QB 40 stations have tall yellow kiosks denoting it as a QuickBus stop. Ideally these should be placed at all of the stops along the route, and on the new QB 48.

Originally when planned, the QuickBus stops were all supposed to have Next Vehicle Arrival technology and monitors. These were added to stations back in 2006, but I've never seen them work. What ever happened to that? Any ideas out there?

Anyways, here is a good article in the Sun from Michael Dresser.

MTA to add Towson-UMAB express route -- baltimoresun.com

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Thursday, August 13, 2009

"M on Madison" proposed for Howard and Madison

Interesting apartment design for an empty lot at N. Howard and W. Madison Streets. Only a few blocks from Mt. Vernon Square and directly across the street from Maryland General Hospital.

The smartest aspect of this project is the first floor office/retail space. This adds more to the that strong section of Howard Street, and a bonus for residents and hospital employees.

The location places it right between the Centre St and and Cultural Center Light Rail stations, with a short walk to either.

Baltimore preservation panel OKs apartment concept -- baltimoresun.com

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Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Where's the New Charm City Circulator?


It's the summer now, some may even call this the "late summer". It is around this time that Baltimore is supposed to roll out the brand spanking new Charm City Circulator, but where is this free bus service.

The one thing I've learned about Baltimore is that press releases, news updates, and service reminders come few and far between in this town. It's mid-August. We got the new name back in June, but no official route map, no official stops, nor schedule. I haven't seen any signs around the downtown area. I live down here now, I haven't seen anything.

How do you expect anyone to use this services if it's not being advertised?

There were rumors floating back earlier this summer that dedicated bus lanes were going to be painted on Lombard and Pratt Street for not only this service, but the MTA buses that use the same roads, but it doesn't look like that has happened yet.

Seems like this thing will get rolled out, without any long term warning, just in time for the major tourist season to be done, and commuters well entrenched in their normal morning and afternoon routine.

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

4-C it is for the Red Line..with some modifications

The news from Gov. O'Malley is that Alternative 4-C is the right choice for the Red Line, and that will be the Locally Preferred Alternative that will go to the Federal Government for approval. This is a huge step for this project, and hopefully with approval, will move this along to construction by 2012.

There were two big modifications to the project. One includes moving the portal down Boston Street, closer to the American Can Company. This should appease some of the detractors in Canton. The other is single tracking the Cooks Lane tunnel. I don't know how I feel about that second choice, but if it gets the Red Line built, and there is a promise that it will be double tracked then it is a good compromise. It will be a mile long single track, but the good news it the aren't any stations planned for that tunnel.

I'm sure more news will come out later today, and in the next few days and weeks. we here at Baltimore Skyline will do our best to keep you posted!

Monday, August 3, 2009

Thursday, July 30, 2009

BaltimoreSkyline is moving...

Sorry for the lack of posts in the last few days, but I'm in the process of moving, and haven't had the time to check in on the Baltimore scene. No worries, I'm not leaving the area, and Baltimore Skyline will continue, just from a new view.

So long Fells Point, hello Downtown.

I will be back up and running in the next few days with new highlights, news, and thoughts when I'm settled in my new digs.

Until then, enjoy it out there Baltimore.

Friday, July 24, 2009

Soccer Comes to Baltimore

Chelsea vs AC Milan tonight at M&T Bank Stadium. See you at the bars!

For your viewing enjoyment:


Wednesday, July 22, 2009

City Buys Back the Senator

The bidding started at $750,000 with the city only planning on accepting bids of $1 million or higher. There was only one bid for $800,000, which the city refused, and so bought back the Senator for $810,000.

Now who knows what will happen to it now!

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Interesting Prospect for the Senator

This isn't the first time a college has sought interest in managing an old movie house. Gettysburg College bought the 1925 movie theater just off the town square and renovated it between 2003 and 2004. It now functions as a space for performing arts, and still shows older movies, independent films, documentaries, and other features throughout the year. It no longer shows first-run movies though.

Loyola College is looking to be a bidder for the Senator when it does go to auction. What the university plans to do with the Senator is yet to be seen, but if they take a page from Gettysburg College, there is a lot of potential.

Loyola would be able to draw a wide variety of talent to a performance center like the Senator. It's close proximity to Belvedere Square, where Loyola has it's Clinical Center, would be another strengthening point of the York Road corridor up in Govans.

Whatever keeps the Senator alive, in one way or another, is a good thing for Baltimore.

Saturday, July 18, 2009

Singletracking is Not the Answer

I've said this once, and I'll say it again. The MTA needs to consider building the Red Line in phases, instead of trying to build all 14 miles at once. If you build the West Baltimore to Bayview section first, and then the Woodbury to West Baltimore section second, this will save money, and the MTA will build what they want. It makes sense to do it this way, there is a planned maintenance facility near the West Baltimore Station, so a temporary turn around could be built there, and Bayview is the East terminus anyway.

Hopefully someone from MTA actually reads this blog!

MTA considers single track for part of Red Line - baltimoresun.com

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Friday, July 17, 2009

Less Fartsy More Artsy

(image credit, artscape)

Artscape is here! The largest free arts festival in the US! Today through Sunday the are around UB, MICA, and Station North will be full of performances, visual arts displays, and a whole lot of family fun activities. That, and artsy people, lots and lots of them. This is the 28th year for Artscape, an event that regularly attracts 300,000+ people.

Here are some things to expect:

1.) Crowded conditions if the weather is nice, which it surely will be.
2.) Street Closures
3.) Bands you've probably never heard of, but play some great music.
4.) Free concert at the BSO, 3pm Saturday.
5.) Arts and craft tents for the kids, so bring the little ones!
6.) Lots of people riding the Light Rail. It may get crowded, but it' seriously the only way to go.
7.) People with an eclectic sense of style and dress.

Streetclosures:

Monday, July 13 at 7am through Tuesday, July 21 at 4pm - Unit block of East & West Mt. Royal Avenue and 1100 – 1600 blocks of Mt. Royal Avenue, closed from North Avenue to Charles Street, north and south bound
Thursday, July 16 at 10am through Monday, July 20 at 6am - Impact begins on Charles Street. Plan Ahead!

Get yourselves up to the action this weekend. If you haven't been before check it out, it's wild.

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Rethinking Downtown

Interesting article from Gerald Neilly over at Baltimore Brew about how to reinvent downtown to make it work in the post modern world. Basically, the "walled in" Downtown, MLK to the West, Franklin-Mulberry to the North, and the JFX to the East act as barriers to the livibility and growth potential of the downtown. If these can be readjusted or in some cases, removed, majore strides can be made.

I like the point he makes about don't just replicate suburbia in the urban area. Anyways it's a good read.

Downtown doesn’t need to recover – it’s got to reincarnate.

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Wednesday, July 15, 2009

It's a Mad House! Mad House!

(image credit, lombardproject)

You have been forewarned! Don't blame me, I'm letting all of you know on this blog. If you don't read it, well that's your fault. Resurfacing and partial reconstruction of the downtown portions of Lombard Street begins today! My suggestion, don't drive down there for the foreseeable future! I wouldn't even recommend taking Fayette St to get across the CBD. The light sequence is even worse than Lombard, and it's a narrower street.

Complicating things this week is ArtScape, which will be sure to snarl traffic in the MICA/UB/Station North area of the city.

Suggestions:
Use the Metro, Light Rail, or Buses.

Take the Fort McHenry Tunnel around the downtown area.

Take Streets north of Lombard to get across the CBD.

From the East, use Baltimore St. or Fayette St. to get to the JFX. (Lombard generally backs up into Little Italy on normal rush hours anyway)

If you find a better way to get around, by all means, let us know, and we'll spread the word!

For more information go to the project's website: www.lombardproject.com

Thursday, July 9, 2009

No More Texting

MTA Maryland adopts a no cell or texting policy for it's operators. This follows a similar press release by WMATA this morning. Though this comes in light of Sunday's accident, there is no word if an inattentive operator was at fault.

Blog post from Michael Dresser at the Baltimore Sun.

MTA falls in line with WMATA cell/text policy
SUN EXCLUSIVE: The Maryland Transit Administration has adopted a zero-tolerance policy under which any bus, light rail or Metro subway operator found to have been using a cell phone or text-messaging device on the job will be fired even if its is a first offense.
The MTA took the action about an hour after the Washington Metro system announced a similar change in which it scrapped a three-strikes-and-you’re-out policy and said it would fire violators outright.
The decision by Administrator Paul J. Wiedefeld came just minutes after The Sun inquired about the MTA's policy in light of WMATA's announcement.
MTA spokeswoman Jawauna Greene said the agency will inform its operators' union of the change but will not bargain over it.
"There is no negotiation when it comes to public safety," she said.

Monday, July 6, 2009

No News Is Not Good News

(flickr photo credit, Amber Rhea)

It's been over a day since two teens were found in the middle of the southbound tracks of the Light Rail near the Lutherville Station. One died yesterday, the other died today, but why does MTA Maryland not update its riders of the situation?

Within minutes of the accident on the DC Metro, Metro's website had information regarding the situation, delays, and news updates. I would question the immediacy of a response with our counterparts.

Why is it that every time I hear news from MTA Maryland, I get it from the Sun, or WBAL or WJZ or somebody else besides MTA Maryland? This incident is just another one of those non-stories from our Public Transit folks. No press release on the website, nothing. Press Releases are few and far between on mtamaryland.com, yet you can find almost daily news updates from transportation departments in other cities (MTA, MBTA, WMATA, SEPTA, etc). Why, then, do we get nothing?

It's not to say that there isn't news in Baltimore transit. The Light Rail is getting new signage downtown, any news or updates? No. The SmartCard system is supposed to go live in October, any updates for riders who might be interested in getting one? No. Bus, Light Rail, and Metro Subway schedules changed on June 14th, any news release on the main page? No, and even then, there was no press release about what was changing. The Metro Subway is getting brand new PA/AV systems at all stations with Federal Stimulus money. You guessed it, No news there either. What about updates on the Red Line? Nothing, Green Line, Nope, Purple Line, Nada.

How do you expect to encourage ridership growth, if you don't tell your current or potential riders anything?

Odd Accident on the Light Rail, Sunday

1 Boy Dead, 1 Hurt After Light Rail Incident - WBAL Radio - wbal.com

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MTA Maryland is still trying to figure this one out. A northbound train Fare Inspector saw two bodies lying in the southbound tracks, Sunday afternoon, so the train stopped and medical personnel were called. Jawauna Greene, spokeswoman for MTA Maryland said an investigation is going on, but no train operator reported hitting anything.

This is really odd.

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Give Us Pedestrians a "Brake" at Crosswalks!


I enjoy my walk to work. I really like not having to sit in traffic during rush-hour. Seriously, if you can walk to work, or anywhere basically, it is highly recommended. Sure it's not "heavy cardio", but it's exercise, and it's refreshing. Until, that is, I reach crosswalks.

The intersections with lights or stop signs aren't bad in Baltimore. For the most part, I don't cross against the light, and only when there is a lot (and I stress a lot) of room; I'm saying cannot see any cars a lot. The problem places are the crosswalks where there aren't any lights or stop signs at. These are the accidents waiting to happen.

I can't tell you how many times I have stepped up to a crosswalk and looked down the street to see cars zooming my way with no intention to stop. Maybe I think it's just common courtesy for drivers to look and stop, is that asking a lot?

Well guess what drivers, it's more than common courtesy, it's Maryland State Law! You're supposed to stop if a pedestrian is attempting to use the crosswalk. Unfortunately in this town, there aren't many places with the yellow warning displays that say "Stop for Peds" or "Yield for Peds", but there needs to be more of these.

Drivers be warned, pay attention to us walkers!

A New (Green) Carsharing Option

(image credit, The Baltimore Sun)


The country's first all-electric car sharing fleet debuted yesterday in our city! How about that? Altcar's Maya 300s can go 120 miles on a single charge and 10 are available starting today at the Maryland Science Center.

These first cars are designed for city driving only. The cars are only capable of going up to 35 MPH, which will be fine for most of the city streets in Baltimore, unless you feel like you want to speed down Northern Parkway or Orleans St.

According to their website, Altcar hopes to add more cars to its fleet including highway capable hybrids in the near future. In addition to more cars, other locations with more cars will be operational around the city too.

If you want to check one of these little green eco cars the Maryland Science Center will be giving free rides with admission through July. Check it out, let us know how it works!

www.altcar.org

A questions still remains. The Baltimore City Parking Authority put out a RFP for a carsharing organization in May with a due date of June 12th. It will be interesting to see, now that Altcar has come in, if this will still be valid. Will Zipcar now attempt to expand its market now that there is competition?

Baltimore Sun article by Kayla Cross

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Traffic Lights, Here, Every Color Means "GO"

(image credit, wikipedia)

If you haven't lived in Baltimore for a long time, you might not realize how most drivers take to the colors of the traffic lights and their meanings. In most places, Red means STOP, Yellow means SLOW DOWN, and Green means GO. Hold it right there feller! Baltimore isn't the real world, if you didn't know. Here, every color means "GO"!

Even after living here for as long as I have, I am still surprised at how brazen some drivers can be when it comes to traffic lights. Sure, you can sympathize with the going through the light on yellow. We all know how difficult (and sometimes unsafe) to come to a screeching halt while going the speed limit to stop when it turns red. Blowing throw the stone cold red light is another thing.

What would be a simple trek across the street with the friendly white Walk Man in most places becomes a dangerously realistic version of George Costanza pushing the Frogger arcade across the street. The unwritten rule for pedestrians here seems to be, wait for the green, wait a couple seconds, and pray a Hail Mary while you cross to the other side. Who knows when the next cell phone yielding driver is going to come screaming through the light.

What should the city do? In addition to the red light cameras, maybe some traffic officers should stand by some intersections and take down license plate numbers, maybe a PSA on the news, or better yet, just add signs at some intersections that say "RED MEANS STOP" or "THE TOP LIGHT MEANS STOP", in case you're color blind.

If you're a pedestrian, just keep your eyes open and your ears tuned when you prepare to cross the street, and hope you remembered to pay your insurance coverage.

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Links from Our Friends on the Web - 6/11

Honfest is Upon Us: b the paper gives us a highlight of this weekend's Honfest, with some favorite moments from past years. Brush off your Bawlmerese, and head up to Hampden this Saturday and Sunday.

Bike Baltimore Newsletter: from Baltimore Spokes we get updates on new bike racks (and how to request them from the city) and recaps from some recent city biking events.

Get a Jump on the Weekend: the Weekend Hit List from metromix baltimore gives you heads up on what's going on intown this weekend.

Fixing the JFX: From Baltimore Brew, Gerald Neily tweeks the city's proposal on demolishing the lower end of the JFX.

Congressman Pushing Stimulus Cash for Transit Operations: Elana Schor with DC Streetsblog talks about one Congressman's proposal to allow stimulus cash to be used for transit agencies for their operations costs.

Your New Ride Is...

(image credit, www.ci.baltimore.md.us)

the Charm City Circulator.

The new name was revealed yesterday, along with one of the new buses, at City Hall. 18 of these buses, which are clean-energy hybrids, will be on the road later this summer. The free shuttle will operate on three routes around downtown. One will go between City Hall and Johns Hopkins Hospital, the second will go from UMB to Harbor East, and the third will go from Penn Station to Cross Street Market.

For all of you that remember DASH, this is a huge improvement over that original service that died when the funding went dry a few years back. The Charm City Circulator will be funded through the increase in the downtown parking tax.

The hope is this shuttle will be appealing to not only tourists, but commuters, students, and residents, who need to get around the downtown area. Now, Fells Point residents can easily get downtown, UMB students can get to the Harbor, commuters coming into Penn Station can access the Charles Street corridor easier the Light Rail, and Federal Hill residents can get out without driving.

To make sure the buses can maintain 10 minute headways downtown, plans are to add dedicated bus lanes along Pratt and Lombard to accommodate the Charm City Circulator as well as MTA buses. Seems like a no brainer, but how come this wasn't done a while ago?

For info see www.yournameyourride.com

Friday, June 5, 2009

Permit Goof at Fort McHenry

(image credit, the Baltimore Sun)

I was talking with the Park Rangers down at Fort McHenry recently about why there hasn't been any construction on the new Visitors Center yet. Work was supposed to begin by May 1st, but besides the Groundbreaking on April 27th, no other dirt has been moved. Turns out the National Park Service made a goof, and forgot to get a Floodplain Permit. Now in all fairness, this wasn't Fort McHenry's problem. Rather, all Park Service construction is taken care of by a central office in Denver (why there, who knows). Anyways, it looks like the Denver office neglected to request this permit, and apparently also forgot that Fort McHenry is on the water.

This setback pushed construction off until at least August when the paperwork gets finished. Now, instead of the Visitors Center being opened in Fall 2010, it's looking more like Spring 2011. This is why you need cross all of your 'T's and dot all the 'I's before you send it your work!

Thanks to the guys down at the Fort for the update, sorry your new building will be delayed. On a positive note, the weather will be great down there this weekend, so break out the bikes, running shoes, and kites and head on down. Park is open till 8pm throughout the summer.

www.nps.gov/fomc

Thursday, June 4, 2009

Links from Our Friends on the Web

Interchangeable MTA and Metro Smart Cards: Michael Dresser from the Baltimore Sun reports in his blog "Getting There" about MTA and WMATA reaching an agreement on their Smart Card Systems.

36 Reasons Why Streetcars are Better Than Buses: The Infrastructurist gives us a lot of good reasons for why streetcars beat out buses any day. More proof that the Charles Street Trolley is a good idea.

Artscape is coming up next month: Baltimore Spokes reminds Baltimoreans; if you're going to Artscape in July, ride your bike!

Expanding the Harbor Promenade: Gerald Neily with Baltimore Brew explains why the Inner Harbor Promenade should be extended down to Fort McHenry. As always, he has Google Maps to help us visualize.

Another First Thursday Concert Cancelled: This would make two cancellations on the year for First Thursdays. This time, as Sam Sessa blogs in "Midnight Sun" with the Baltimore Sun, it's the weather.

Monday, June 1, 2009

A Roundabout Argument

(photo credit, The Baltimore Sun)

Recently, there has been talk among city officials to reorient some of the most tricky Baltimore intersections, and replacing them with roundabouts. This seems like something one would see in DC, the counties, or New Jersey, but not Baltimore. For many of us in the city, the closest one we know if is the famed Towson Circle. Now, in all fairest, this example isn't the best when it comes to "properly designed traffic circles"; but generally speaking, this is the only one most people encounter, so you can understand the hesitance.

I, for one, understand the core principles of a roundabout. Yield to the traffic already in the circle, then proceed, and most importantly remember to use your directionals. Not that difficult. However, I do see a potential drawback to the one proposed at the intersection of Light Street and Key Highway. I just can't visualize how this will be accomplished.

First off, there are a lot of lanes there. Three coming in from Key Highway. Three coming North on Light. Two turning on Light Street onto Key, and two continuing South, but then (very quickly) merging to one lane as it continues on Light into Federal Hill. Complicating things is Hughes Street, which drivers can only turn onto when travelling South on Light Street. I don't see where the space is for a roundabout without making a mess. Traffic lanes would have to be narrowed.

Secondly, and most importantly, is this will make the pedestrian experience potentially worse. With a light, walkers have the ability to walk with relative ease and safety. Without a traffic light dictating who moves and when, pedestrians would be at the mercy of the driver to yield to them (which we all know in Baltimore is asking a lot for a minor consideration).

Lastly, there is always that far flung idea of extending a potential streetcar line from the Inner Harbor down Key Highway to Locust Point and Fort McHenry. Sure, this is just a "wouldn't that be sweet", but would make it all the harder to do since Streetcars don't do well navigating roundabouts. Even if a streetcar is a maybe, it's still something to consider.

A roundabout would be an interesting idea down for a gateway to Federal Hill/Locust Point. A fountain or maybe a statue (of Francis Scott Key?) would be a nice focal piece. It just has to be done perfectly, that's all I'm saying. Especially if I plan on walking nearby.

Friday, May 29, 2009

New Hotel for Penn Station

(image credit, wikipedia)

A news story in the Baltimore Sun mentioned that a 77 room boutique hotel will be going into the three top floors of Baltimore Penn Station sometime by late 2010. This will be the first major project in the Station North Redevelopment Plan. The upper offices of Penn Station have been vacant for a long time, and turning them into a hotel is a great idea.

Penn Station is the center of what could be a great redevelopment for a gap that exists between Mt Vernon/CBD and the JHU/Charles Village area of the city. Many commuters come in and out of Penn Station daily, and most make their way downtown to work, or they are heading out of town to jobs in D.C. There are those that work at UB or MICA, which while located close nearby, are really only so much. With the work going on along Oliver Street with the Fitzgerald and new Barnes and Noble, a hotel at Penn Station, and the eventual new UB Law School at the corner of Charles and Mt. Royal, things could be looking way up for this part of town. Slap a streetcar going up Charles/down St. Paul, and you have yourself a destination for employees, residents, visitors, etc.

In addition to the Hotel at Penn Station, Amtrak is also trying to figure out how best to use it's parking lot north of the Station. While a bad idea would be to put a parking garage, a good idea might be to include underground parking (so not to snub the travellers who use it) with a Mixed Use facility. News on this could come by the end of the year.

As someone who frequents Penn Station for business and leisure travel, I would be very happy to see a better use of the place. If one thinks of the great train stations in America, Grand Central, New York Penn, 30th Street, and Washington Union Station to name a few, you see more than just a newsstand and a coffee shop. There are places to eat and shop while you wait for your train. While our Penn Station is smaller and can't accommodate much, the development of the north parking lot should take this into account when they put those plans together. These amenities could also serve the hotel patrons, and make that venture more appealing.

Enjoy your weekend folks.

Friday, May 22, 2009

Observations from the Light Rail

(image credit, The Bergen Network)

I was riding the Light Rail yesterday and I noticed in two places that the train still stops for vehicular traffic. I know the MTA added additional "signal priority" systems to the line, but it still doesn't make any sense to me!

Spot 1.) Cultural Center Station, N. Howard St. at W. Preston Ave:

Problem - The station is right at the corner of the street. Yesterday, I observed the train stop, let all of the passengers on and off, and then continue to sit at the red light. The train had to wait not only for the Preston Ave traffic, but also through the Southbound Howard Street turning traffic, until the Northbound Howard light turned green and then the train moved.
Solution - Once the train is ready to move, allow the light at Preston Ave to switch to red, then let the train move through the intersection, and then allow for the turning traffic.

Spot 2.) Grade crossing at Mt. Royal Ave:

Problem - Once the train leaves the Cultural Center Station it has to stop at the light at Mt. Royal Ave. I also noticed that even when the lights turned red there was still a significant delay in the train signal switching, so the train sat for an enigmatically long time.
Solution - Give the Light Rail the priority to move here. When the train leaves Cultural Center it should trigger the lights on Mt. Royal to turn red, allowing the train to move into the University of Baltimore Station without having to stop. The distance is less than one-quarter mile.

These are simple solutions to problems that can cause delays and backups all along the downtown stretch of the Light Rail, and headaches and frustrations among commuters. If you're going to give the Light Rail signal priority, do it right for crying out loud.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

More Sidewalk Eating in Fells Point

(photo credit flickr, Indie Photo)

What a wonderful day for a walk on the water in Baltimore today. The sun is out, there is a little bit of a breeze, all-in-all the weather is fantastic. Walking through Fells Point I noticed an interesting thing, the sidewalk eating spaces have multiplied!

The newest edition, that I actually noticed the other day, was the outside seating area out Miss Irene's. Along South Ann Street they put out tables, umbrellas, and nice planters. On Thames Street they put small bar tables and umbrellas. This was a nice addition to an empty street corner.

Moving along Thames Street it seems like everyone has moved some of their tables on the sidewalk, Koopers and Slainte both have outside seating now. Thames is always a busy sidewalk with people walking dogs, getting coffee, going in-and-out of the bars, but now the sounds of dinnertime chatter, cutlery scraping plates, and beer glasses clinking permeate the air.

More and more, with initiatives likes this, Fells is becoming a more livelier place.

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Office Greenspace...Urban Oasis


When you work in an urban environment you get used to the buildings around you, the noise on the street, and the claustrophobic feeling you have when you're stuck inside most of the day. For many people that could be on the umpteenth floor of an office building, far removed from the people below. Sure you get some awesome views, but you're still inside. The real treasure is the outside space.

Many buildings downtown have plazas and open space. Charles Center for example has a huge plaza between the state and federal buildings. The World Trade Center has the harbor promenade, and City Hall and surrounding areas have War Memorial Plaza. What all this places don't truly have, and what are harder to find is the public green space...the urban oasis.

Like water in the desert, you would probably need a camel to help you find them, but when you're there it's almost as magical. Now I'm not talking about the berms that line Charles Street. I'm talking about the places that cut out the noise of the city, where if you weren't looking, you wouldn't know you are in an urban spot.

Federal Hill Park is the closest thing we have to an urban square. Sitting above Key Highway overlooking the Harbor, it's green it's quiet, it's breezy, but it isn't accessible for most of the working folks on the other side of the Harbor. University of Maryland has University Square Park and Johns Hopkins Hospital has some of it's inner courtyards (I get to partake in the the Courtyard behind the SON...drowns out all sounds with the fountain). The Harbor Promenade is a great place to be outside, but it's busy and doesn't completely block the noise from Light Street (or the tourists).

Unfortunately Baltimore is not city with a great urban square in its center city. DC has many, Philadelphia has 4 (well really 3.5 Logan is more a traffic circle now), and New York there are more than you can shake a stick at. One good candidate is Center Plaza, which was redone in 2007 and has added more green and shady trees to Downtown. Charles Center, you should be next. Imagine if Rash Field were ever revamped and greened.

If you have a space like this, use it! Take your lunch outside, enjoy the public outside green space. It'll do you good.