Monday, February 28, 2011

Baltimore Could Use Some of These

This is an oldie, but a goodie from Streetfilms that showcases pedestrian controlled crosswalks in Seattle. These have foot activated pads on the street corner that turn the yellow warning lights in the street on. This is meant to give drivers a better warning to stop for pedestrians, especially at night. It's also deterrent against the "I swear I didn't see him/her, officer" defense.

Shopping around for potential sites in Baltimore is easier. There are many pedestrian crossings in downtown that would benefit from this technology. One spot would be on Key Highway across from the Science Center at William Street. Another would be at N. Charles Street at Oliver Street next to Penn Station. Although plans are to put in a pedestrian activated red light, I think this option is better.

If anyone else out there can think of other places, let us know! More importantly let the city know!

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

President in Baltimore Today

"Passage Through Baltimore" Adalbert J. Volck, 1863
 No, President Obama is not in Baltimore today, you can stop panicking about closed off streets and traffic tie-ups. The 16th President, Abraham Lincoln is in Baltimore today, or rather, someone who looks a lot like him.

Fritz Klein, looks a lot like President Lincoln, and that's the point, he's been playing the role for decades. As a commemoration of the 150% anniversary of his inauguration, Klein (I mean Lincoln) with the help of the National Park Service is retracing the route the Lincoln took from Springfield, Illinois to Washington, DC. Historically, Lincoln took most of the journey by train visiting 16 cities along the way. Today, some of the train routes he took no longer exist, so most of the trip was done by car with the last leg, Baltimore to Washington to be done via Amtrak.

Klein, like Lincoln, left Springfield on February 11th, and this morning he arrived in Baltimore at Camden Station to much fanfare. However, this is where reenactment deviates from history. On February 23, 1861, President-elect Lincoln was to pass through a divided state. At that time, seven states had already succeeded from the Union, civil war was a potential reality, and lastly Lincoln had not carried Maryland in the 1860 election, and the state especially Baltimore had sympathies with the Southern cause. While sessession had not been addressed in Maryland, it was a still hot topic.

More alarmingly, an assassination plot that was to have coincided Lincoln's arrival in Baltimore had been uncovered. Instead of coming in on his scheduled afternoon train, Lincoln, along with his Pinkerton detectives arrived early. Secretly, Lincoln's train arrived at President Street Station, his car was pushed along Pratt Street to Camden Station, and continued down to Washington. When his scheduled train arrived at Baltimore that afternoon, Lincoln was already in Washington. In the aftermath, the reality of an assassination plot was never proven.

Today, in 2011, Lincoln's arrival is the kickoff of the city's 150th anniversary of the start of the American Civil War. A new exhibit on Lincoln, the railroads, and the civil war is now open at the Sports Legends Museum in what used to be Camden Station. Other events will be highlighted through out the rest of the year. The weekend of April 15-17th marks the anniversary of the Pratt Street Riots, the first blood-shed of the Civil War. More events will occur at the harbor and Fort McHenry. More information about these can be found at

*cross-posted at FortMcHenryGuard

Monday, February 14, 2011

New MARC Schedule

There's a new MARC schedule for the Penn Line in town, or at least there will be on March 14th. The changes that the MTA made are in an attempt to ease crowding and give riders more options on their commute. I haven't had the chance to dive into it yet, but I will be soon, and will report back. At first glance though, it doesn't seem that it's improved the ability to commute more easily into Baltimore, since the MARC train is still DC centric in its thinking.

If anyone out there who reads this rides the MARC Penn Line, we'd like to hear what you think about this new schedule.

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Baltimore Snapshot - Charmulator Kiosk

photo by me: Pleasant Street at N. Charles St.
This was taken Monday at around 5:20pm when most people are on their way out of downtown to head home after the work day. The Charmulator NextBus shows the next arrival times of 20 mins and 71 mins! The poor schlubs who missed the first bus would have to wait nearly an hour for the next to arrive. How can this happen during rush hour, there should be more buses on the route, that's no excuse.

Friday, February 4, 2011

A Good Argument for Lowering Property Taxes

If anyone caught the Baltimore Sun on January 23rd there was an article on the argument for Baltimore City to lower it's property taxes. Jamie Hopkins from the Sun interviewed Loyola University Maryland (nee Loyola College) economics professor Dr. Steve Walters about his plan. I won't go into too much detail, because it's best to read what is said, but the basis of the plan is for the city to slash its property tax over the next 4 years. The result, Walters says, would encourage residents and businesses to move into the city, because the surrounding counties wouldn't be as cheap to live/work in as they once were. Additionally, the added population and commerce would offset (over time), any loss in revenue from dropping the tax rate.

Currently, Baltimore City has the highest property tax rate in the state of Maryland, at 2.268%. No other county in the state has a rate higher than 2% with the next highest in Baltimore County at 1.1%. With the upcoming Mayoral election this should be a hot topic.

The question remains though, which mayoral candidate (or current mayor) has the guts to do this, for the future of the city?

Thursday, February 3, 2011

Comment from a Reader

I received this email from a reader the other day:

I read your blog! I love the skyline painting. Where is that from? I'd love to use it as my computer desktop-wallpaper.

Thanks for reading, Lauren! I found this picture a while back when the blog began in 2007. I was searching through google images for a wallpaper and I stumbled across this one and instantly loved it. It shows an early picture of Baltimore from Federal Hill, sometime after the Baltimore Trust Building was built (1929), but before Federal Hill was terraced by the Civilian Conservation Corps in the 1930s. It shows a realistic view of a Baltimore that doesn't really exist anymore. For as much as Baltimore has stayed the same, so much has changed and is gone that cannot be replicated or replaced. The harbor today looks much different; gone are the warehouses and wharfs. The sounds of the harbor as much different, and less lively. Even though it's a view that isn't here anymore, maybe it's an aspiration of what this city can be in the future.

Turns out it's a painting by Paul Magehee called "Old Baltimore Harbor, 1930".
You can check it out here:

Whats Up With the Charmulator?

For the past few days the Charmulator website has been listing "major delays" along both routes, even after most of the snow and ice has gone away. Nextbus is reporting 20-30 minute headways between buses for the past few days as well. Are they having bus issues, or has Veolia told their drivers to take it easy in the winter weather. Their alerts and news releases have not been very descriptive.

Another incident, which I got straight from a colleague of mine who takes the Charmulator everyday, involves drivers. On Tuesday, my colleague reported that she had hit the "stop request" button which triggered the sign and announcement, only to see the driver blow past the Hamilton Street stop. Other riders were confused as well, but said nothing. On approach to the Mt Vernon stop, my colleague hit the button, as well as another rider with the same result. As the driver began to drive past the monument another rider asked "are you going to stop?" The response from the driver could not have been more unpleasant and condescending, as if the riders were ruining the morning drive up Charles Street.

Now, I've never had this experience with a driver on the Charmulator, but this isn't the first story I've heard of rude or unhelpful drivers. If this is supposed to be a free service, which is supposed to attract residents and visitors alike, shouldn't the drivers be more polite and helpful? There isn't an excuse for that, or missing stops when the request button has been pressed.

Has anyone else out there had any experiences like this (or worse)? Let us know, we'd love to hear and share your stories. We'd also like to hear your positive stories as well!