Thursday, January 31, 2008

Please Hold the Door

Pleasant customer service aside, the very best thing you can do for someone in need on the line is help him or her (or them!). The second best thing you can do--and only on a bus, really--is hold the back door for the people behind you.

I'm lousy at holding the doors and keeping them open; I have to force my entire body forward to get out the back, actually. When someone exits in front of me and holds them open, even a little, I'm excited that someone has recognized my existence on the planet and bothered to show some decency. (I usually make an effort too, even when it's a piddly attempt at keeping a door open.) I know that the person behind me can open the door (and hear you me, if the person can't I'm holding it open with all my might, worry not) and that the person in front of me has places to go. I know that I have places to go.
Today an older man got on the bus with groceries and rode to my stop. During the route his bags spilled and several soda bottles rolled through the bus and then, when he exited, onto the curb. He held onto his bags and held both doors open for me even though his Sprite was slowly rolling down York Road. He was friendly and cordial, implying through body language that this is natural and expected, and when I had safely exited, he carefully picked up his groceries, and we continued our treks home.

He is of course, the last type of person I'd expect to do that. But he kind of makes up for all of the lousy riders that will our days.

I'm months behind in my Chicago CTA news. Even though even already knows, some money came through, gas isn't taxed, and the civilian commuters/riders are out of danger (for now). Still, the news alert e-mails have been piling up and I am hoping (though however futile) to get some sort of post together. I need a weekly news round up, or something.
A tree was downed on the Light Rail track yesterday between my stop (Lutherville) and the next stop (Falls Road). Except no one told me--or the riders--about this and the train on the Southbound platform was headed to Timonium. We looked at each other, shrugged, and thought something was wrong with the track. Until a train came some time later for Hunt Valley (which is north of the station). Everyone blindly boarded which I found peculiar considering they had been waiting to go...south.
I asked the conductor what was going on but he ignored me as he walked to the other end of the train. Well, I thought, thanks for the help.
I called MTA's service number. "Is there a delay with the Light Rail," I asked, "I'm in Lutherville going Southbound."
The woman couldn't have been nicer. It's just not possible to be as nice as she already was, and I know this because my brain almost exploded with her kindness. "There's a tree down between Lutherville and Falls Road," she said, "and there are shuttles at the station. One should be there in two minutes." Then she promised me that if I held, she would see the status of tree removal.
When she returned I had walked to the buses hoping for a shuttle. "It will be a little longer," she said, "I'm very sorry. A shuttle will be there in two minutes."
Then. Then she promise me to have a good day regardless of the "inconvenience," and she almost asked me to have a good day, and, and! she was sincere. I haven't heard this level of sincerity from someone in a long time.
I took a taxi that was idling near the station because I was already obscenely late for work.
The MTA operators are usually this nice, too. Still, it made my entire day.

Monday, January 28, 2008

Verbal and physical sparring from Saturday

I rode the 8 to Book Thing Saturday afternoon and "listened in" on a vicious fight on my excruciatingly slow ride back. Two junkies were arguing over their once romantic relationship. Whether the man had just dumped the woman or they ran into each other by chance is unknown to me, but all that really matters is that what had been mean banter under the guise of play suddenly turned into an aggressive sparring match as the woman yelled, "I DON'T CARE IF YOU DON'T WAN' MY ASS, I DON'T WAN' YER ALCOHOLIC ASS!" The yelling continued but erupted when her voice shook the windows: "JUST LEEEAVE ME ALOOOOONE!" There were sounds of fabric scuffling on fabric and everyone but me turned in their seats to stare. She exited a few minutes later and the passengers held their breath until he exited ten minutes later.
Later that night on the 8, there was a real scuffle as reported by The Baltimore Sun:

About 11 p.m., several youths left the movies at Towson Commons on York Road, boarded the bus and became rowdy, said Jawauna Greene, the spokeswoman. She said that as their behavior became more disturbing, at least two of them assaulted the passenger for no apparent reason.

Wow, wonderful. I love Baltimore but I don't want to lived in a city where violence bursts unprompted. Public transportation is supposed to be safe and, in my eyes, is a reflection of the city using the service. These recent attacks speak poorly of an otherwise colorful, unique, and beautiful city.

Tuesday, January 22, 2008


From an article in The Daily Mail:

Given that she describes herself as a human pet – and is happy to walk around on a lead – Tasha Maltby is used to odd looks and even odder remarks.

But nothing had prepared her for the reaction of the bus driver who allegedly told the self-styled Goth and her boyfriend: "We don't let freaks and dogs like you on."

Miss Maltby and her fiance Dani Graves were so angered they have complained to the bus company of being "victimised".

"It is definitely discrimination, almost like a hate crime," 19-year-old Miss Maltby said yesterday.

The music technology student had this defence of her lifestyle.

"I am a pet, I generally act animal like and I lead a really easy life," she said.

"I don't cook or clean and I don't go anywhere without Dani. It might seem strange but it makes us both happy. It's my culture and my choice. It isn't hurting anyone."

The bus driver, however, has obviously not been listening.

He has repeatedly refused to allow Mr Graves, 25, and his "pet" on to his bus in Dewsbury, West Yorkshire.

Last month, with Miss Maltby on a leash as usual, the couple tried to board a bus at the bus station.

The driver, who was off duty, was standing near the door.

Mr Graves alleged: "He shoved me off the bus. He called us freaks and he called Tasha a dog.

"He said, 'We don't let freaks and dogs like you on'.

"He basically grabbed my T-shirt and slammed me backwards.

"I got a bit angry and called him a fascist pig."

In a separate incident, police were called when the driver, who has not been named, refused to allow other passengers on board after the couple ignored his orders and sat down.

The couple, who live on benefits in a council house and plan to start a family, have been friends for years.

They started going out together in July and became engaged in November.

Paul Adcock, of bus company Arriva Yorkshire, said: "We take any allegations of discrimination seriously.

"Mr Graves has already contacted us directly and as soon as our investigation has concluded we will inform him of the outcome."

I'm all for fair treatment so it surprises me that I'm...not on their side. You can't call yourself a pet and expect treatments that exclude other pets though, can you? CAN YOU? It's because I can't let go of that semi-vacant look in her eyes. She wants it to say, I am an independent citizen and have chosen this lifestyle, but the signals, they are so mixed, when her arrogant boyfriend holds a leash--made for dogs--nonchalantly in his hand. A gesture which says, I'm holding onto this for show, like when I let my dog shit outside in the middle of the night. He knows Sparky isn't going anywhere but it's a formality. She won't run away, we love each other.
Barf. The very representation, as you may have noticed, makes my blood boil.

Also, I sincerely doubt either popped out of the womb intrigued with the morbid details of life. I bet her My Little Ponies are in her bedroom closet right now. Still, it's the ownership of another human and objectification of women that bug me. And the BLATANT IRONY of wanting human treatment.

Notes for That Woman With the Wide Stroller

I found these illustrations online today while doing research for an art project. I thought the sentiment was especially sweet, even if the etiquette in general has probably never surfaced.
From My Little Golden Book of Manners by Peggy Parish and illustrated by Richard Scarry, 1962.

I wonder what Miss Manners has to say about Public Transportation? What kind of a bus do you ride that accommodates for a BRONTOSAURUS?

Thursday, January 17, 2008

An Actual Peril

A Baltimore resident, 18, was shot and killed in a robbery this week. The victim, Zachariah Hallback, was waiting for a bus at 33rd St. and Alameda after visiting a friend at Morgan State. Hallback was a proponent of the Baltimore Algebra Project and described as a "good kid."

It's more than unfortunate--it's unfair--that you can't wait for a bus without dying in the city. Not that it's okay to rob anyone anywhere, but shouldn't everyone have the right to wait for transport in peace? To traverse the streets without incident?

Sunday, January 13, 2008

No Pants Party, II

Ah, well, the pantless party.
I went downtown yesterday, where the Chinatown stop allowed endless wandering through the Portrait Gallery, moseying to Eat First, and shuffling through Cowgirl Creamery, my cheese monger. My sister promised me alcohol at lunch and $5 if I'd join the throngs and remove my pants. Though I was wearing very pretty underwear, I declined on the basis that it was too cold. Truth be told, if it was more than humor these partiers stood for--WMATA's lacking funds, new trains, end of war, anything--I would have agreed. I might have done it for free...

There were hoots, hollers, cheers, and general, "WHOOOOOO!" from the green platform at the station around 4:15 p.m., followed by flashes of light. The red line platform was full of commuters and tourists at this point, all equally exhausted, and it became apparent that there would be no love for the pantless partiers on my train. Instead, my train held a different saga.

My mother and I boarded a train heading to Shady Grove around 4:20 p.m. We shuffled into the train, and as she found a stray seat, I found a vacant spot at the door. This turned out to be especially unfortunate for a sometimes-stiff (I embrace my east coast chilliness) commuting disposition, as I found myself pressed against an especially large stroller. Packed like sardines with tourists, fogies, and students, I turned to my right to find a wayward B.O.B. Stroller Strides Blah Blah Blah You Have To Be Kidding Me This Is Ridiculously Large, I'll Be Luck To Afford A Card This Large Before I'm 40.
Measuring at an obscene...wait...the manufacturer doesn't list its size! That must be because it's at least three feet wide and three feet high. The device promises that it features "Fast, two-step fold-up design for stow-and-go portability," and that the "Front wheel swivels for unmatched maneuverability in tight spaces and locks forward for reliable running over uneven surfaces," yet the irresponsible owner failed to take advantage of these features with her $549 instrument of inconvenience. Rather, she sat one burbling child on her lap while allowing this monstrosity to obstruct space that would allow five more people to stand.
But she did more than own a 100 lb. mass of clunky metal. While the machine glided in the car, taking out both of my kidneys with its force, she took the handicapped/elderly seat, obstructed an adjacent seat with her back pack (which, at the size of a small child, should have been stowed under her seat), and refused to let people sit in the unoccupied seat next to her bag.
This woman was the most selfish, spoiled, and irresponsible woman in Washington, DC. And from a former "anarchist", in a city rife with disappointing politicians, and brimming with scandal, I think I'm saying a lot.
When the waifish riders managed, just barely, to squeeze past, she shot dirty looks. How dare you touch my stroller and occupy my space, she said. That I forced my mother to sit near her must have really touched a nerve. Paired with my sighs and occasional dirty looks (maturity in these situations is not my strong point) we failed to make eye contact.
At a busy stop riders tried to board, but we were packed too tightly. "MOVE TO THE BACK," a woman trying to board shouted. The people near her tried to explain that was not the problem. Afterall, we were packed to the opposing doors. When the woman began to shove people into me I hollered, "WE CAN'T GO ANYWHERE, WE'RE PACKED TO THE BACK." When I offended her, my compatriots yelled, "WE'RE BACK HERE WITH A STROLLER, THERE'S NOWHERE TO GOOOOOO." Still not enough, she shoved more, and I yelled, again, startling all around me, "WE'RE PACKED BACK HERE WITH A STROLLER. GET ON THE NEXT TRAIN, WE CAN'T MOVE," the shoving refused to cease, so I repeated ad nauseum until the next stop, "GET ON THE NEXT TRAIN OR FIND ANOTHER DOOR, GET ON THE NEXT TRAIN OR FIND ANOTHER DOOR, GET ON THE NEXT TRAIN OR FIND ANOTHER DOOR, GET ON THE NEXT TRAIN OR FIND ANOTHER DOOR," making me both obnoxious in addition to unsympathetic.
A man later had the gall to ask to sit next to this woman's bag and she told him, "No, this is where my bag is. You can't." And do you know what happened? DO YOU? He said Okay. He put his bag on a seat and stood near a door. He abandoned his property to make her comfortable. I could have rung his neck for not standing up for his right to sit, that jerk. Her throat clearing and seat shifting eventually forced him back to his property, which he removed, and held until his stop twenty minutes later.
Then my mother turned on me by joining the masses of old people and cooing to the baby. AW, YOU'RE SO CUTE, they cooed in unison. The turncoats forgot what this woman had done, how she told people to stand, turned people in need of a seat away, and used her burbling, drooling, bag of baby meat as a way to deflect criticism. But your baby charm won't work on me, lady. It won't work at Target, or the grocery store, where you will take up the entire aisle, that's how big your stroller is, thanks, or anywhere else. I promise to hate your stroller forever, too. Thanks for ruining my entire life with you selfishness.
The whole thing takes away the fun of people without pants. It makes The Washington Post's humorous article about the experience a little less fun. It definitely makes me hate yuppie parents a little more. One day my sisters might be yuppie parents and I'll have to get over. I'll probably just say, "REMEMBER HOW I WAS ON THE METRO AND THIS WOMAN REPRESENTED THE UNENDING DISAPPOINTMENT IN HUMANITY? DON'T DO THAT." They will sigh and roll their eyes and after 20 minutes of begging agree, no, we won't, we're so fabulous that we won't bother anyway, and then I'll get offended and in a huff and pout until they promise me beer or ice cream. Or both. Probably both.
And now I'm so cranky I can hardly expound on MTA's unending discussion on safety. Still not what I have in mind, guys.

Friday, January 11, 2008


Metro riders are planning to hop the Metro tomorrow...without pants. Already done in New York (several times over), DC residents are eschewing frostbite Down There from 4 p.m. to 6 p.m.
The riders have joined on a Facebook group, which warns that each individual is responsible for his or her safety. RSVP is not required to participate.

It is not against the law to ride pantsless (in underwear) but there will be an increase in police presence.

I'm going downtown tomorrow. If I see any daring pantsless riders, I'll let you know.

Baltimore Stories:: HEADS OR TAILS

Notes from Thursday's expedition to see The Future is Unwritten at The Charles

-The train barreling to my stop is only going to North Avenue, one stop short of my destination. 12 people climb onto the train, leaving me plus one homeless man, at the stop. I have an excessive stash of Daim candy in my purse and feel unexpectedly guilty as he inconspicuosly picks through trash on the opposite platform. It was 69 degrees at noon, but it's depressingly cold at 5:50 p.m. (TAILS)

-The next train arrives at 6:15 p.m. (TAILS) but it's empty (HEADS) save for a large man showing a woman how to use her mace. This is endlessly fascintating to me: he is incredibly dedicated and knowledgeable. They don't seem to know each other (HEADS).

-At the next stop the man takes out a cigarrette. I watch him intensely, waiting for him to light it inside the train. He begins to talk about politics and his language becomes exponentially more "colorful." I want to smack the cigarette out of his mouth, watching it bounce up and down wildly (TAILS).

-The train breaks down twice between Woodberry and North Avenue (TAILS). When we arrive most of the people from Lutherville get on this train. They look worn out and irritated that it took so long for this train to arrive (TAILS).

-I arrive at the first stop that will connect to Penn Station. It should have taken 20 minutes, but it took an hour (TAILS). The driver warns incoming passengers that this train is breaking (HEADS).

-The opposite platform is filled with commuters. I think this is good, that they are going to Penn Station. They are all commisterating about the wait, which means the Penn train is bound to come soon, right?! NO. Two Timonium bound trains arrive before 7:30 (TAILS).

-When I arrive and exit Penn Station, commuters have lined the sidewalk to get into cabs. I finally find someone who isn't on a cell phone and ask which direction is 1700 Charles Street. The man is friendly and gives perfect directions. Which it turns out, I didn't need, because I was a block away. Not the point (HEADS). (I arrive as the credits begin, hooray!)

-The Penn train empties when it arrives at the station two hours later, except for two women who are huddled in the seat. The train sits for 20 minutes while I attempt to read City Paper. Eventually their conversation is so distracting that I can't read the feature. The main woman has a scraggly voice. She makes grandiose claims about her life, to which the more sober woman says, "YOU'RE LYING YOU'RE LYING," and the other says, "ASK ANYONE, AM NOT" a hundred times. When I leave I find out both are no more than 80 lbs. (TAILS)

-The next train is full. Everyone is tired and silent. Eventually three males enter the train, and several minutes later I'm distracted by one's wild movements with a switchblade. He is making vague gestures and makes me nervous. We make eye contact and he starts to pick at his nails with the switchblade. Throughout the next twenty minutes he makes clownish faces. There are 16 people on the train--14 are awake--and no one seems to notice his previous motions or current actions (TAILS).

-There are 19 people on the platform. They are not bothered by increasing erratic behavior. Which is cool since the blotter reports that Monday, two girls got into a scuffle on a light rail platform. When things go wrong it seems to be at the North Avenue stop; maybe people think that's where one goes to get stabbed, or murdered, and feel better here in the suburbs (TAILS)?

-At the stop I count 18 people. The guy paces, making motions in general, with switchblade, which go ignored. I face the road to watch for the bus but occasionally check his location, which I eventually lose. I abandon plans for cheap greasy food on York Road in favor of taking the 12, which faces my apartment (TAILS).

-The bus driver is sweet to everyone who boards, despite an old man's claim, "NO ONE IS GOIN' TO STELLA MARIS" (the end of the 12) (HEADS). This makes for further proof that I have never had a 12 driver I didn't like.

-I decide on my walk to my apartment that this guy has deliberately psyched me out and won. I'm pissed. Asshole (TAILS). I feel stupid.

DOUBLE TAILS:: MTA is steppin' up its security. But only near schools because juveniles are to blame for all problems. There's no denying that the incidents last month were perpetrated by minors, but it still seems unfair, in general, to blame them. I just want more, everywhere. Especially if dropouts are more suseptible to violent acts, then why are the measures near school grounds?

Thursday, January 10, 2008

Metro Recognizes That It Actually Sucks Sometimes

The Washington Post reported in today's paper that the city's train service has been declining over the course of 17 months (link to print edition will prompt for log-ing). This follows the WMATA's fare increase this month. The article ("Metrorail Reports 17-Month Slide in On-Time Service") reports:

On-time performance has been declining for the past 17 months; not once did the agency meet its performance benchmark of having 95 percent of all trains run on schedule. On-time performance was worst during the evening rush, when it hovered in the 80 percent range.

Mechanical issues--doors opening in closing (THE IRONY, METRO'S MANTRA IS "METRO OPENS DOORS")--and breakdowns are attributed to tardy trains and frustrated patrons. Because riders and WMATA wants reliability, this is expected to be a topic at the board's next meeting. Officials tell the Post that some of the cars in the fleet (which number 1,070) that the cars are failing as a result of age--which they say are 30 years old.

The Metro opened for operation in the summer of 1976. That means that these cars have been rumbling through the area since their doors first opened.

Buried elsewhere in the Metro section of The Post was a short article about the possibility of new cars. WMATA says the cars will have 32 bench seats per car (my number might be wrong here) with ergonomic textile and LCD maps to chart the train "in real time." These cars look exactly like New York City's MTA train, and while these carpetless dreams might glide DC into the future, the earliest they'll roll on to the track will be 2013. The failing cars will be nearly 40, if they can make it that long.

Meanwhile morning commuters are dwindling; ridership is down 85 percent. And though my morning trains were still packed it's disappearing riders that contributes to Metro's lack of funding...

But no one wins with a Negative Nancy, right? I'd love to see the new trains. I don't care about the ergonomic seat covers--I secretly love the old, original, and currently "retro" upholstery. (The colors, even now at their blahh'd glory, cheer me up. The new seat covers have that ugly design that is prevalent in Greyhound buses. Ew.) Also, the convenience of the LCD map quickly qualms panic attacks; knowing where you are takes away the prolonged OHMYGODDIDIMISSMYSTOP panic that is likely to happen when you accidentally fall asleep. Or are a tourist. Or are so involved in conversation that, oops, your destination was three stops ago...

Thursday, January 3, 2008

Notes From the Last Seven Days::

Thursday, December 27
In what may be the single kindest act bestowed unto me in my short 22 years, an OUT OF SERVICE bus slowed to my stop at 10:31 a.m. (I was already running late, it was cold, it was windy, I'd been there for 20 minutes) The woman nodded when I thanked her and I joined the ranks of two other lucky people who were on the way to her destination. I've never been so shocked or happy in my life.

Thursday, January 3

I find a seat in the back around 9:40 a.m. The bus lurches forward, and the man in front of me turns around to make a remark about the cold weather. I agree, it's cold. A few minutes later he asks, by my bar name*, which he learned last week, if I have any money. I feel bad that I only have the exact fare for a ride home. Because he's nice.

Buy my monthly pass at the Lutherville Park and Ride and watch as my bus home sails past me. Slowly trudge to the stop, which is empty, when I find an 8 idling. The bus driver is allowing passengers sit inside while she enjoys her break at the wheel. I consider denying this one small accommodation the cruelest thing in the world and almost throw myself at her feet in thanks.** I take a seat in the back, and when we lurch to a start, two women in front of me turn around and pass awkward smiles. Is there a booger in my nose? Am I sniffling too loudly? At the next stop they talk to the man "behind me" (I'm in the sideways seat) and then, a few minutes later, begin to fight--vapidly. I'm overcome with the interestingness of Words on Wheels as a means of distraction. I stand up to signal my stop with the yellow touchstrip when the man says, "You'll have to holler at her, baby, they don't work." I think he means my section, so I try another part of the bus when all three--in what may be one of the few times I find it mildly endearing instead of infuriating--say, "No, baby, it's all broken." Oh. Well. I ask the bus driver, politely, if she can make a stop at West Road. She only hears, stop and says apologetically, "I'll let you out at West Road."
I lurch forward when the bus stops and as I exit, the same three and the driver tell me to have a nice day.
And I do, sort of.

*When I go to a concert, show, Starbucks, bar, etc. and am forced to give my name I have a habit of giving a fake name out of spite or safety. I have been adopting an alternate identity, for better or worse, for five years.

**I am a cold weather wuss. I will never make do in Chicago.

Tuesday, January 1, 2008

3 Posts In One Days Makes Me Up In Arms

Admittedly I was already seething after attempting to research the CTA news.
But honestly, I'd be annoyed with the Maryland Transit Administration police chief David Franklin. In an interview with the Examiner, Franklin says, "Some of our young people have lost their moral compass. They need to be taught the appropriate behavior."
Franklin glosses over a major issue in the incident that is the focus of the interview (the beating of a woman on Dec. 4--who is at "fault" is going back and forth)--that the camera on the bus was not working. "Some are not working. There are obviously issues with them. We have already implemented a new maintenance plan, removing and repairing some of them. That’s an area we’re improving," he said in the interview, as if to imply, yeah, they're not working, shit happens, dude.
He also promises that on the "15 to 20" school routes in near "trouble schools" the bus drivers will notify MTA police at the first sign of trouble. Again, I ask, why isn't this already a part of policy? If we're riding through Timonium to Lutherville or a "nice" are of the city what needs to be done? Does it take serious crime to notify the authorities? This promise to riders is under a vague assumption that big trouble needs to take place first--this has never been my experience but the message MTA is sending is that unless we're in a stereotypically "bad" area, where the "bad" teens are, we're all going to die.

Davis, and Baltimore, leave the kids alone. Whether or not these kids are at fault isn't the issue here--it's the general assumption that Baltimore's youth are, as Davis contends, "acting inappropriately," a vague assertion to behavior. How is Davis defining inappropriate? The youths in question in the Dec. 4 incident--supposedly--jumped from seat to seat, denying the victim a place to sit. But his assertion of students from "bad" schools does not describe the parameters of his assumptions. Speaking loudly? Singing? Dancing? Foul language or just obnoxious?
Davis asserts that juveniles are the problem, yet he "thinks" that five to fifteen percent are minors. In Decembers increase of [reported] crimes, only two have involved a minor. The second, involved a stabbing in which a minor was attacked by other minors on Dec. 18. A third incident was the Dec. 26 shooting of a 14-year-old--whether the suspect is under 18 or from a bad school has not been announced.
That MTA plans to hand over footage to school so that minors can be hauled into the office for a sit-down discussion about behavior--off school property, after and before school hours--seems like an incredible waste of time and offense to juveniles in general. To do that MTA would have to fix the cameras first, and broken cameras has been a complaint for more than a year.

I share my morning and evening commute with high school students. Usually they are going to or coming from the Baltimore School for the Performing Arts given that my main light rail stop is Centre Street, but it's usually all schools from any part of Baltimore County. Every minor I've encountered in my commutes have been polite and gracious. Sometimes I turn the volume on my ipod down and listen in on their conversation--they are mundane and sweet, who passed notes to which girl, the notes from chemistry, the boy sent to the office for joking during a physics lab, that new song from Ne-Yo.
Baltimore is the only city I've noticed that people sing everywhere, all the time. Waiting for buses, sitting on buses, riding on trains, walking to work...people sing, and they sing loudly. It is what adds the charm to commutes, but the girls who sing in their uniforms sing quietly, for one another.
My experience, though fleeting in the grand scale, has also shown that they are the most polite. They are quiet, frighteningly respectful, and have more manners than the other demographics. Sharing a seat with a teenager last week, he very politely said, "My stop is next. Please excuse me." He gracefully stood, exited the seat, and let me have the window. He stood quietly near the door as the train barreled to North Avenue. He was far from bothersome.
One incident shouldn't cast negativity to an entire demographic. The Dec. 4 incident is quickly becoming more than an assault between teenagers and a 26-year-old and the other incidents are said to be motivated not by age but by ethnicity. Should any of these become classified as a hate crime, will the MTA send video to political leaders? If the 26-year-old Caucasian woman is charged, and I'm talking loudly on my cell phone, will I have a sit-down meeting for behaving inappropriately? Will I have to take a class on how to sit, stand, communicate, enter, and exit a method of transporation? Will I need to take a remedial class in transportation?

After all, it wasn't an "unruly" high school student who, holding her infant so his head was just under her chin, lit a cigarette outside the door before she boarded the train. It was a woman in her thirties. And the irritating passengers on the light rail last week were old men. The meth addict on the train to Camden Yards? She was over 30 and nearing 40.

Leave the kids, uninvolved, just trying to get to class, home from school, to their after school jobs, tutoring, volunteering, and America's Next Top Model marathon, alone.

MTA Officer Killed On the Job

An MTA officer was killed on the job last night in a hit-and-run in South Baltimore before midnight. 40-year-old Courtney G. Brooks, a 13-year veteran was "part of traffic detail" near 395 when he was struck. He was preventing trucks from entering the city during its New Year's Eve festivities.
A person of interest was apprehended this morning.

Is MTA cursed?

Woe is Chicago

I met with my friend from Chicago this week for coffee and it wasn't long before we aired our grievances with our respective transportation. In all, the main difference for us is that waiting for thirty minutes for a bus seems normal to me (usually the 8, which should arrive every ten minutes), while it seems like a serious offense to him. In his defense, he has several more hurdles to suffer through after boarding the bus.

Suffering a "funding crisis", the CTA has (or will, sources vary) cut 81 (of 154) bus routes, increased fare (to $3.25 a ride at its highest), and cut 2,400 employees. Though CTA proposed service cuts wouldn't take until February, commuters (who have long been suffering) are already seeing changes. The newest deadline ("doomsday") is January 20. The proposed solution is a gasoline tax.
In theory, the tax would bring $385 million, but the means--and potentially rising costs--seems ridiculously unfair to add to the already outrageous gas prices. Hello? Gas is expensive "because of the war" and quickly becoming a luxury. Taxing motorists will only add to the secret animosity between the two sects.
I was a passenger in a car today wherein the driver called 20+ MTA riders "suckers" because they had to wait for a bus. Public transportation is cheaper than car insurance + car payments, semi-reliable (depending on the weather and one's mood), better for the environment, roads, and crowded roads than all passengers driving, and already a luxury. No, really, I can not stress enough how impossible it is for me to "just go out and buy a car" (as suggested by several people in the last month--notably not the aforementioned driver).
Imagine how much easier it would be to park in Chicago if there were less drivers. How the commute--for passengers and drivers--would improve if there were less cars. Would the air be cleaner if 1/3 of all drivers and riders rode a bike?
But back to the poor riders.
In addition to the agony caused by on-going brown and red (EL) lines, trains continue to share tracks, my friend says (without apparent notice of construction) as CTA pulls together its slim resources and stay on track.
Any commuter can refute this as average--routes are changed in every city without visible reason and for the simplest reasons, but my friend has noticed that the usual routes seem rarely used. And in a city like Chicago, when a stop is missed on a local train it can take buses and switched El lines to get back to the original intended stop. In short, it's a nightmare for out towners and a headache for locals--who not only suffer through changes but must guide the hip-pack'd-camera-toting-newbies to safety. Boo.
Or maybe I should take a deep breath and walk away; at least they're trying.

Our final concession was a notice of different attitudes in the cold weather. Chicago is arguably colder than Baltimore given its midwestern lakefront location. He says that when the buses finally arrives riders clamor and fight to get on the bus and out of the cold. Maybe it's a hospitality thing, but Mobtown riders seem more gracious and friendly when the weather gets colder, quietly lining up single file and insisting, No, you first when the bus arrives.

...Also in the mire is the death of a woman yesterday after she was hit by a bus. The bus driver has been cited with negligence after striking 59-year-old Ludwika Szynalik.