Wednesday, March 31, 2010

CharmCard Enters Regional Testing Phase

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! 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%

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Snapshot - CCC Kiosk

(photo by me)

This is one of the new kiosks for the Charm City Circulator at the Inner Harbor. Fancy right? Some downtown will also include the Next Bus signs that you can see on this one. They're about 10 feet tall, so they are very visible, and have the route map and schedule attached.

Monday, March 8, 2010

Cleanliness of New MARC Locomotives

I saw this on Youtube, and I thought I would share for your viewing pleasure.

The video highlights the eco-friendliness of the new MPXpress MP36 diesel locomotives that have now started to make an appearance on the MARC lines. (I still think the state should have purchased a couple new electric locomotives to replace the HHP8, but maybe next time). These new diesels, unlike the ones they will replace don't have to sit idiling their diesel engines all day. These new ones have electric motors onboard that power the braking systems, lights, and climate controls while the trains sit at the station. All the engineer has to do is fire up the diesel engine when the train is ready to leave.

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Baltimore Snapshot

John Eager Howard, sculpted by Emmanuel Frémiet,1904.

This equestrian statue sits just north of the Washington Monument in Mt. Vernon Place. Howard was a hero of the American Revolution and received a Congressional Silver Medal for his stand at the Battle of Cowpens. He served as the 5th Governor of Maryland (1788-1791), U.S. Senator (1796-1803), and headed the Committee of Supply which provided equipment for the defense of Baltimore in the War of 1812. Howard's estate "Belvedere" once occupied much of what is now Mt. Vernon. The Belvedere Hotel now sits near the spot of his estate house.