Monday, June 30, 2008

More On the Trend

A letter to the Chicago Tribune today piqued my interest wherein the writer advocates eschewing automobiles for the CTA ("Happy and Carless"). A highlight:
I say with pride that I sold my car a month ago and have not yet missed it at all.

The CTA is easily one of the nation's most comprehensive transit systems, and I say this from personal experience in other cities.
I don't know if I agree that it's one of the "most comprehensive transit systems," but I'm sort of impressed with his enthusiasm.

The CTA is having troubles this week after reports showed it's not exactly safe. Lives aren't in jeopardy, but riders probably want more assurance than "you're not gonna die." 13 derailments were found from January-August 2007 and The Chicago Tribune reports:
"The safety audit found that the CTA is not conducting enough emergency-response drills and that its construction-safety performance on the $530 million Brown Line reconstruction project "is not satisfactory."
Wow. I don't live in Chicago and even I know that. The audit also found that conductors, who are supposed to keep their heads out the window to make sure passengers aren't caught in the door and dragged with the train, were ducking inside before doors were closed. Hey, you won't die, but you might suffer disfigurement! It's no biggie.

Sunday, June 29, 2008

Sunday, Sunday, Sunday!

The Washington Post's Sunday Source (requires login) has two public transit-based features with detailed directions. It's like having a Hop Stop, except The Post includes suggested destinations. (For the sake of whining, it's still not fair Hop Stop, that you haven't included Baltimore in your cities, yet.)

The section's feature details places to camp without a car ("Car-Free Camping") and includes Greenbelt Park, Lake Fairfield Park, Little Bennett Regional Park, and Watkins Regional Park with detailed routes and precise directions listing the distance from DC (the parks vary in Maryland and Virginia), routes and station names, and the distance of the park from the last stop (which vary from a few blocks to more than a mile). Kudos, Washington Post! The more precise and patient directions are to get somewhere by way of transit, the smoother and less anxious the ride. The article also lists C&O Canal National Park as a destination that can be reached by bike.

A sidebar also lists trails that are accessible by transit, listing several hiking clubs and general directions ["Hit the Trail (Leave the Tent)"] .

The Source joyously themes its RoadTrip column by focusing on DC's Circulator, a $1 fare bus that connects central destinations in the city. Whether the stops the column lists are for you are irrelevant in the face of my utter joy: a map that uses a city sponsored bus. An affordable bus (day passes are $3). Museums, theatres, food, drink, and attractions round out the trip and include the heinously overpriced Spy Museum and the very intriguing National Museum of Crime and Punishment. (The column also includes the National Archives, high five!)

As gas rises ridership increases. I'm wary of the news stories proclaiming this is the way to go--I distrust non-proficient riders more than I fear becoming one--and worry that cities nationwide can't afford to support the riders. I want to believe the increase in attention to transit will bring money to these operations but more cities think that taxing outrageously expensive gas will aid transit, but I'll say it again: that brings more stigma to everyday riders. In DC there's not much stigma because there isn't much parking, but taxing drivers in Virginia, an automobile-based landscape, will heighten frustration, even if it doesn't pass legislation.

It's nice to see fresh ideas and ways to use what is available and I appreciate The Source features over the tired news story any day. :)

Monday, June 9, 2008


Today's Washington Post printed a first-person essay about the hassles of carrying large
materials on the Metro. From Aboard Metro, With 2-by-6s in Tow (requires log-in):

I'm the guy you saw on the Red Line casually cradling a 5-by-3-foot double-hung window in his lap. Holding the four 4-by-4-foot drywall panels. The screen door. The six-foot section of picket fence. The 3-by-6-foot lattice panel. The yellow, fiberglass six-foot stepladder. The man with the lawn mower and 75-foot garden hose? Uh-huh, me again. ...
Yes, I was on the Ride On bus clutching the massive, lacquer-framed vintage poster. (It's a straight shot from my framer in Rockville.)
Don't worry; you won't see me during the morning or evening rush. You'll find me in the last car of the train near the bicyclist. (Are you surprised?) I get on the bus at the end of the line and sit in the back. Granted, I take up room for two or three. But what's it to you? I'm not in harm's way.
I avoid transit officials, especially supervisors. They're worrywarts. Bus drivers and Metro station attendants are generally sympathetic. They can identify with a struggling homeowner. If they see I can manage without hurting anyone or damaging property, they'll let me ride.

I want to high five Anthony E. Harris so badly. Good for him! It's a pain to bring bulky materials on transit (and as he details, a bigger pain to carry). Anthony E. Harris gets me. He understands four years of carting heavy photography supplies to campus (and back). I wonder: has he ever taken his station at the back of the car to have someone sit on his belongings? (Because I have! Story to come in a few weeks.)

In regards to last night's post, Washington Post columnist Dr. Gridlock blogs that Metro was unaware that it was offering free rides and that some riders were paying for their free rides. Concerned readers contacted Dr. Metro and an online discussion was hosted at 1 p.m. Metro responded to Dr. Gridlock:

Metro spokesman Steven Taubenkibel said in an e-mail that the transit
authority was not notified until 7:28 a.m. that it was a Code Red day. "As a
result, we were charging fares on all buses in MD and VA. Once we got the word,
we started calling all of our bus operators and telling them not to accept

Also, I may have made a mistake: the District is not participating in the free rides.

Sunday, June 8, 2008

Free For the Heat

Tomorrow will mark the DC/Baltimore area's rapid descent into a heatwave as temperatures rise to the 90s for the third consecutive day. WMATA is responding to the Code Red weather by offering FREE RIDES on metrobuses. Montgomery County's RideOn buses will also participate in no-fare transportation.

Speaking of DC area transit, the buses will be changing routes starting June 29 and Metro is selling Nats commemorative SmartTrip cards--those easily desinsitized refillable cards--at Nats Park June 22 and July 8. (If MTA moved to a system like this I'd be down with an Orioles card.) No pictures of the card on the press release, what's up with that?