Wednesday, August 6, 2008

...and then I died from the excitement

Thanks to a Google Maps application, MTA (MD)’s website features a transit trip planner. New York, Chicago, DC, and other cities have already had this opportunity—if not through the city’s transit than by way of HopStop—but Baltimore’s navigation has been left to the riders. In theory, navigating a transit system shouldn’t be difficult—I’ve been fine in the aforementioned cities with just a station map—but have struggled since embarking on the harrowing journey otherwise known as My Life With Baltimore Transit. In retrospect I’ll regret having publicly admitted for nearly two years that I am MTA Incompetent.

This application is Brand New. So Brand New that when I used MTA’s site on Monday to plan my work commute that it wasn’t available. I thought I’d test out my old apartment to my old office as a means of verification and the planner included walking directions from my door to my bus stop and generic information to get me to work. This is awesome, people. A phone call to MTA usually suggests taking buses and transferring to get from Towson to Mount Vernon. The planner uses the Light Rail (which is easier because it bypasses traffic—it’s worth noting that if the weather is inclement and a tree falls on the tracks, you’re totally screwed).

MTA wants you to know that it’s new too. When you submit your addresses the site warns:

Welcome to the new Google Transit driven MTA Trip Planner. Please be advised that we are still working some of the bugs out of the system, but we believe that you will find it quite useful. If you wish to give us any comments (positive or constructive) with the results of your trip planning, please e-mail us at

Thank you for your patience while we work on even more enhancements to our website over the coming months.

That’s okay, MTA. I understand. Especially with the promise of new enhancements, you bet I understand. Maybe I could download the directions to my ipod? Have it texted to my phone? Who cares? We’re finally catching up the the modern century!

I entered the address for the Ottobar (you don’t need to know where I used to work) from Towson’s campus (or where I used to live) but I think the directions fail a little there. It has you take the 8 going South (toward UMD Medical Ctr) and walking from Greenmount. I guess you could do that, but a bus does go past the entrance to the Ottobar. I don’t mind walking, but it doesn’t Sit Well with me. Maybe the suburbs is making me unconsciously lazy. So I tried Fenwick Bakery in Parkville on Harford Road from Towson’s campus instead:

I’m hungry, I could use a sugar rush.

I like that the site provides traffic data, estimates the next bus arrival (I’m not counting it to be on time) and provides reverse directions, which are different from the arrival plan:

Wow, this rocks. Why couldn’t I have had this when I lived in the city? As it stands I’m taking bike-unfriendly transit (with the unfriendly MARC as my backup plan) and forced into buying a car.

I mean, I want a car, but maybe I want to park it and ride my bike through the city. Maybe I liked the freedom I


Becki Lee said...

That's pretty awesome. I'm glad MD is finally catching up -- I'm so spoiled by the NYC MTA Trip Planner and also HopStop.

Anonymous said...

ha you worked at the ottobar? weird i used to dj sometimes there on wed. nights.

Anonymous said...

ha. you used to work at ottobar? i used to dj there on wed. nights.

anyway, it's about time md had something like hopstop

Katherine said...

oh no! i wasn't very clear. i put in the ottobar because it seemed like a legit destination that wasn't my job. i didn't want to show the route to my job in Mt. Vernon because that didn't seem like a good idea on a blog. :)