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Posts Tagged ‘transportation’

Virtually nonexistent crosswalk at busy intersection

Virtually nonexistent crosswalk at busy intersection

3 months after a MICA student was killed crossing Howard street to take the light rail, the traces of a crosswalk barely visible.

“You can see where the lines once were,” a local resident said to the Baltimore Sun, expressing concern that her daily commute means that she herself crosses this busy street twice a day to take one of Baltimore’s few public transportation options. She recounts to the Sun that she has called 311 for months to request the lines be repainted on the street, to no avail.

To Watchdog column reporter, the resident stated, “I would think that after the death of a pedestrian at this intersection, the city agency would have made this repair a priority,” she said.

This intersection is frequently tranversed on our morning running route. Putting the delinquent repaving projects of Charles, Read and Madison streets aside, and the sorely mismanaged rebricking of sidewalks thereabouts, let’s hope the city gets it together to paint the lines back in at Howard and Dolphin.

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We know Washington, DC loves to call itself a “world city” (U Street does have a lot of ethnic food joints) but today was a globally-cool day for our nation’s capital. Today, the innovative SmartBike program kicked off. As the Washington Post crowed, “Today the city will join the ranks of Paris and Barcelona with the launch of the first high-tech public bike-sharing program in the United States, forcing such cities as San Francisco and Chicago to look here to see chic alternative transportation in action in America.

The city-wide biking coop, owned by Clear Channel, is a great alternative to DC’s notoriously expensive cabs and snarled gridlock. For $40 a year, you can rent bikes any time at 10 self-service locations by swiping your membership card. 120 cars off the streets (or more likely, off the lately-horrendous Red Line) may not ease traffic but it’s a promising start for a city historically suspicious of mass and alternative transit.

Capital Bikeways features a mash-up map showing SmartBike pick up locations and bike routes through DC.

Now it’s time for Baltimore’s murky city planners to step up to the plate. A bike share program would be a great way to shuttle ourself between our Calvert street block and parking-scarce Federal Hill, avert ever-present traffic snarls down St. Paul. An eco-friendly program like BikeSmart could also help hungover Hampden hipsters (a worthy cause, no?) sweat out last night’s Golden West margarita by pumping over to take in a film at the oldster Senator in Belvedere Square… Sheila Dixon may not be too interested in that last idea.

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Maximizing MARC

Our friend MARC may visit us on the weekends soon.
Our friend MARC may visit on the weekends soon.

Getting back and forth from Washington to Baltimore is improbably difficult on weekends.

For instance, this weekend, I had to convince my sister that an elderly family friend might not be around too much longer and that she, therefore, should cart me from Dupont Circle to Hunt’s Valley to see her this Sunday afternoon. This means I get to try out Bar Pilar on Friday night without committing to a Friday-through-Monday morning stint in Washington–while avoiding soul-killing I-95 and yet more miles on Cricket, my green Toyota Corolla (it’s clocked +160,000 miles already). God willing, our lovely older friend will live to see 100 and maybe even the day when the Maryland Transit Authority runs commuter MARC trains on the weekends.

Thousands of commuters take MARC between Washington and Baltimore each day. For the $7 one-way fare or $175 unlimited monthly pass, they get to snooze for 50 minutes more than their automobile-bound peers, read, knit or gossip, and perhaps most importantly, avoid the cardiac arrest-inducing road rage resulting from hundreds of thousands of gridlocked traffic in the DC-Baltimore area. Rail commuters also avoid sticker shock from skyrocketing gas prices.

But weekend day-trippers to our nation’s capitol, or north to this charming harborside city, are forced to contend with $30 Amtrak fare or only slightly-lessened gridlock and those afore-mentioned petrol prices.

Until now? I recently complained about the situation to MTA Administrator, Paul Widefeld, imploring them to begin running Penn Line MARC trains on weekends, in the name of boosting Baltimore tourism. Lo and behold, the head of customer service replied with this encouraging message:

“Thank you for your excellent suggestions to the Maryland Transit Administration (MTA) regarding extension of MARC Train Service hours. We have put this request into the State budget, and as soon as the financing and contractual agreements can be worked out, we plan to begin weekend service between Baltimore and Washington, with stops including BWI Marshall Airport.”

MARC, I think this is the beginning of a beautiful friendship.

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