Thursday, April 30, 2009

Coming Soon: The Return of the Rotunda

(photo credit flickr member Wysz)

Looks like the Rotunda, under the new name, Rotunda Cinemas; and new owners, Horizon Group, will reopen May 15th playing first-run movies! The first movie will be Angels and Demons, with the second movie being announced soon. The Rotunda is supposed to be the centerpiece of a massive redevelopment of the property that was originally planned to begin Spring of '08, but now doesn't look like it will start until late this year or even next year (or in the way things go these days, at all). The Grand Rotunda, as planned, would include more retail, townhouses, and a 21 story condo tower.

Well, welcome back Rotunda, we missed you. Now all the Hopkins students and Roland Park residents don't have to truck all the way down to Harbor East or up to Towson (with the high school vagrants) to catch a good flick.

There is a short article on about it.

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

It's Only April O's Fans

(image credit The Baltimore Sun)

OK O's fans, seriously it's only April. Get the late summer blues out of your system or the Orioles will never have a strong team.

Last nights game against the Rangers only brought in 10,617 fans on an otherwise perfect night for baseball. That's the second-lowest attendance ever in the history of Camden Yards, a stadium which can hold 48,876 people.

This isn't September, and we aren't a billion games out of 1st place. We are 20 games into a season and are 9-11. Have some pride in your team and get out to the ballpark!

Taking Lombard Street? Bring Your Swimmies

(photo credit The Baltimore Sun)

This pretty much sums it up. A Water main break at Gay St and Lombard St is causing a little bit of a tie up in the downtown/Inner Harbor area. You best make your way around it, take transit, or hope the water main affects your place of business and shuts your office, people who I know at Constellation Energy I'm looking in your direction.

Local Buses are slowed, but no major delays are listed by MTA Maryland.

Good start to your Tuesday in Charm City.

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Portland, Where the Streetcar Works

On my current work-related road trip, I find myself in Portland, Oregon, where transit, especially light rail and streetcar, seems to work really well. So well, in fact, in addition to the three current light rail lines and the Portland Streetcar, a fourth light rail is under construction right now with a fifth and additional streetcar line in the early planning stages. Meanwhile, in Baltimore, we have been struggling for the past seven years to implement one light rail line.

The centerpiece of Portland's success is their streetcar loop. The four mile line (nearly 8 mile roundtrip loop) connects the Northwest, Pearl, Downtown, University, and Waterfront districts, and picks up around 10,000 people daily. The best feature is for most of the ride it's free.

As a streetcar the cars move with traffic at the normal speed limit. There are fixed stops every couple blocks making it more like light rail than a traditional streetcar which would stop at any block a passenger desired. Like its traditional ancestor, if there is no one at the station, and no passenger requests the stop, the car will continue on.

With so much success here, the idea of adding a streetcar line along the Charles Street corridor should be a no brainer, yet there are still a lot of detractors. It would be a great opportunity to bring a fixed, visible, and viable transportation route between the North districts and the Inner Harbor. A great way for city commuters, college students, families, and tourists to get back and forth between some of the hot spots. It could also spur redevelopment between Penn Station and JHU, which would be opportunity (and selling point).

The two-year study of the Charles Street Corridor should be done sometime later this year. The Portland Streetcar took two year to construct. It is feasible that our own here in Baltimore version, with appropriate funding, could open around 2012. Now, that would be an improvement.

Friday, April 17, 2009

Stimulus Money to Update Metro Subway Systems

This was posted up on MTAMaryland yesterday highlighting some improvements to the Metro Subway systems including PA systems and train truck assemblies.

The best news on this is the updated auto-visual PA system. If you have been in the Charles Center station recently you will notice new signs on the station walls that denote the date and time, and when a train is approaching. When a train begins to come into the station a (slightly annoying) buzzer warns passengers, and on the signs the destination of the train and arrows pointing to which direction the train is going appear on the signs. Eventually these signs, or similar ones, will be at every station and will not only provide information on arrival, but also updates, outages, and notices. Pretty cool huh? Maybe they will post when the next train is coming like they do in D.C.

Hopefully the signs will be a bit larger than the ones at Charles Center now. They are a great improvement, but there are awfully small for the information MTA might be trying to provide on them.

The rest of the money will go to tunnel inspections and upgrades as well as replacing the wheel truck assemblies on the trains. I'm guessing this will cut down on the squealing as the trains go around corners, and braking. The trains are 25 years old, and you can tell the brakes need a tune up on many cars as you are jerking to a stop coming into the station.

Too bad the upgrades won't include awesome LCD screens like Chicago

Enjoy the weekend!

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Skyline Roadtrip - Philadelphia

Not too long ago, I found myself back up in Philadelphia for some job related such-and-such. The easiest way to get up to Philly from Baltimore is hoping on the good old Northeast Corridor and take the hour trip north.

When you arrive in Philadelphia you enter another Pennsylvania Station, albeit this one now is called 30th Street Station, as to not be confused with all the other ones. Opened in 1933, it replaced Broad Street Station as the Pennsylvania Railroad's main passenger depot in the city. Built as a through station it helped increase efficiency since it startled the main line between New York and Washington. To connect the new station to downtown, since now it was further west, upper platforms were built on the North Wing to accommodate the trains that brought commuters into downtown to Suburban Station (built in 1930).

30th Street not only being effective as an intermodal stop - it connects intercity rail to commuter rail, market-frankford subway, and subway-surface trolleys - it is also an impressive building. Built in the Classical Revival style, it looks more like a Greek Temple to Transportation. The massive main waiting room is decorated with art deco stylings and large windows on all sides. One feels dwarfed by the size of the chandeliers alone.

The station is always hustling and bustling with travellers and commuters, and my trip through there was no exception. Families waiting for trains, businessmen rushing to catch the SEPTA trains into Center City, Amtrak Red Cap service pushing baggage carts, traingoers moving up and down the escalators and stairs to the platforms below. This all makes for a busy, but not hectic sight.

Definitely the most dominating feature is a large bronze statue of the Archangel Michael lifting a dead soldier from the fires of war. Along all four sides are the names of more than 1,000 employees of the Pennsylvania Railroad that were dilled during World War II. While not as famous as the Wanamaker Eagle or the Rocky Statue, it is impressive in its own right.

Next time you get yourselves to Philly, make sure to check out 30th Street Station, it rivals even Washington Union.

Rainy Day, Tax Day, Tea Day?

(picture by tcunation)

Right now, down in the Inner Harbor, on this rainy April 15th there are citizens gathering for a "protest". How many people, who knows, I really can't see the Harbor from my office, but I take it there will be some people down there. Probably more if it wasn't raining.

I've been reading the news lately about how people have been sending their representatives tea - leaves, bags, boxes, etc. - to show their frustration over taxes or excessive government spending or what have you. I find this rather funny though, and a good history lesson for all those people out there. Tea, that was good, but Monopoly money would have been better; the $1 Trillion being printed and thrown into the economy is just as worthless. That would have been a better contemporary connection.

Nothing wrong with a peaceful "rebellion" right? It's what gets people and more importantly elected officials to understand what's going on. This is how things get saved (see Senator Theatre). On the downside, it also gets things delayed (see Red Line), and helping NIMBYs get things shut down (see anything NIMBYs don't like or everything).

As Thomas Jefferson put it "a little rebellion, now and then, is a good thing, and as necessary in the political world as storms in the physical."

So go throw some Tea into the Harbor, it might freshen things up down there, but remember to remove it from the water lest the environmentalists get testy.

Monday, April 13, 2009

Harry Kalas: 1936-2009

(flickr photo by gajdam1)

Being a Philadelphia native, I'd like to dedicate my post today to Harry Kalas, the voice of The Philadelphia Phillies and NFL Films who died today before their game against the Washington Nationals. He was the announcer for the Phillies for 38 years, most memorably while teaming with Ritchie "Whitey" Ashburn until his death in 1997.

Harry was famous for his powerful voice, love of baseball, and the ability to listen to the game, but feel as if you were in the stands watching in person. You could almost smell the hot dogs and grass he was so good.

For anyone who watches or knows of NFL Films he was the voice of that too. Harry was honored in 2002 when he was inducted into the Major League Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown for sports broadcasting.

"...there's a long fly ball deep to left field, HERE, HOME RUN!"

Thanks for the Memories Harry.

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

The Birds are Back in Town!

(Photo credit The Baltimore Sun)

2009 baseball kicked off for the Orioles yesterday with Opening Day against the New York Yankees, and guess what we're in 1st Place! Yeah, I know it's only the first game of the season, but guess who has 1.000 winning percentage, not the Yankees.

The O's were looking good in their snazzy new home uniforms. Not much of a change, a little less black here, a little more orange there. One noticeable difference - a big round Maryland flag inspired patch on the left sleeve. One unnoticeable difference - a tweak to the bird on the hat to make him look more like an Oriole should, you're welcome ornithologists.

It was a great day for a sell out crowd of both O's and Yankees fans. Seriously I don't blame the Yanks fan for coming to Bmore to see their team when the cheapest tickets at the new Yankee Stadium are between $14-$30. Not to mention the chances of getting single game tickets this season are the same as winning the lottery. Lower ticket prices were the only thing Yanks fans enjoyed yesterday. It didn't take long for the Orange and Black to begin drubbing C.C. Sabathia. He was sent packing with his baggy uniform down to the clubhouse in the 5th Inning. (I think Joe Biden's day on the moun proved more effective) Mark Teixeira was booed relentlessly. It was good.

The O's batted, fielded, and Jeremy Guthrie pitched really well yesterday. Game 1 down, 161 more to go. Welcome back Birds, we missed you!