Friday, December 31, 2010

Last Day of the Year

December 31, 2010. Today is the last day of 2010 for tomorrow begins a new year: 2011.

2010 has been an interesting year for Baltimore, and honestly a lot has happened. The Charm City Circulator began running and the Poe Toaster never showed up. Mayor Dixon resigned and Stephanie Rawlings-Blake took over the reigns. The city was dumped on by the Snowpocalypse. The Orioles got a new lively manager in the form of Buck Showalter. The summer brought us one of the worst heat waves with record days above 90 and 100. Downtown streets became a mess with first broken water mains, and then reconstruction for the Grand Prix. The CharmCard went into operation, finally. Someone crashed into the fencing at the Washington Monument. Four hotels opened this year including the complete restoration of the Hotel Brexton. A few major construction projects began, housing at Johns Hopkins East Baltimore Campus, the new Law School building at UB, and the new Shock Trauma expansion to name a few.  Mercy Hospital opened its new building on St. Paul Street. A massive fire endangered The Block, and the next day another severely damaged buildings in Mt Vernon. Maryland's population is trending up, but Baltimore's seems to be still trending down. Yet, all major crimes have hit the lowest in decades.

There was plenty more news this year in Baltimore, but we just pulled some of the top stories that Baltimore Skyline covered this year to just look back and remember all that happened in the last 365 days. How will 2010 wrap up? There is still plenty of hours left in the day. The Inner Harbor fireworks are always a blast, many bars will be open past 2am, the CCC is running until 1pm, and Bus, Light Rail, and Metro will be free from 8pm-2am thanks to Miller Lite.

Thanks again for another great year for all of you who read this blog, and we'll be seeing you in 2011.

Saturday, December 25, 2010

Merry Christmas Baltimore!


While we didn't get exactly a White Christmas this year, it looks like we're going to get socked with 6-10 inches of snow tomorrow! A storm is brewing up the northeast corridor with Winter Storm Warnings from DC to Boston. Snow is expected to start overnight and continue all day tomorrow,just in time for all the people wanting to get on the road.

Anyway, Merry Christmas, Baltimore we hope you got everything you wanted!

Friday, December 24, 2010

Maybe Some Snow on Christmas?

While we wont be getting a lot of the white stuff on Christmas day, there is still a chance for some afternoon snow showers tomorrow, and through the weekend. This is a best case scenerio - the kids are happy because they get the White Christmas, and the parents (and everyone else) are happy that we don't have to drive in it.

Saturday, December 18, 2010

Up Goes Another Crane

screen shot from ubalt.edu
The construction crane for the new Law Center at the University of Baltimore went up at the corner of N. Charles St and Mt Royal Ave today. This is the second crane to go up in recent months in the city, which can only be great news. Feel free to follow the link in the caption to the construction camera on UB's website.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

The Block Fire: Arson?

The latest news swirling around is that the fire on the Block was reportedly arson. While no official word has been given, the ATF and Fire Marshal will have a news conference at 3pm today to deliver their findings.

What does this mean for the future of the block? If the buildings are losses, do we wind up with a third of a block that remains an empty lot? Would anyone even want to develop that property anyway?

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Welcome to Another Week

Another work week in Baltimore starts tomorrow after a rainy Sunday with the potential of snow showers during the morning commute, albeit very slight. We could be looking at some snow for next Sunday, so watch out.

The Terps lost to BC tonight in men's basketball, but Loyola stomped Mount St. Mary's by 23 points yesterday on the Evergreen campus.

The Holiday Festival of trains is steaming along at the B&O Railroad Museum as they contemplate purchasing one of their old buildings back on Pratt Street from Baltimore Behavioral Health.

At UB the foundations for the construction crane are set, and it is expected that the crane will go up sometime this week. It's only a matter of time until the concrete starts rising. Meanwhile in East Baltimore, the JHU grad tower has two floors of concrete up, and is moving skyward.

Downtown, the 400 block of E. Baltimore Street is still closed, but up in Mount Vernon scaffolding has already gone up around the burned out building where Donna's, My Thai, and Indigma hope to be back up and running in the next few months.

Welcome to a new week...

Thursday, December 9, 2010

MTA Maryland Needs a New Website

The MTA Maryland website was redesigned a couple years ago in order for it to be more user friendly and accessible, but even with the newer site it neither more user friendly, nor accessible. Below are just a few  other city transit agencies, and their much better sites. MTA Maryland should take some good notes from these other agencies and do a total restructuring of their own site.

SEPTA - Philadelphia, PA
PATCO - New Jersey/Philadelphia
TriMet - Portland, OR
WMATA - Washington, DC
Metro Transit - Minneapolis, MN
MBTA - Boston, MA

Information on each page is very limiting, and some is wrong, or doesnt look like it's been updated in a while.
For instance the pages for the Light Rail and Subway tell a potential rider nothing regarding how frequently trains run unless one digs into the schedule. The "General Information" for the Light Rail doesn't give you much at all, it doesn't even tell riders where it goes.

The website has to be more useful, if the MTA wants to draw new and more frequent riders. A mobile site is also a must, for riders to check in when they are already at the stop.

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Second Big Fire in Less Than 9 Hours in Mt Vernon

Another 5-alarm fire started in Mt Vernon Place around 1:30am in the buildings that house Donna's, My Thai, and Indigma. Many of the same firefighters who had battled the fire on the Block just hours before were called out again to tackle the blaze on N. Charles Street.

http://www.baltimoresun.com/news/maryland/baltimore-city/bs-md-mount-vernon-fire,0,6793282.story

Monday, December 6, 2010

Massive Fire on the Block

There is currently a multi-alarm fire in the 400 block of E. Baltimore Street, aka "The Block". This is a terrible time for this to happen, right before rush hour.

http://www.baltimoresun.com/news/maryland/baltimore-city/bal-city-fire1206,0,3043698.story

http://www.wbaltv.com/slideshow/news/26037691/detail.html

UPDATE:
Fire now at 5 alarms. Shot Tower-Market Place Metro station is temporarily closed, and city buses are on detour, see http://www.mta.maryland.gov/.

Sunday, December 5, 2010

Another Hotel Opens in Bmore

Looks like the new Sleep Inn next to the Holiday Inn Express on Fallsway is finally open. Saw the lights on, sign lit up, and cars in the parking lot while driving past today. This is another great addition to downtown, especially along Fallsway where any new development is a positive.

The far side of I-83 has its troubles since the highway cuts it off from the rest of downtown and the Harbor. At the lower end, there seems to be better success where the separation isn't as complete. The hotels make that stretch a lot less lonely and barren, and the addition of foot traffic is an improvement. This also shows a willingness to develop properties that are adjacent to I-83. On the west side there are a few vacant properties next to the highway, especially on Guilford. If the hotels are successful, it could be an incentive to build on lots and redevelop properties along Guilford, Holliday, and Gay. Let's see what happens.

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Almost Time for Monument Lighting


It's almost that time of year! When the Washington Monument is lit up in Mount Vernon, you know it's Christmas season in Baltimore. The Monument was recently voted as the most recognizable landmark in the city by the Baltimore Sun, and the holiday lights make it much more the centerpiece!

If you're free Thursday night at 5:30pm, make your way to Mt Vernon Place for the show!

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Happy Thanksgiving!


Wishing everyone out there a Happy Thanksgiving and a long weekend!

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Tremont Grand is Getting Ready for Christmas

photo by me
The Christmas lights are going up at the Tremont Grand, and the rest of downtown Baltimore. The lights are up on Pratt Street and Charles St already, and Santa's palace has arrived at the Inner Harbor. A newer addition I noticed this year, are lights strung in the trees along Pratt Street, but I have yet to snap a good picture of that.

The day after tomorrow marks the beginning of the Christmas Season, despite what retailers say its not November 1st, so you'll be seeing more lights going up. Honestly, this is my favorite time of the year in Baltimore.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Why Baltimore Needs to Save the USF&G Annex and Others


USF&G Annex at Left, old USF&G Building (now Hampton Inn) at Right
Sitting silent and abandoned at 26 S. Calvert Street is the old USF&G Annex building. The original home for USF&G is right next door on the corner of Redwood, but it was preserved as a Hampton Inn in recent years. However, the 12-story Annex built in 1920 has a delayed date with the wrecking ball.

In 2008 the city approved the mixed-use redevelopment called CityScape. You may have heard about it in the news, but it was supposed to add two hotels, apartments, and a 200-car garage surrounding the Brookshire Suites on two sides, and topping off at 30 stories. In order to make this happen, eight building on Lombard Street and Calvert Street would have to come down, including the Annex. However, this never happened for two reasons. First, the Recession hit full force the the funding for the project was never finalized, and second, questions were raised over the bid to demolish the buildings and the work abruptly stopped.

In a way the Recession helped to save the Annex, because if they demolition had been complete, you can almost guarantee that not construction would have taken place and Baltimore would be left with another downtown empty lot. Now that the building still stands we should be asking ourselves, should it really be lost? Can't developers find a better purpose for it? Apartments for instance? In Baltimore, we have a knack for knocking down the old in place of the new (when actual development occurs), but when we devalue our older architecture and leave it for the wrecking ball, we are losing some of the character that makes Baltimore what it is. These examples of architecture cannot be replaced. Long gone are the days of embellishments, grandeur of design, and styles that accentuated stone and brick, so why lose more?

The bigger loss is demolishing these buildings, and having nothing to replace them. Baltimore has a problem with tearing down its buildings for new development, but then nothing happens. Look at the old McCormick Spice building, the Tower Building, the Southern Hotel, all razed for new projects that never materialized, and now have sat as surface parking lots for over 15 years.

Instead let's look at the USF&G Annex, and think about adaptive-reuse and not the wrecking ball. Could you imagine if there wasn't the Bromo Selzter Tower, or the Shot Tower, or the Hutzler Department Store? We need to let an old part of Baltimore live on in a new way.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Progress at JHU Grad Tower

Photo by me
So, barely a floor of concrete and rebar isn't really progress, but it's a start! The construction at the new JHU Graduate Student Tower now named "929" for its address at 929 N. Wolfe Street, is underway. This is the first floor of what will be a 20-floor residence hall for students on the JHU Medical Campus. It is only two blocks south of the main hospital, across the street from the newest building in the Biotech Park, and on the southern end of the EBDI redevelopment site.

On a blustery day like today, it appears that the construction crews are keeping to ground work. With the wind whipping around in the wake of last night's storms (and possible tornado), I can't imagine it would be fun to try to send heavy equipment through the air.

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Pros/Cons of New Arena at the Inner Harbor

photo credit, The Baltimore Sun
Recently this past week the GBC proposed a plan to build a new arena on the site of the oldest section of the Convention Center at Pratt and Charles Streets. Now the city is seeking proposals, again, for a new arena to replace 1st Mariner Arena, but prefers this time to use an alternative site. The original proposals in 2008 sought to replace the arena on site, but it would leave Baltimore without a major indoor venue for concerts, sports, and other events for at least two years. By building the new arena at a different spot in the city, this will allow 1st Mariner to remain open during the construction of the new space. This leads to a few pros and cons that I can think of.

Pros:
  • The Inner Harbor site would be closer to Camden Yards and the rest of Harborplace, helping to draw visitors to that area.
  • Will at the same time replace a portion of the convention center with new exhibiting and meeting space, which can encourage more conventions per year.
  • Allow for new development at the 1st Marina site.
Cons:
  • Potentially won't help to break up the 4-block wall that is devoid of retail space or any other life on the south side of Pratt, unless the developers add some type of retail on the Pratt and Charles street front.
  • A long timeline for replacement for the 1st Marina site could leave a block-sized undeveloped plot for who knows how long. When we consider the stalled Superblock site, and the already slow development on the Westside, it could be a very long time.
  • Takes away from encouraging development to the Westside, when the city should be looking at expanding downtown redevelopment instead of concentrating everything around the harbor.

Monday, November 8, 2010

Skyline Roadtrip - Cincinnati

View from Carew Tower, new Great American Tower at left
 Cincinnati boasts a population around 333,000, making it the 3rd largest city in the state of Ohio. Sitting just across the Kentucky state line along the Ohio River it was settled in 1788 and named "Cincinnati" by the Arthur St. Clair the governor of the Northwest Territory to honor the Society of the Cincinnati, an organization of former officers of the Continental Army.

The city is known for the Cincinnati Bengals and Reds, Fountain Square, the University of Cincinnati and Xavier University, an incomplete and abandoned subway, and of course it's architecture.

Up until this year the tallest building in the city was the 49-story art deco Carew Tower which opened in 1931. It was recently surpassed by the 660 ft Great American Tower. The Carew Tower along with the 31-story Hilton Hotel it is connected to take up an entire city block right off Fountain Square. Together they are generally seen as one of the finest examples of French Art Deco. Originally it housed the Mabely & Carew Department store, but today it is a mix of retail and and the upper floors have remained offices.

$2 gets your to the observation deck on the very top of the 49 floor. Believe me this is no Empire State Building deck. You take the elevator to the 25th floor and then a small closet-sized elevator up to the 48th floor, and then the last flight up by metal staircase takes you to a small desk where you pay your two-bucks and then out the door. The views are great, but the railing seems a bit low and there is no protective cage, you really feel a rush. (I took a few pictures and retreated back inside).

From up-top you catch a good glimpse of the city, the Ohio River and its bridges. One in particular is the Roebling Bridge, Cincinnati's finest, built in 1866 as a prototype for its larger and more famous cousin, the Brooklyn Bridge.

View of the Roebling Bridge, the Ohio River, and Kentucky
One part of Cincinnati most people may not know about is it's forgotten, unfinished subway running underneath downtown. 2.2 miles were completed along with three underground stations in the early 1920s until it was abandoned during the great depression. The line was never finished and trains never operated along the line. The good news is, Cincinnati will begin construction on its streetcar line next year which will connect the waterfront with downtown and north.

With more cities proposing and building streetcars, this could be a big push for projects like the one in Baltimore.

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Rotunda Cinemas grow to three screens, with more to come - baltimoresun.com

Rotunda Cinemas grow to three screens, with more to come - baltimoresun.com

UBalt Construction Camera

Screen Shot from construction cam
On the University of Baltimore's website you can follow along with the construction of the new Angelos Law Center with a construction camera. The camera gives you a view of the site from across Mount Royal Ave. Right now, it is just a big hole in the ground, but soon the construction crane should go up and the new law building will go vertical. The Angelos Law Center will top off at 12 stories and should open in 2012.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Ready for the Light Up

Photo by me
The holiday lights on the Washington Monument are strung and ready to be lit up on December 2nd. The old lights were replaced last year with new LED strands which are brighter and don't have a tendency to burn out. The monument already is one of the most recognizable structures that dots our city skyline, but when it is all light up for the holidays it is hard to miss. Sure other cities have giant Christmas trees, but we have something we can call uniquely Baltimore. Unfortunately for this year there is a gaping hole in the fence surrounding the monument due to last week's van accident. Nevertheless, old George will still get his lights.

The 39th annual celebration entitled A Monumental Occasion will occur a 5:30pm on December 2nd. For more details visit the Baltimore Office of Promotion & the Arts.

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

General Election


Today is the Maryland General Election, so go out there and remember to vote. Polling places are open between 7am and 8pm, so you have plenty of time.

While Baltimore Skyline isn't endorsing any candidates, we do endorse the election process, so take the time and flex your civic muscles. One thing's for sure, we're looking forward to Wednesday, November 3rd, when all those stupid campaign commercials are over!

Sunday, October 31, 2010

Sunday Chillday

With the Ravens off this week, this particular Sunday was a little bit more relaxed in town. Since I didn't have to plan my day around watching Baltimore football, I had free range to take in some well need chill time.

First stop...Federal Hill. Met up with some friends for brunch at Metro. Though I don't live in that part of the city anymore, it has still remained a staple for breakfast and brunch, and well worth the out of the way trip down. Now with the Circulator, the trip is so much easier. It's always a crowded spot, but the service is good and the food is great. Self service coffee is a plus, especially when it does get busy.

It was such a great fall day out, I decided to walk back to the old homestead by way of the Inner Harbor. In the early afternoon the first batch of trick-or-treaters were already out on the streets of Federal Hill and Otterbein.

Second stop...downtown. I walked up Charles Street and saw the new landscaping around the Kona Grill addition. It looks like they'll have an outdoor patio for the warmer months, but that isn't finished yet. I saw the new David & Dad's Express at 1 N. Charles. It's open M-F, and will be a nice addition for the office workers.While I haven't been to the original David & Dad's in a long time, I do remember it having a tasty menu, and it's nice to see them expand. I'll have to make a point to stop by the Express stop in the near future.

Overall, a crisp fall day in Baltimore. Gotta love this time of year.

Saturday, October 30, 2010

Mobbies 2010: Thanks for the Nomination


Baltimore Skyline was nominated under two categories for this year's Baltimore Sun Mobbies under the Misfits and Neighborhood sections. Thank you for the nominations, and thank you for reading and commenting on this blog. I've enjoyed writing these posts and looking into many of the topics that effect Charm City, whether that be sports, events, transportation, construction, development, or the news. Though this is something I pursue in my free time, I do try to keep up with as much that is going on. Thanks again, and I hope you continue to follow along!

History Shattered

(photo credit: abc2 news)
At around 2:30am this morning a van crashed into the decorative cast-iron fence that surrounds the Washington Monument in Mt. Vernon. In one fell swoop a driver took out a large section of the 172  year old fence.

The monument was designed by Robert Mills and built between 1815 and 1829. The iron fence that surrounds the monument and forms the center of the Mt Vernon Place circle was installed in 1838. The four decorative gates in the fence are adorned with motifs of Roman fasces - a symbol of jurisdiction and unity - where not damaged.  In the early Republic, George Washington was compared to the Roman general and hero Cincinnatus who after defeating a threat to the Roman Republic resigned his position as Dictator, returned his fasces which were the symbol of his authority, and returned to his farm. Very much in the same way George Washington left the office of the President and retired to Mount Vernon. The fasces became, and remains a symbol in the United States (although mostly overshadowed by others) and Robert Mills added these to the design of the monument. Mills would go on later to design the more famous Washington Monument in D.C.

As of now there are no answers on how the fence will be replaced. Most likely a recreation of the missing section will have to be cast from surviving pieces or other intact parts of the fence. The cost of which has not been determined, nor the timeline. Until then a temporary chain-link fence covers the gap, and leaves the Monument scared. If there is any good news about this, the Washington Monument will be undergoing renovation in the near future to repair structural weaknesses in the observation deck. The fence repair could be added to this renovation.

There is no word on how the van lost control and slammed into the fence, but I think an appropriate fine would be to have the driver (or his insurance) cover the damages. One thing's for sure, our quintessential landmark may be irreplaceably marred. Only time will tell.

Halloween in Baltimore

Its the last weekend in October, that could mean only one thing...Halloween in Baltimore! Just when you thought the crowd in Fells Point on a Saturday night couldn't get any weirder. Party goers and bar hoppers pull out all the stops on Halloween, and nothing is left to the imagination. If you have never been to a Halloween weekend in Fells Point you're missing out on the sights and sounds.

Creativity abounds among the young and old. You'll the traditional ghosts, goblins, and vampires. There will also be the trendy topics, I'm sure there will be a couple groups of Chilean miners. Some pull ideas out of the past, Legends of the Hidden Temple anyone? While others go nerdy like a complete Obi-Wan Kenobi with working lightsaber. But the most will be the ladies wearing the least amount of clothing the weather will allow and donning a costume entitled "sexy (insert any non-sexy job)"

There you have it. We'll see you in Fells!

Monday, October 25, 2010

Cranes are Going Up in Baltimore

It's always a good sign when you see construction cranes popping up across the city. The newest crane to go up is on the Johns Hopkins Medical Campus in East Baltimore where a new 20-story housing tower for graduate students is now under construction. The target day for completion is August 2012, just in time for the fall semester.

This has the potential to be a big asset for the this side of town. The tower will have space for over 500 students. It will immediately add to the residential feel to the Hopkins campus, which now is only a small number of Medical students who live on Broadway.

Additionally, this could add to the retail availability next to the EBDI site. Places that will cater to a student resident population would be attracted, e.g. coffee shops, sandwich shops, dry cleaners, etc. The types of retail that are lacking around the Hopkins Hospital, which now mostly serve the 9-5 crowd. This building will also serve as a catalyst to fill empty store front space in the the newly constructed campus buildings, and the storefronts along Monument St.

In the meantime, two other projects will be putting cranes up in the near future. The new 12-story UB School of Law center is moving along on Mt Royal Ave. A crane isn't visible yet, but the foundation work is well underway. By the springtime, another UB project on Biddle St will add an 11-story student apartment building which should open in 2012.

Above is a rendition of the final product at what will be 929 N. Wolfe St (at Ashland Ave). As the floors go up I'll update with more photos.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

You're Looking Good Preston Gardens

Over the summer, the Downtown Partnership took over the maintenance and landscaping for Preston Gardens. For those of you who don't know where that is, it's the park between St. Paul Place between Centre Street and Lexington Street. Since then, the appearance and feel of the park has significantly improved.

Daily, there are Downtown Partnership workers cleaning away trash along the pathways and the grass. A park steward has been hired to oversee the park, along with Center Plaza. Every morning park tables with umbrellas are put out on the grass, and at lunch time these are generally filled with downtown workers on their breaks.

For once, the landscaping has been more than just mowing the grass. The gardens across from the entrance to Mercy hospital were recently replaced and improved.  New planters have been added around the center fountain, but nothing has been planted as of yet. Trees were pruned back to keep the branches from hanging low over the pathways. Finally the yew bushes that line the northern end of the garden and surround the statue of John Mifflin Hood have been manicured.

Along with the lampposts and illumination of the walls, Preston Gardens is looking better than ever, but there is still more to be done. The long marble and brick walls will need to be restored and cleaned, which will take both time and money. Lastly, the fountains that have not worked in decades, will be restored to their former glory, although the timeline for that is in the air.

Further Suggestions:
  • Make pedestrian improvements at crosswalks to encourage access to the park, especially mid block on St. Paul Place.
  • Add traffic mitigation techniques such as a sidewalk and bike lane on the lower route of St Paul Place, and narrowing the northbound lanes that allow access to Oreleans Street to better improve pedestrian flow.
  • Pedestrian improvements on the upper park at the beginning of the Orleans Street viaduct.

Monday, October 4, 2010

Over and Out


(photo credit, The Baltimore Sun)
Yesterday wrapped up the 2010 season for our Baltimore Orioles, and what a roller coaster of a season it's been. After starting 2-16, the Orioles finished up at 66-96, at the bottom of the AL East but not the worst in the American League.

Dave Trembley didn't make it through the season, Juan Samuel picked up the reigns on an interim basis, and then things actually changed when Buck Showalter was hired as the new O's skipper. Under Buck's lead, the Orioles went 34-23 for the rest of the season, a .596 winning percentage. For a team that started off so poorly, that is a remarkable turn around for the end of the season. However, the abysmal performance in the first half of the season still kept the O's 30 games out of first-place in the AL East.

Eliminated from playoff contention on August 30th, the first team this season to get their Elimination Number to zero, the rest of the season was played just for the sake of the game, and hound better AL teams as much as possible.

The one glaring figure that O's fans cannot ignore this season was attendance; down 9% from the 2009 season. This marked the lowest season attendance at Camden Yards, and the second lowest for the franchise. This is a cause for concern for both team and fans. The Orioles hurt because the home fanbase is low, and likewise the fans feel the pain because many can't justify buying tickets and food to watch the O's lose when they can just as easily do that from the comforts of their own homes (MASN viewership was way up for the Orioles this season).

The solution needs to come from both parties. We'll promise to come to the stadium and fill Camden Yards, but you need to give us something to cheer about more consistently. Under Buck Showalter's guidance, we have a good chance of this happening!

Here's to the Postseason and we'll see you in February at Sarasota.

Sunday, October 3, 2010

Why is the Circulator so Slow?

Now there is probably a reason for this that I don't understand, but why is the Circulator so slow? Every time I have been on it, the circulator seems to put along at a few MPH below the speed limit. I would think that the buses would drive along at the same speed as traffic to get between the stops a bit quicker. I have noticed that when driving slower than the speed limit, it can make the trip agonizing when you take into account all the red lights the circulator gets stuck at.

Sure, it's a free shuttle, and its very convenient, but what's the need for going so slow? Is it to ensure a more comfortable ride? I don't see how going 25mph vs. 30mph makes a whole lot of difference in the feel of the ride.

Maybe it has to do with spacing the buses, or maintaining the schedule? If anyone out there has an answer please let me know, because I don't have one.

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Downtown Target in the Future?

A linked story at Baltimore Business Journal from St. Paul, MN, mentions some potential good news for Baltimore in the future. Target is experimenting with a smaller store front, and plans to unveil this new concept in St. Paul sometime in 2012.

Target is also shopping around for other sites in urban areas around the country, one of those is Baltimore. It's anyone's guess where a potential downtown Target could go - Inner Harbor, Harbor East, Canton, Westside - but anywhere would be great.

The only other city location is a full-sized Target at the Mondawmin Mall. A downtown or harbor location would benefit the residential population in the urban core, which now is devoid of any "department store" style retail.

While this is at best a few years away, it's never too early to start thinking about where Baltimore could put one.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Lost Baltimore - Saint Paul Place Houses

(Photo Credit, Baltimore Heritage)

Now that the new Mercy Medical Center tower is almost finished, and scheduled to be opened on December 19th, let's look back at what was lost in order to make room for construction.

Back in 2007 some of the last intact houses from the 1820s sat at the corner of Pleasant St and Saint Paul Place. The were unique in that, with the exception of one, their exterior appearance had not changed much since when they were built. They were also some of the few examples of late Federal townhouses that remained in downtown Baltimore, and the last intact block.  Five three-storey houses sat along St Paul Place, and served as fine examples of the many stately downtown homes that began to be constructed north of the harbor in the 1820s and 1830s. Much larger than their working class and storefront cousins (examples of which flanked these houses on Pleasant Street) many of the houses stretched back to Hargrove Alley with later additions - the original alley gardens long gone.

Their death sentence came as they stood in the way of Mercy Medical Center's expansion of their facilities with a new parking garage and 18 story hospital tower. Even with a hard fight by Baltimore preservationists, the houses met the wrecking ball in 2007.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Crisis Over

The shooter situation at JHH is over. The lock down has been called off on the Medical Campus, and operations seem to be returning to normal. The floor where the standoff took place is still closed according to the latest news.

The latest word is that the Doctor who was shot is in surgery with non-life threatening injuries. The gunmen is dead, but apparently so is his mother, who was the patient over which the shooting and standoff took place.

More details can be found at the Baltimore Sun. Justin Fenton with the Sun has been following the action on his twitter feed, as he was stuck near the campus during the lockdown: @justin_fenton.

Shooting at JHH


This is the big news floating around Baltimore.

http://www.baltimoresun.com/news/maryland/baltimore-city/bs-md-ci-shooting-hopkins-20100916,0,1885569.story

The gunman apparently shot a Doctor on the 8th floor of the Nelson Building shortly after 11:15am. Afterwards the Hospital and Medical Campus were immediately put on lock down.  The shooter has barricaded himself on the 8th floor and the BCPD Quick Response Team is on the scene.

Baltimore Streetcar Article

There is a quick piece about Baltimore Streetcars and their hopeful revival on Streetsblog today. If you have a minute check it out.

http://streetsblog.net/2010/09/16/the-unnatural-demise-and-possible-revival-of-the-baltimore-streetcar/

BTW, still no new info on the Charles Street Trolley in a long time, so no idea what the status is on that. With the success of the CCC, maybe this will be a boost.

Monday, September 13, 2010

Prepare to be Charmed

The new CharmCard (couldn't think of a better name?) goes on sale September 21st to be used on the Metro Subway, Bus, and Light Rail in Baltimore! Finally after months years of delays, the cards will now be ready after over a year of testing. To put this all in perspective as to how long this process has taken, the new TVMs were put in place at light rail stations and fare gates at the subway in 2006. At that time the unusable touch pads for the smart cards said "MD Transit Pass".

Cards can be purchased at certain transit events at local stations for $5 with $5 pre-loaded on the card in September and October. Cards can also be purchased at retail locations for $2.50 or online after the 21st.

http://www.mtacharmcard.com/

Tuesday, August 31, 2010

The Last of August

(flickr photo credit, phluff70)

The end of August signifies the conclusion of another summer. Students are back in school, hurricane season is in full force, the days aren't as long, and Labor Day this weekend serves as the unofficial wrap up. Football is right around the corner, and it's return means one thing...Fall. Before you know it the 90 degree weather and humidity will dip, the evenings will be more bearable, and the leaves will begin to change color. Althought, ff you still have your grillin' pants on, there will always be time for that well into the Fall!

Fall brings us a lot of great things to look forward to in Baltimore (other than the Ravens), Fells Point Fun Fest, the Book Festival, and the Baltimore Marathon, just to name a few. So fear not, Baltimore but if all else fails, there's always a bar open on Sunday for football.

Right now the Maryland State Fair is a great way to send off the summer, and runs through September 6th at the Timonium Fairgrounds. For others, it's one last trip down the shore this weekend, although Hurricane Earl might put a damper on that. For those of you who don't have to worry about sending kids to school, the shore is still a great destination well into September, when the weather is still hot and the water is warm. Don't give up on it yet!

For all of the rest out there, so long summer! Only a short 9 months until you return!

Saturday, August 28, 2010

No Water

(photo by me)
I noticed a few weeks back that really nice hanging baskets were hung along the sidewalk on the upper part of St. Paul Place. With the new planters, everything looked great! Unfortunately, no one thought to water the hanging baskets and now they're dead. Basically, what's the point of spending the money if you aren't going to follow through and maintain? Sure, it's been hot, but watering the plants would have preserved them! By not watering them, and letting the plants die only shows anyone walking around that we apparently don't care about aesthetics in this city.

Now, I'm not sure whose responsibility it is. The planters are owned by the Downtown Partnership, and Preston Gardens is also maintained by them, so maybe it's their responsibility. If anyone out there who reads this blog has any insight let me know!

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Power Failure on Penn Line

Good Luck to everyone trying to get to work today along the Northeast Corridor. MARC trains on the Penn Line are currently suspended due to a power failure that Amtrak is working on trying to fix. To our North, Philadelphia's SEPTA regional rail trains are also suspended.

Last updated: August 24, 8:18 AM


Tuesday August 24, 2010

as of 8:00 am Per Amtrak, Due to a system wide catenary power failure all Penn Line service is currently suspended. updates will follow as information is made available.

Check in at http://www.mta.maryland.gov/ for updates!

UPDATE: Power has been restored and service is getting back to normal. Most trains are running 30-45 minutes off normal schedule.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Downtown Mess

With construction on Pratt and Light Streets, you can imagine the mess that is occurring downtown during the morning and evening rush. Two lanes of Pratt Street are closed between Green and Calvert Street pushing traffic down to just two lanes the entire distance. Northbound on Light Street between Key Highway and the intersection with Calvert and Pratt will have two left lanes closed for the next 90 days! This huge funnel brings traffic almost to a standstill at some times during the day.

Light Street has three of its right lanes closed between Lombard and Pratt which has had the biggest impact on traffic flow. The turn lanes on Lombard are backed up more than usual since there now is barely enough room to turn onto Light. Traffic coming down Light/St. Paul Street is routinely backed up all the way to Saratoga Street on both the upper and lower sections of the road around Preston Gardens.

All of this is worth it right? All the road improvements for the Baltimore Grand Prix will make the drive a lot smoother over the next year, and the economic impact to the city is estimated at $60 million. For drivers whose patience has been tested with the seemingly never ending downtown road construction, the timing could not be any worse. The road reconstruction along Lombard Street that snarled traffic for nearly the last year, has just been finished, and now a whole new set of roads are getting torn up for the next 2 weeks to three months. Thanks?

Thursday, August 12, 2010

AM Thunderstorm

(photo by me)

That was some wicked storm that came through this morning huh? The rains were coming down mighty fierce around 7:30 right when the early commuters were hitting the downtown streets. From my vantage point high above, I could see a lot of the streets took on the form of creeks and rivers, and many intersections were pooling with run-off.  I took this from my window looking down onto Saratoga St; the intersection in front of the Hollywood Diner (Crema Coffee Co.) was completely flooded. Some commuters bravely idiotically attempted to plow their way through until two cars got stuck. Unfortunately, I didn't get a picture of those goons. Most cars had to turn around (smart) and cut across the parking lots under I-83.

Thankfully we need the rain, on the downside most of this didn't even have the time to seep into the ground. My garden (i.e. couple of plants on the balcony) got a good drenching, which it sorely needed.

Sunday, August 8, 2010

Bourbon Street Craziness

It was one of those Sunday nights when the crowd at Bourbon Street empties onto the streets in downtown Baltimore. Now this doesn't happen every week, but it's hard to miss it when they do. Civil order goes to the wind for the better part of half an hour as former club goers flow into the street. Invariably the BCPD arrives to shuffle people along, and eventually all goes back to normal. Tonight there was nothing less than civil disorder as a group of 10 or so kids threw punches at each other in the middle of Guilford Ave, sending streams of people running up and down the street, and police officers running with flashlights drawn.

For us residents down here in this part of town, it's somewhat entertaining watching the disorder from a few stories above the street. On the other hand, something's got to give here. It is intolerable that this scene plays out on a Sunday night as many downtown residents are trying to live their normal peaceful lives, or go to bed. Traffic comes to a stand still as hundreds of younger people fan out in clumps down the streets, crossing in the middle of traffic, and causing a public nuisance.

Should the clubs be liable for this? Some would say yes, and I could definitely understand, but then again the clubs cannot control the mob once its out the door. In this blogger's opinion, it should be the mutual responsibility of the police and club owners/security to maintain order outside, move traffic along, and keep people out of the streets.

Lastly, it sets a terrible example for current and potential downtown residents when things get routinely out of hand. How is this city supposed to encourage downtown growth, visitation, or market its "Happy Place" brand with scenes like this playing out?

Monday, July 26, 2010

Construction News and 200th post

Two big construction projects in the city will be getting under way shortly. After a long crane shortage, two will be on the skyline shortly. The University of Baltimore School of Law building and the Johns Hopkins Medical Campus grad housing will have their official groundbreakings next month. Currently, site work and preparations are ongoing at both locations. The new UB Law building will rise 12 stores at the corner of Mount Royal and Charles Street. In addition to adding 190,000 square feet of academic space, the new building will serve as a link between the campus and Penn Station. It will be a welcome addition to a rebuilding and growing neighborhood in Midtown.

In East Baltimore, the Johns Hopkins grad housing will rise 20 stories and add 542 beds to the medical campus. In an already expanding medical campus with the Wilmer Eye Institute and Armstrong buildings finished last year, and the twin medical towers expected to be finished in early 2012, the grad housing will be a major addition to the East Baltimore skyline. Hopkins Hospital already stands on a literal and figurative hill, and the grad tower will be quite visible from a lot of the city. Most importantly, this project adds student residents to the campus and will no doubt be a catalyst for commercial and retail expansion around the hospital.

Both the UB Law Building and Hopkins grad housing are slated to be finished in 2012. As soon as construction begins we'll be sure to snap some photographs to post here on the Skyline.

This is also our 200th post, so here's to one milestone and promises for more as the news rolls out in Charm City.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Bmore Skyline Restaurant Review?

I have never done a restaurant or bar review before because a.) I go to the same places all too often and b.) there are already enough reviewers out there on the Internet or newspaper, but I figured I would dabble.

The gf and I decided to try a new place (to us) last Friday night, and headed up to Maisy's on N. Charles Street. They have been open since last June, and I pass by nearly every day on my home from work, but I never stopped in. We're glad we did! From the outside, it doesn't look very big, but the white lights hanging from the awning are helpful in recognizing it from a distance. On nicer days the floor-to-ceiling front windows are opened and the sounds of diners and happy hour goers can be heard on the street. This particular night, with the temps above 90, they were shut and the A/C was on.

We arrived for a later dinner, around 8:45pm, and there was a decent crowd. Looking for the quickest seats in the house we headed for the bar, started off with a drink, and perused the menu. The stand out is the pizza. They make their own crust, sauce, and mozzarella cheese and the toppings are picked locally.  It was fantastic.

The wait staff was very attentive, and the owner Matt Helme who was working behind the bar introduced himself and chatted with us throughout the evening. It has a very friendly atmosphere, the type of place you can come in frequently because of specials, happy-hours, and the small local feel to the place. The parking situation isn't ideal, but its walkable from the apartments and condos of the CBD and the houses in Mount Vernon. The Circulator also has a stop just up the block.

If you haven't been already, I would consider checking it out. It has a "recession friendly" menu, with sandwiches under $10, most entrees under $20, and pizzas big enough for two starting at $10.95.

Maisy's is located at 313 N. Charles Street and is open at 11am. Daily Happy Hour is 4pm-7pm, and weekend Late Night Happy Hour is 11pm-2am.

Friday, July 16, 2010

Early Morning Earthquake

Did anyone else feel that?

There was a 3.6 magnitude tremor centered around Gaithersburg around 5am this morning. WBAL this morning said that it was felt in Northern Virginia and as far north as Pennsylvania.

Post if you noticed it!

Artscape Escape

Artscape starts tomorrow, so prepare for the 350,000 attendees that will descend on Mid-town and Station North. For all of you who drive to work along Charles Street...good luck! I would suggest taking any other route if possible, but regardless it's going to be a crazy Friday commute with all the streets closed up there in the area.

The Circulator has already seen disruptions, and some riders got stranded today by miscommunication, if anyone kept up with Michael Dresser at The Sun.

If you're heading up to Artscape, enjoy the fun! If you're getting cranky about the thought of a couple hundred thousand art geeks coming into town for the weekend, just remember it's only 3 days a year. Maybe spend the weekend in other neighborhoods, or take a day trip. As for me I'll avoid the crowds as much as possible, but I may check out the scene...at least until it gets too artsy for me.

Monday, July 12, 2010

Columbia/Ellicott City are #2

CNN Money ranked Columbia and Ellicott City #2 in their annual Best 100 Places to Live  for 2010. Others that made the list were Gaithersburg at 25 and Rockville at 31. Baltimore did not make the list, although I still love living here, and I'm sure many of you out there do too.

Columbia and Ellicott City sit roughly 20 minutes south of Baltimore, placing it in easy access to both here and Washington. Its proximity to job centers, schools, and shopping make it a nice suburb. Ellicott City's historic small town feel is a major advantage to people who want to live in the suburbs, but not in the sprawl.

For the full list, follow the link here: http://money.cnn.com/magazines/moneymag/bplive/2010/index.html

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Baltimore Scorcher

It's going to be a hazy, hot, and humid one in Baltimore today folks! Temperatures are expected to be above 100 degrees in Charm City, tomorrow will be just as hot. The heat downtown can be even more uncomfortable with the concrete and blacktop helping to radiate more of the heat.

It was already uncomfortable when I made my morning commute at 8am, and the sweat was dripping by the time I hit the sweet AC in my office. Keep cool out there folks!

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Welcome to Baltimore, Zipcar

First off, I would like to rescind my post from October 17, 2008 entitled "Take that Zipcar". Back then, zipcar had no real interest in expanding its market in Baltimore beyond its partnership with Johns Hopkins University. There was supposed to be a local non-profit run caresharing program called Baltimore Careshare, but that never happened. Then last year there was Altcar, which was supposed to have pods of electric cars all around the city, but they never got passed the Maryland Science Center.

Now, Zipcar has finally made its presence further known in Baltimore with 22 cars. Pods will be both on the street and in garages in downtown, the westside, Harbor East, Mount Vernon, and Station North.  I only hope that this will be the start of even more cars in Baltimore. Let's say Federal Hill, Fells Point, Canton, maybe even the far north? If only.

In a post I read in the Baltimore Sun, someone already commented that the Zipcars parked in their pods at Paca and Redwood streets have already received tickets from the Parking Authority. The same city department that authorized the spots to be given to Zipcar in the first place. My two reactions to that are a.) that's Baltimore being Baltimore, and b.) that's hilarious.

Now off and get your Zipcars before the city tickets them for parking where they're supposed to be!

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

MARC Fail

The news from yesterday's stuck MARC train speaks of a "meltdown" and "major failure", which in my opinion is spot on. Yesterday was one of those days that MARC failed, big time; and at all levels. MARC No. 538 left Washington Union Station at 6:20pm, after only about 10 minutes the train shut off and rolled to a stop before even reaching New Carrollton. Fail #1.

With a full load of passengers and no A/C the train sat for nearly two hours on the tracks until a rescue train could take the passengers off. In the meantime there were apparently little instruction or guidance from MARC conductors and operators. Passengers were left to swelter on the train, with little water, until many simply got of the train and mingled by the right-of-way. Fail #2.

MARC did send a rescue locomotive to try to tow the train back into Union Station, but they were unable to get the train's brakes to release. Why? who knows, but I'll label that as Fail #3 anyway.

This was one of those nightmare situations that are common on the MARC system during the hot summer months. The new MPI MP36 locomotives cannot come on line quick enough. The heat plagues the old diesel locomotives, so the electric HHP-8s and AEM-7s are charged with hauling the long double-decker rush hour trains. Unfortunately, the HHPs have been unreliable at best, and although not confirmed, it was an HHP that failed last night, as seen in a Washington Post video.

I've said this on this blog before, and I'll say it again. MARC needs to invest in EMUs for the Penn Line. Diesel locomotives should be relegated to the Camden and Brunswick lines which aren't electrified and normally run shorter trains. The new MP36s could be used to replace the old diesels on those lines. EMUs have the benefit of accelerating faster than the electric-locomotive hauled trains. More importantly, they spread the power and strain necessary to move the train across multiple units.  On non-peak runs MARC could put a two-car unit, or a longer train during the rush, so it is more flexible and efficient.

This is how MTA runs its trains in New York and SEPTA in Philadelphia. When was the last time you heard of a catastrophic heat-related failure on those lines?

UPDATE:
MARC management should also be at fault here since they did not properly communicate with the train crew, who then had little to pass on to the passengers. FAIL #4

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Today is National Dump the Pump Day

(photo credit, http://www.apta.com/)

...and I drove to work, whoops. I almost never drive to work, but I inadvertently chose this to be one of those days. I'm going to take the Metro to head out to lunch today, does that make up for it?

This is the 5th year for the campaign that encourages people (for at least one day), stop driving and take public transit, or walk, or bike to your destination; whether that be work, school, or whatever. I didn't see any less cars on the road this morning in Baltimore, but then again I'm usually not one of those drivers, so maybe I just can't tell. However, I did see a noticeable jump in bike riders on Bike to Work Day in May.

So, if you didn't drive today to work then good on you! If you were like me and drove, well we have 365 days to remember not to drive next year on Dump the Pump Day.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Wet Start to the Morning

The morning commute can be rough enough on a normal day, but rain just makes it worse! Thankfully remembered to grab my umbrella on the way out the door this morning, after I took a quick look at the weather  in my neck of the woods (thanks Al Roker!), and saw clouds. Half expecting to have to break out the umbrella on the walk up to my shuttle stop, I was pleasantly surprised that the skies hadn't opened up.

But, my shuttle was late. Rather, the first one passed me by before I got there, and the one immediately behind was jam-packed. It was then that I noticed precipitation. I was screwed. It was just a quick rain storm, but it was enough to get me slightly damp before I was able to break out the umbrella. Luckily the shuttle arrived in the next few minutes, and I was on my way to work.

Regardless, it's better than driving with the rest of the crazies on the JFX and I-95.

Monday, June 7, 2010

Purple Route Goes Live

(photo credit The Baltimore Sun)

For all of your itching to take a ride on the new Purple Line of the CCC, it started today at 10am. Festivities begin with a news conference at Cross Street Market, and then the buses get rolling up and down Charles and St. Paul/Light Street.

Service will be every 10 mins along the route, with many stops having real-time NextBus screens to let you know when you shuttle will arrive.

Friday, June 4, 2010

O's Fire Trembley

(photo credit: The Baltimore Sun)

Two months into his disastrous third season as manager of the Orioles, Dave Trembley is out. Andy MacPhail met with Trembley late yesterday, and the official announcement will be this morning. With Trembley out, the O's will hand the reins over to 3rd Base coach Juan Samuel as the new interim manager. Gary Allenson, currently the manager for the Triple-A Norfolk Tide will move up to coach 3rd Base.

Trembley has had to manage a team during a major rebuilding process, and unfortunately for him, he gets the brunt when things don't go right.

The O's are currently 15-39, off to their worst start since 1988.  They have the worst record in baseball in 2010, and are 21 games out of first place in the AL East as of June 4th.

Will Samuel be able to bring a spark to the Orioles lineup? Who knows, but for the sake of the team something needs to light their fire. At least one thing is for certain, Dave Trembley gets to wake up from this nightmare.

Thursday, June 3, 2010

Power Outtage on Metro

Apparently there is a power outtage along the Metro Subway Line. Before this there were 20 minute delays heading Eastbound on the line. Who knows what the problem is, or when it will be fixed.
"Metro service between Owings Mills and Old Court Stations is temporarily suspended due to a power outage. Patrons may use shuttle bus service between the two stations or utilize the #59 line service from Reisterstown plaza Station"
Seeing as it's almost rush hour and many people park at Owings Mills, this may be a bit of a mess if it isn't solved by 5pm.

UPDATE - Apparently everything is back to normal
"Metro is no longer experiencing service delays and is operating as regularly scheduled."

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Purple Route to Begin June 7th

Latest news on the Charm City Circulator is that the Purple Route from Penn Station to Federal Hill will begin service on Monday, June 7th. Ridership has been above expectation for the current Orange Route, so the North-South Route is hoped to build on this success.

The Purple Route should be beneficial to travelers coming into Penn Station who need direct service downtown, giving an additional option in conjunction with the Light Rail and MTA Buses. The southern end of the route, into Federal Hill, will be the most helpful in my opinion. Federal Hill is notorious for having limited parking, and ideally the Purple Route will ease this pain for residents and visitors who are looking to shop, eat, or drink in the neighborhood. I can also see the benefit for Federal Hill residents who work downtown.

I walk this route frequently on my way back from work, so if I see any of the station kiosks going up in the next few days I'll try to snap a picture or two. In the meantime, consult the website for updates. I have not seen any yet, which is odd since the new route opens in 5 days. All other news I've seen has been from the Sun, Daily Record, and word of mouth. They need to work on their PR.

Friday, May 21, 2010

New Livery on Light Rail


I was driving the other day and I saw a Light Rail train with a peculiar livery on it. Turns out it had the same new paint job as the new hybrid buses. Unfortunately I didn't have my camera on me, and I was driving, so I couldn't stop to get a better look. I was positive I saw this, so I checked what any of us would...youtube. Low and behold someone else saw it too!

Digging deeper I emailed the MTA Maryland and the next day received a response from one of the directors in the Customer Information office. He said that right now it's a test to see how it looks. He continued that all light rail cars will begin their mid-life overhaul this fall and will be repainted at this time. Who knows if this will be the livery they choose, but it would be nice to see them match the new buses. I followed up by asking what will be redone during the overhaul, but was only told "The cars will be completely rebuilt from top to bottom".

As we hit the fall and into next year, I'm guessing we'll see some good upgrades to these cars. Most of these are reaching 20 years of age.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Snapshot - Johns Hopkins Hospital


I snapped this photo while exiting the JHH metro stop a while back. The dome of the Johns Hopkins Hospital remains a fairly recognizable piece of the Baltimore skyline from many parts of the city. Once very prominent, sitting atop Washington Hill in East Baltimore, the rest of the hospital complex has slowly obscured most of it. Now, only the very top of the dome can be scene from afar. 

The original hospital was built in 1889 and opened in May of that year. It was designed by John Rudolph Niernsee and Edward Clarke Cabot in the Queen Anne style and features ornate chimneys that rise from the roof and steep peaks on the gables and dormer roofs. Of the original hospital only the main building and wings remain; the wards that lined Monument Street between Broadway and Wolfe Street are long gone. Replaced over time by newer and larger buildings. Today the original hospital serves as the administration building and offices, and is the major icon of the now sprawling campus which includes the hospital, schools of Medicine, Nursing, and Public Health, Wilmer Eye Institute, Kimmel Comprehensive Cancer Center, and the Kennedy Krieger Institute.

For anyone who visits the Johns Hopkins Hospital this is hard to miss, and reminds visitors that even in 1889 this hospital was ahead of its time. For the many employees that use the metro subway to get to the medical campus, it's the first image that greets them when coming out of the station. When thinking of Baltimore it's hard to not have the Hopkins dome come to mind.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

The Need For Bike Infrastructure

(photo credit MyBikeLaneBaltimore)

With the recent hearings of bicycle legislation in Baltimore City Council, there cines big step forward in making Baltimore a more bike friendly city. So far, the City Council has been favorable of the 5 proposed bills. These include redesigning storm grates so that the slots run perpendicular to the curb, having bike racks in new developments, improving safety communication between police and cyclists, ticketing cars parked in bike lanes, and implementing a Complete Streets program in the city.

The legislation is a great first step that will ensure that any future development planning includes the input of pedestrians and cyclists. However, there seem to be some essential flaws in plans. There isn't enough infrastructure to begin with. Police cannot ticket cars parked in nonexistent bike lanes. This is why the Complete Streets part of the bill is so important. It will ensure that in any new development that bike needs are addressed.

This doesn't fix the situation we have now. One that the city needs to address along with new regulations. As is, there are not enough bike lanes. Instead we have "sharrows" which are helpful for cyclists to identify routes that are suitable, but give no overt sign that says "this space is for bikes only". The city has started to add more lanes, but we lag far behind other cities. St. Paul Street recently received a bike lane, but it only runs from University Parkway to 31st Street and then from North Ave to Mount Royal Ave. On this second stretch it disappears on the bridge over the Amtrak/MARC tracks.

The one protected bike lane we do have is the one along Pratt St with its giant orange barrier. The problem here is that the city can't make up its mind of whether this is a bike or pedestrian lane. It's bi directional, but does not have any specific markings. Moreover, and here is where the enforcement part comes in, the lane is frequently blocked by cabs, sometimes cars, and even City and Police vehicles.

Lastly, Bus/Bike Lanes are not a viable option. These have already been added on Pratt Street and will soon be added to Lombard Street when that road project is done. I don't know about you, but the last thing I want to do is share my lane with an MTA bus. The enforcement piece also needs to be addressed here. The lanes are frequently violated with regular traffic (and I have never, once seen someone ticketed for this), so how are cyclists supposed to feel comfortable here? They don't.

What it all boils down to is infrastructure. We need more bike lanes, they need to be clearly marked (green paint maybe like that small stretch on the Fallsway?), and in the places where there is enough room they need to be buffered. Then maybe we'll have a safer place for bikers to ride and not have to impede traffic or endanger themselves.

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

New 2009 MTA Annual Report Released

Buried deep in the MTA website in the news section, and not on the main page of the website like many transit agencies do, MTA recently posted its 2009 Annual Report. Considerably short at 24 pages (Septa released its last week and covers 88 pages of information), the Annual Report doesn't leave us with a whole lot of information. In fact, I'm a little confused over some differences in numbers.

The Annual Report lists the Metro Subway as having 45,497 average weekday riders, slightly down from 2008. Light Rail posted 28,152 average weekday riders, an increase from last year. I thought this was a bit low from some of the APTA statistics I've seen so far this year, so I check it out.

APTA, in each of it's reporting quarters in 2009 never listed the Metro Subway below 50,900 average weekday riders and the Light Rail was never below 34,600. What accounts for this massive difference? I can only assume that both MTA and APTA have their own statistics recorders, but are they really off by a few thousand riders, and who has the right stats here?

It's good to take a look at to see the breakdown of funding, on time performance, and distribution of service. I am disappointed to see that MARC on-time performance remains at 87%, and I find it hard to believe that Light Rail on time performance is at 99%. Maybe I'm wrong and it does come on schedule, but it's still slower than it should be in downtown.

Sunday, May 2, 2010

Return of the Farmers Market

Today marked the return of the Baltimore Farmers Market under the JFX for the 2010 season! I have been anxiously awaiting the return since last winter, and awoke this morning with the anticipation of child waking up Christmas Day. From December - May, Sunday mornings are quiet in downtown Baltimore if you're away from the Inner Harbor. However, as soon as springtime hits and the local farms begin harvesting their crop and bringing them to market in Baltimore, the streets are hopping with people.

The GF and I strolled down to the market early this morning to check out the atmosphere, and purchase some much needed fresh fruits and vegetables. No offense to the Harbor East Whole Foods, but sometimes you're too extensive for what I need. Needless to say the market was bustling, and some of the lines were long, but everyone was amiable and enjoying their Sundays. Moms were pushing strollers, a few people brought their dogs, while others left their ill-tempered pets at home. One mom had her two young kids, who were dressed in their dragon pajamas complete with tail and hats, out in line waiting for eggs.

We spent the better part of an hour and returned with pickles, strawberries, mussels, fresh homemade granola, and some other important needs. Looking forward to next Sunday!

The Baltimore Farmers Market runs from May - December on Sunday mornings from 8am-Noon. It is located on Saratoga Street between Holliday and Gay Streets underneath the JFX (I-83). Parking can be found along Holliday Street and Guilford Ave, but walking is probably the best.

Friday, April 30, 2010

Changes to MARC Station Hours

Starting Monday, Camden Station on the Camden Line and Aberdeen Station on the Penn Line will be closed midday. Since most trains don't stop at either stations during the middle of the day, it makes sense to close them down as a cost cutting measure when riders wont be there. Camden Station will be closed from 8:30am till 3:00pm and Aberdeen from 9:30am till 2:30pm. Unfortunately, during this time riders won't have access to the Self Service Ticket kiosks. This means if anyone wants to buy a ticket for the 3:30pm Camden Line train to D.C. they have 30 minutes to do so, and that's if the station is reopened right at 3pm. The TVMS for the light rail at Camden Station will still be accessible.

In the continued effort for cost cutting will this be a continued trend? If so, I think it would be prutend to make sure the SST kiosks are accessible when the stations are not staffed.

Monday, April 26, 2010

Weekend Wrapup

Quick recap of some of the Baltimore news and events from this weekend. (I apologize for the lack of posts lately, but I just came back from a long work trip out west.)
  • Charm City Circulator restructures Orange Route. The Pier 5 stop will now be located at Pratt and President Streets, I can only assume due to the insanely slow ride (5 MPH) down Pier 5.
  • Sunday, May 2nd marks the return of the Baltimore Farmers Market underneath the JFX. Finally fresh fruits and veggies! Also, http://twitter.com/cremacoffeeco will begin opening 7:30am-1pm on Sundays when the Farmers Market is open.
  • Southbeach Sandwicherie is now open on the 1st floor at 222 E. Saratoga St. Specializing in breakfast and lunch. I stopped by there this morning, place looks great.
  • Stopped in at Dog Pub in Federal Hill on Friday night, jammed packed! Their new seasonal on tap is the Belgian Golden, a Belgian strong ale. Will be quite refreshing when the tempatures hit 80 later this week.
  • O's won yesterday! This is only news because we haven't seen many of these this season. Orioles are back at Camden Yards tomorrow at 7:05pm against the Yankees.

Friday, April 16, 2010

Pretty Much Sums It Up

(photo credit, The Baltimore Sun)

It's going to be a long season for Birdland in 2010 if the Orioles continue playing the way that they are. This season, so far, Camden Yards has seen the all-time high attendance (49,841) on Opening Day, and the all-time lowest attendance (9,129) only three days later. Yikes.

It's only April, so Let's Go O's!

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Metro Subway Single-Tracked This AM

I was riding the Metro Subway this morning eastbound, which i frequently do when running behind on getting to work, and noticed the subway was single-tracking. I was at Charles Center and running to get to the platform because I heard the train approaching, and was surprised when I saw the JHH bound train on the opposite track. My first thought was "looks like a less-clean London Underground".

This was around 8:15am. Does anyone out there know what was going on? When I got to work I checked the MTA website, and sure enough found nothing (typical).

Let me know if you heard anything out there, or talked to any MTA people.

Thursday, April 8, 2010

The West Side as a New Arts District?

I figured that I would pass this along to insterested readers who may have missed this. Sam Sessa from Midnight Sun explains his take on the city's plan to make part of the West Side a new Arts and Entertainment District. His argument, Baltimore already has two, and the city isn't large enough for a third. What the city really needs to do is enhance stability there (and force the riff-raff off the streets). The worst aspect of that section of town, is that with all what can be good along Howard and Eutaw Street, it's a ghost town and the vibrancy dies because many do not feel confortable walking on the streets. This is why plays like WOW Wings and Lucy's close.

Anyway, I like the points he makes, hope you enjoy!

http://weblogs.baltimoresun.com/entertainment/midnight_sun/blog/2010/04/declaring_the_west_side_an_art.html

Wednesday, March 31, 2010

CharmCard Enters Regional Testing Phase

http://www.wbaltv.com/video/23006580/

The video is from WBAL, hope you enjoy!

The CharmCard, MTA Maryland's new smart card is now entering the second phase of its testing. Phase I included tests on the Metro Subway, with Phase II adding the Bus lines and the WMATA services. This phase will run through June, and ideally the Light Rail will be brought on in later testing. The kinks of woring the new CharmCard with the Light Rail has not been worked out.

Other systems that use proof-of-payment riding like the Light Rail, that already have smart cards use different types of technology to collect fares. Some lines have Fare readers on the platforms that riders pust "tap" their card to before getting onto the train. Others have these fare readers onboard where riders tap on their way on and off. In both cases Fare Inspectors carry hand-held readers to confirm if riders' cards are valid. This is potentially what MTA Maryland will have to do.

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Snapshot - Penn Station


Night shot of Baltimore Pennsylvania Station. Penn Station was built in 1911 replacing an earlier train station located on the same spot. Amtrak, MARC, and the Light Rail all stop here, altough the Light Rail only arrives every 30 mins and shuttles to Camden Yards (a huge waste of an opportunity if you ask me).

There is a lot going on right now at the station.  The departure signs are being upgraded to flat screens and a large LED sign. The ceiling was just recently redone with new fans, and a Java Moon Cafe opened. The next plan on the books is to turn the upper floors into the Inn at Penn Station, although nothing has started as of yet.

The main gateway into Baltimore for anyone coming in on the train, this is one grand entrance.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Light Rail Train, Tractor-Trailer Collide - Baltimore News Story - WBAL Baltimore

Light Rail Train, Tractor-Trailer Collide - Baltimore News Story - WBAL Baltimore

Yikes. I wonder whose fault this one was. The news post said that the Light Rail signs and signals were working properly at the time, so maybe it was the truck? Shuttle buses are operating between Hunt Valley and Timonium for the time being.

Charm City Circulator Ridership is High

70,000 Passengers and Counting! Charm City Circulator

After only two months the CCC has had over 70,000 riders on its first line. This is above expectations for the service. With the nice weather heading our direction, I wouldn't be suprised if this increases as more and more people are hitting the streets. The other two lines of the CCC are still expected to be openned this Spring.

Monday, March 15, 2010

Baltimore: 17th Best Place to Be Young

We're #17! We're #17! We're #17!

Portfolio.com recently listed the Best Markets in the US to be Young Adult. Baltimore came in the top 20 at #17.  The rankings were bases off of annual population growth, employment growth, share of the total population between 18-34, the share of that range that was unemployed, had a bachelor's degree, and those under 45 who made more than $100,000/year. The 18-34 range makes up 22.6% of the Baltimore population and 28.6% hold bachelors degrees.

Austin, TX was the top ranked city. Among other cities at the top of the list include Washington, D.C. (2), Boston (4), Seattle (9), NYC (11), San Francisco (13).

The dozen colleges in the area and the growing business and downtown renaissance in the city is a major incentive for the younger crowds to stick around in the city. (I'm sure the Federal Hill/Fells Point/Canton scene helps too). I would like to know where Baltimore has ranked in past years to see if we are increasing in our attractability for the young crowd, stablizing, or what.

How does everyone out there in Charm City feel about this?

Friday, March 12, 2010

Snapshot - New Mercy Hospital Tower

(photo by me)

The new Mercy Hospital Tower, officially called the The Mary Catherine Bunting Center at Mercy, sits tall on St. Paul Street got its new sign on the East face. Now from a distance, it doesn't look so bland anymore.

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Conan O'Brien Hits the Road


Conan O'Brien is hitting the road with Andy Richter, Max Weinberg, and the band on a 32 city tour in their Legally Prohibited From Being Funny on Television Tour. On Twittter, O'Brien is refering to this tour has "half-assed", which can only mean that it will be hilarious. The tour kicks off on April 12th in Eugene, OR, and while it won't be coming to Baltimore, it will stop on June 8th at the DAR Constitution Center in Washington, DC. I can assume that these tickets will go extrememly fast so check out the Team CoCo website, to see if you can get one.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Light Rail Ridership Increases in Baltimore

(phoro by me)

The Streetsblog Network has an article recapping the recent release of the 2009 Fourth Quarter Ridership Report from the American Public Transportation Association (APTA). According to the APTA, total public transit ridership hit 10.2 billion for 2009. Light rail transit increased in nine cities, including Baltimore (take that neysayers).

Daily ridership for the Baltimore Light Rail in 2009 averaged 34,700 weekday riders. Total riders on the Light Rail increased from 8,054,100 in 2008 to 8,981,200 in 2009, or an 11.51% increase. The total percentage increase for Baltimore was greatest of the nine cities. Even with this steady increase, the total ridership on the Baltimore system is still lower than it's original projected ridership, and can hold more capacity.

Better connectivity to the Metro Subway at Lexington Market, and a Northbound connection at Penn Station would be two vast improvements to the system that would encourage ridership and transfer. How these were overseen at original construction is beyond me. Increased traffic preemption at instersections along Howard Street (although claimed to have been done, but I don't 100% buyt it. Seriously sit at the intersections at Conway and Camden Streets and count how long the trains sit at the red lights) would decrease travel time.

There is a bright future though, the Westport Development will add ridership and a new destination along the Light Rail, and the Red Line will add another piece to the Baltimore Transit network. These are good things to think about in the next 2-6 years.

Other Baltimore area transit changes are as follows:
Metro Subway - avg. daily riders: 51,800. Annual Riders YTD Change: -6.8%
MARC - avg. daily riders: 30,300. Annual Riders YTD Change: + 0.07%
Bus - avg. daily riders: 292,300. Annual Riders YTD Change: -0.72%