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.