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 --

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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 --

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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.