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 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.