Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Good morning, Internet!

I want you to know that I've got this gig with the [DC] Examiner.com blogging about transit. Naturally, I'm a shoe-in. The direct link to the blog on Examiner.com: http://www.examiner.com/x-1095-DC-Transportation-Examiner.

Because I've been encouraged to investigate Fark, Digg, and its ilk, I think it's okay to tell you to hit refresh a few times; this deal is freelance and paid on page hits. It's tacky to yell you that, but a girl's got loans and bills to pay, and this girl wants to move out in a year, so let's have at it, Internet! (And you too, people on Reddit and Stumbleupon!) I'm actually not a member of any of that (surprise!) and I guess this is the last nudge I'll need to join the masses. Le sigh.

The first article might look familiar to you. I expect to have unique material to this site and the Examiner blog, with occasional reminders from the Winsome Icarus catalogue to bring you to The Examiner.com. But it's annoying to have all my posts on Parapluies Doux and all of my tweets to be merely promotional, so I'll keep the "LOOK OVER HERE!" announcements to the end-of-the-week SHAMELESS READERS that are posted on PD and Winsome Icarus [Blog]. That seems fair, yes?

You're more than welcome to stir the pot, post comments, feed it to your readers, and e-mail it to your grandma.

The RSS is here: http://www.examiner.com/blog/rss.cfm?blogID=1095&blogURL=DC-Transportation-Examiner&mode=brief

Thanks, Internet!

Back to your regularly scheduled Tuesday!

Monday, September 29, 2008


I [stupidly] took the Metro to the mall this weekend for the National Book Festival, forgetting in my sleepless stupor and Neil Gaiman-induced fandom that there were excessive train delays on the red line. (Shady Grove is closest to my house.) In these intelligence inhibitors I also forgot about Bike DC and 800 other celebrations in the Mall’s neighborhoods.



I can’t help it; I’m filled with an urge to decimate annoying out-of-towners. These feelings may be genetic, though I’ve never seen the aggression in my family members. Still, it’s always been there these twenty-two years, and I see other DC residents usually feel [and behave] the same way.

This particular family had an absurdly tall father, a flimsy and confused mother, an increasingly bored and underwhelmed grandfather, and an unspecified number of unruly and obnoxious children. Their first offense was standing in the center of Shady Grove Metro station’s main entrance, blocking riders from obtaining fare cards, and inciting a family melee over the excitement of the book festival. They took a long time to get their fare cards, and used multiple machines—and later, turnstiles—to complete the necessary procedures to board the train.

From there the transgressions continued: the eldest daughter bossed the grandfather and children into her Musical Chairs-styled bidding and dragging her grandfather around the car by the sleeve. I would have probably let it go, but I had my ipod, and if I can hear a child whine succinctly over this defeaning rock music, there’s a problem.

At the last station the family recreated their space blunder by standing in front of the turnstiles—one exit per person—and attempting to exit without success. It was a faux confusion, and watching the mother hop from one exit to the next, flirting with the idea that this was a good place to slide her metro card into the slot before deciding, no, maybe this one!, that put me over the edge. She was mid-hop to the next turnstile when I darted in front of her, threw my entire body into hers, yelled, “EXCUSE ME!” and exited. I left my mother in the dust and prayed she wouldn’t let the family waste twenty minutes of our time by going in front of her.

…She didn’t. She did the same thing. Usually she apologizes for rude strangers and makes me wait.


Still satisfied in having defeated a family of tourists I remained confident that our ride home would not accompany too much agony. I was wrong. The platforms were so full that the station was full of people lined on the escalators, hoping to catch a train within this millenium. In retrospect, we should have walked to another station. Trying to add money to my mother’s SmartTrip card I encountered a college freshman (my guess is GWU). That she was probably from out of town did not faze me.


I stared in disgust for several minutes—and I like dogs!—before trying to take her photograph…twice. It was as I got her glaring at me under the recognition that I was photographing her for internet-based humiliation that my mother called out my name (A line! Is open! Over here!) and the photo was ruined. Blurry! No internet scorn here, except to admit that I’m immature and I had better not see anyone on the metro with a pet that is not a service animal.

This was a miniature border collie, less than a year old. And that little shit knew it was supposed to be at home.


The Bike DC participants all had big buttons that said I LIKE BIKE (like I LIKE IKE). I really want one. But I doubt my bike will ever get to the District. I am filled with woe.

This week I dedicate my angst to several Metro trips in honor of seeing Stereolab. And maybe I’ll edit that complaint letter into a coherent missive worthy of sending to Metro, because I’m still annoyed about the parking situation. (By the way, 711 has meters in front of its store. They don’t start until 9:30 a.m., so that’s my go-to. Now that I’ve said that Takoma’s residents will have it changed it to 7 a.m. like the others, won’t they?)

Sunday, September 28, 2008

Weekly News...


San Francisco has bike lights!

A Metrolink train struck and killed a man Wednesday morning.


CTA is providing its own Twitter with CTA Tweet (follow here). I hate the corporate promotion bandwagon on Twitter (even when I am guilty of the non-corporate kind myself) but I think this is a brilliant idea. All riders need is a Twitter account to know about delays, re-routes, and transit-related mishaps. For 140 characters the updates are incredibly specific. Even if it better serves riders with strong networks, it would help someone to check Twitter before leaving the house, and that’s benefit enough. You can read more about the service on CTA Tattler.


Metro has been authorized to receive $1.5 billion in federal funding for improvement and maintenance.

Fairfax Connector drivers are on strike, yet bus routes continue to increase … yet the bus is on a “Saturday schedule.”

McPherson Square Metro was shut down as the result of a suspicious letter at Dept. of Veteran Affairs. Shuttles/bridges were set up and the station reopened in the afternoon.

DCist on SmartTrip upgrades…and lack thereof.

New York

Because there isn’t any money, MTA is thinking of cutting services.

MTA debuted new grates that are expected to aid flooding.

MTA says riders will have to wait for signs detailing the next arrival. DC’s Metro has had this for years and recently upgraded to more details.

The Long Island Rail Road is embroiled in a scandal where retired employees have been getting disability comp. Patterson is pissed. The feds raided the offices on Wednesday.

MTA voted to charge the city for E-Z Pass. This is much better than the bridge idea; MTA announced last week it wanted to charge emergency vehicles but promised not to disrupt emergencies.

MTA had contracts with Lehman and is now in negotiations with Barclays. Suddenly riders with no financial interests in Lehman see their futures totally screwed.

Summer Streets program will return next year. Hooray!

Take a Seat adds seating (folding chairs) to subway stations. Can the group add seating to bus stops, please?

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

a letter to fellow commuters

dear fellow commuters,
yes, i am wearing white socks with these shoes. i promise they come off in public, it's just that this bus is really cold. i probably wouldn't do this in Baltimore or New York (or Chicago?) but let's face it— the standards for good fashion outside the trendier neighborhoods in the district aren't high. and we're not in those neighborhoods this morning.

respectfully yours,

Tuesday, September 23, 2008


Subway Car Cake
Originally uploaded by dahliascakes
Happy Birthday to The Perils of Public Transportation, who turned a year old on September 4! (I thought it was later in the month than that!)

I'm not any closer to a transit-based print zine but it's been a fun ride so far (pun not intended).

For more information about this awesome cake, click the photograph.

Monday, September 22, 2008

Thanks, Google Reader!

The 42 is an Adams Morgan-centric blog written by Tim, covering the events, sights, and eats that can be reached riding Metrobus’s 42. I’m a new reader but I’m smitten already (all it took was his post about the Black Cat in his Behind the Bar series). I love that Tim’s reviews are clear on the location so riders can find the establishment and that he posts multiple photographs in each post.

Post occasionally diverge from the bus line to discuss city life in DC, which enhances the content of distracting from the purpose of the blog (unlike the occasional to frequent derailing here) and illuminates the ease of living a car free existence in the District. Tim writes informatively and conversationally, making me—a total stranger, I haven’t even commented yet!—feel like a peer. Like maybe we can meet during our lunch break for those vegan cupcakes everyone is crazy about (and then he could let me know if it meets his standards, because I’m mostly curious and not vegan*)

Check Out:

Reasons to Be Car Free in DC 9: Walkability

Reasons to Be Car Free in DC 8: The Real Pink Slip (okay, fine, it’s because I’m bitter about last week’s…drama)

Drinking on Metro

*And if you’ve noticed [the still unlaunched, because I still haven’t had time to fix the layout] Sweet Umbrellas, my standards for cupcakes and sweet goods are unusually high.

Weekly News


CTA Tattler has a great post about MSNBC’s discussion about etiquette. Growing up in DC I have ridiculously high standards for the other riders. (Maybe you’ve noticed?)


There will be a meeting tomorrow about routing the 16 (Metrobus).

Columbia Heights Metro Station was closed for a suspicious threat, which turned out to be a mannequin “dressed like a homeless person” with a bear’s [costume] head. Other models were placed throughout the city. DCist, who reported steadily to joy of my RSS Reader, and totally called it, said it was a Greenpeace/Mark Jenkins stunt.

DC passed a fine—from $50 to $250—and will add points to drivers who fail to yield to pedestrians and passed a fine (in the same bill) for drivers blocking bike lanes. Blocking the lane was already illegal but did not include a fine. The blocking fine is $65—councilmember Tommy Wells, responsible for introducing both amendments introduced the fine earlier but was asked to research fines before approval.

Purple Line petition! (You know, if you’re into that. No pressure.)

Greater Greater Washington reports that WMATA is trying to improve the 16th Street Bus. They have suggestions for improvement, too. (The blog also posted a list of upcoming DC transit events/meetings, check it out!)

Los Angeles

A bus and a train collided in the city, injuring 12 people.

Investigators are still trying to determine if texting was the cause of the train collision last week. It’s been confirmed that the brakes were not used and texts were received.


Baltimore Sun columnist Jean Marbella fantasizes about using the proposed transit to get around the county. Unfortunately, she’s holding on to pipe dreams I long ago abandoned. This transit is like fetch: IT’S NEVER GOING TO HAPPEN. One of my old offices had a calendar of the proposed routes. And it’s pre-2002. None of the plans came to fruition. To be fair to Marbella, City Paper awarded the green line with less vitriol than I did above.

City Paper had a slew of non-automotive awards for its annual Best of Baltimore issue.

Baltimore City Council approved a Circulator in exchange for higher parking taxes. The bus is free, and this is doubly awesome if you don’t drive and already use transit. Getting to Fells Point was always difficult for me and with this bus I could have taken the 8 from my front door (okay, half a mile, but it was the nearest stop) to City Hall and picked up the Circulator. It’s a ridiculously easy process.

New York

As mentioned on this blog Tuesday, it was proposed that MTA buy the Manhattan and Williamsburg bridges for $1 and propose tolls. In a stunning turn of asinine events, MTA wants to toll city departments for using its bridges and tunnels. MTA says it won’t stop emergency services but it only takes one stubborn employee to run afoul (I know I did similarly dumb things in my years of retail). Thankfully, both ideas are wildly unpopular.

The New York Times covers MTA's new line managers.

Things I Need to Write About Instead of Just Linking To…

DC’s on-going Purple Line saga

Baltimore’s on-going subway woes (this could just be my perspective) and its green line proposal

Sunday, September 21, 2008

Right Over the Edge

Scoring the appearance of female passerbys has been covered by Feministing and Hollaback NYC (I think) but I refer to tonight's Gothamist post which includes horrifying photographic evidence of an already disturbing event: fifteen men sit on a bench in New York City and hold numbered signs, judging the women they see, Olympic-style ("Olympic-Style Street Harrassment")

Something needs to be done to make this stop. It's not funny, it's harrassment, it's shallow, and it is gender-based. More importantly, it's intimidation. I wouldn't walk through Madison Square Park because I'd be afraid of confronting or trying to withstand the offensive men. It's not because I'm ugly or insecure, it's because I'm afraid that we'd exchange words. It would be hard to hide that I was uncomfortable, which would surely elicit commentary...which would make it all the more unbearable. Wow, so much for the workday, lunch meeting, coffee break, or event I was looking forward to, gentlemen, thanks.

I also want to note that three of the men are covering their faces and two of them look horribly embarrassed. They know what they are doing is stupid and wrong. You'd think, knowing that, the dummies would have knocked it off.
Tomorrow is a carless day in the District as part of Car Free Day. (Unrelated, transit is free in my hometown of Frederick, Maryland. Sadly this will not extend to all operations IN Frederick, like the commuter buses.)

So go nuts! Walk, bike, and ride your way around town.

Saturday, September 20, 2008

Nicole Gives Bikes, Party, Thumbs Up

Even as a kid I was excited to pass a bike locked up on the street. It said its owner was an adventurer, someone who pedaled from point to point with an aggressive fearlessness. As a pedaling speed demon myself, I could relate.

In my long on-going list of differences in Baltimore and DC's City Life I've noticed a significantly disparity in the way bikes are locked up. (Both cities have diehard cyclists; no city can outdo the other in aggression, persevereness, or strength. And judging either wouldn't be fair.)

In Baltimore, bikes are locked to any sturdy surface available. They are suspended carefully in the air. They are are secured to monuments and the former pillars of industry.

Yet in other cities (DC, Chicago, New York), they are secured to parking meters, bike racks, and the rails for stairways. Only conventional methods will do, and though they make the pedaling child inside a little giddy, it's only the suspended velocipedes that can make me giggle out loud. The bikes are locked in the more obscure places out of necessity, but it's the imagery I'm more concerned with here, and the like minded people who lock their devices with care before dashing off to the real fun.

The entryway (or exit, as was the case at the party) had bikes suspended from every available surface. They dangled at various areas like ornaments on Baltimore's industrial Christmas tree, a warm welcome and a fond farewell from the city's most exciting party. And, for me, it was, See you later! Don't forget how much charm you've found here.

Friday, September 19, 2008


Dear Metro,

You really let me down today. Wow. After this hard week—the failing economy, blundering government, and seemingly endless workweek*—you dealt a harsh blow. Simply put, Metro, you failed me.

My sister and her husband live across the street from your Takoma Park station on the red line. They live across the street from the station in a heavily populated area with little parking. I know because your parking lot denied my patronage this morning forcing me to circle the area, desperately looking for parking.


You claim that “All 42 stations offer daily or hourly parking…” You also note that “Thirty-five stations offer reserved parking, in which customers purchase permits to park in reserved spaces. “ I can see how this might lead to reservation-only parking at the Takoma Park station, but this is not a station with reserved parking and does in fact, offer public parking. Just not when I need it.


Apparently you are defining “daily parking” under very broad terms. Apparently daily parking at Takoma Park station begins at 10 a.m., and good luck to anyone who needs to go to work, school, or avail themselves of your transit services in the morning. Nevermind that overnight parking in Takoma ends at 7 a.m. Nevermind that every unmetered parking space is for “2A permit holders,” the luckier residence of the neighborhood. Your parking lot is full of meters, despite Metro’s long ago move to mandatory SmartTrip cards. You wisely offer two ZipCars and have cleanly separated the Kiss and Ride lot from the parking lot, but you are burdening the citizens by forcing hourly meters with inconvenient rules. Is it because the lot is full? Because I’ll be honest: if the lot had been full of commuters I wouldn’t have been upset. Instead the failure would have been mine.


So what do you want your riders to do? Because right now you’re alienating anyone who needs your services in Takoma before 8 a.m. Cheers! You hate commuters. And students. And anyone with a livelihood or needs before mid-morning. What’s with the hate? Where do you think we’ll go?


I’ll let you know where I went. I went around the block. And then I went into every side street I can find, even knowing that Takoma was built with these archaic parking meters. Even knowing that among these beautiful houses and independently owned businesses were capitalistic shadows lurking in the well manicured foliage. I circled the blocks for fifteen minutes before I decided that the sudden stopping, desperate U-turning, and hyperventilating was going to make me very late for work. Fifteen minutes may not seem like a lot—especially with your low bus rating and your frequent delays—but I’d like you to know there are a lot of repetitive driving paths that can be accomplished in fifteen minutes. I’d tell you how many times I circled but I want to ask you to get into your compact car at 7 a.m. on a week day and look for parking in Takoma. I want you to suffer, too. I will make it easy: I traveled every road and crossed every intersection before making a decision.


My decision is costly. I parked at the end of a street under a permit parking sign. You will find a copy of my inevitable parking ticket with the formal, polite, and mature letter next week. I know you won’t pay it, but I want you to know how my heart will sink when I retrieve my car after a long arduous work week. I hope the ultimate recipient of my letter has a son, daughter, brother, sister, wife, husband, or best friend who is in college, recently graduated, or struggling financially. I hope the ultimate recipient of my letter has worked hard to get through his or her career and understands the difficult burden of loans, burgeoning credit, and the looming fears of debt. Unless you or someone you know has had to work through difficult times you don’t understand that a seemingly insignificant parking ticket is another significant monetary payment. I have loans. I have bills. I have commuting fees. I thought taking the Metro from Takoma Park would save money but the fine on my ticket will surpass the money lost by driving to work and driving back.


I want to remind you that I’ve been your advocate for years. For 22 years, in fact. I’ve ridden every line, visited every stop, and encourage friends to avail themselves of your services. I’ve rallied on this blog for better funding, and I’ve told others that the better people in the city have been found in your stations. They are your security guards, your employees, and some of your passengers. But they are clearly not your developers of upper management. You need to fix this and you need to pay my parking ticket.  


I wish things between us could be better, Metro. I want to continue to love, admire, and respect you. But you’re making it hard.




Lifetime Rider.


*You noticed, right, Metro? Everyone, for their own individual reasons, seemed to have a hard week. I know you did. I bet your friends did, your just-out-of-college children, your husbands and wives. My compatriots have operated under the agreement that if we’re all a little more patient we can support each other. But you did not do that.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008


(I have to get out of the way because I occasionally contribute to City Paper, my apologies. I think I’d post this if I didn’t.)


City Paper’s yearly Best of Baltimore issue hit the streets today, and while looking for my transit-related contribution (Best Use of Taxpayer Funds::MTA Hybrid Plan), I saw that that the living section is full of transit-related rewards:


Best Public Transit Change, Actual:: Expanded MARC Train Service (I agree, despite knowing that an 11:45 p.m. train would never help me, since taking the train overnight was because I was at the Black Cat. But the improvements remain awesome!)

Best Public Transit Change, Proposed::Baltimore Metro Extension

Best Bus Line::The No. 11

Best Bus Out of The City::MVP Bus

Best Boon to MTA User-Friendliness::Online Trip Planner (See my exciting commentary here.)

Best Proposed Use of The Light Rail Tracks::Riffin's Railroad (I think Riffin is crazy. City Paper has been covering this issue and you can read more here.)

Best Place to Watch Government Workers Turn Into An Angry Mob::MARC Train

Best Car-Free Weekend Getaway::MARC Train to The Appalachian Train

Best Place to Bike::To Work


There’s also a story about Velocipede, which I’m happy to mention again: is a great way to get your hands on a bike for little (or none at all!) money. I have a habit of sending recently moved from bike-friendly cities friends there and [as far as I know] they’ve all been really happy.


In unrelated news, Columbia Heights Metro Station was closed yesterday morning as the result of “bearrorism.” DCist reported this yesterday, and I guess it’s bad that I thought two things: 1) Wow, that’s a suspicious package? This was followed by guilt for not taking things seriously. 2) This would be so much cooler if it wasn’t a stunt but a photography series instead (like this and Nicole Oidick’s work*). The Washington Post reports that the objects were mannequins (I thought it was people…also so much cooler!) and provides details about the Metro incidents. I would have saved this until Monday but I can’t. Someone weigh in. What do you think?



*I am going to make Nicole let me show a photo to compare bear vs. scary Laundromat mask.

Edited to add: DCist reported during my lunch that it's a Greenpeace stunt with the assistance of artist Mark Jenkins. This is somewhat unsurprising. I maintain my photography-snob opinion and promise and comparison (Nicole is going to send me one of her photos). Since it's losing it's transit-based appeal I'll post it on Winsome Icarus with a link in a news post the following Monday.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

As a Follow Up to Negative Nancy...

Here’s Positive Polly!

Baltimore City Council voted to bring a Circulator to town! (This would have been great when I was living there, but I’ll take it!)

The bus has three proposed routes in well-traveled areas: one near Johns Hopkins, one near Charles Street (South Baltimore and Penn Station), and one running “East-West” from the B&O Rail museum at the west end to Aliceanna St. in Fells point on the West end (or, excuse me, City Hall to Harbor East).

It gets better though! It’s going to be free! That’s the compensation—reason, really—for raising parking taxes (Biz Journal covered this in May) which, I think we can agree, is already astronomical. I’m not going to let that change my joy. I already know how to find a park and ride (easy parking article, to come). Whatever, yahoo!



Hey, Baltimoreans reading: I’m supposed to table for an organization at the Fells Point Festival. Any parking tips? It’s going to be crazy trying to park in the neighborhood (and it’s already congested on a good day) and I’m hoping to avoid the Little Italy parking deck.


Sounds Like a Very Bad Idea to Me

Former Transportation Commisioner Louis Riccio thinks the New York City should sell its Manhattan and Williamsburg bridges to MTA for $1 each and let MTA reap the financial benefits, The NY Daily News reports. Riccio opened his big stupid idea at a hearing of the state Commission on MTA Financing. (The committee, formed by governor Patterson will release a report in December on the best way to survive the dwindling dollars.) Riccio thinks that the bridges, now free (which is rare in New York), should impose a fee.


Yes, he’s right, it would bring in millions of dollars. And, in theory, could prevent another fare hike. But really? This sounds like a horrible plan. Of course, the rest of the committee felt the same way.

Monday, September 15, 2008

Empty Gas Station

In a surprising turn of events, Sheetz is out of gas. Poof! Saturday night the prices came down and as I left for work to carpool this morning my mom asked how much I had and I said, "I'll get gas on 40."

While checking the headlines for work I haven't noticed a gasless epidemic state-wide but it makes me think heavily—more than before, if that's possible—about our general dependency on getting around in a car.

Transit vehicles need gas to run too, but so much less is used than an automobile. The only problem here is that this gas station is across the street from my house in a very rural community with unreliable transit opportunities to get into town. I think it would take almost four hours to get to work if I walked to the transit stop in my neighborhood.

Then, in slightly related news, the price has been steadily dropping through the day as the market continues to crash, to $94 per barrel.

Weekly News...


CTA is going to eliminate 80 jobs to save the budget. I know it saves a lot of money—$40 million—but that’s a lot of people without a job in a tough economy. Booo! (Here’s more from CTA Tattler)

Mimi Smartypants has grievances with Loyola students and irritating commuters. A highlight:

    Many times I have been trapped on the inside seat on a nearly empty bus or train with a stranger squished up next to my thigh. I can sort of see not moving if you are getting off very shortly, or have a ton of bags and other crap, but I have ridden for blocks and blocks all cozy with my unwanted seatmate even though he/she clearly had other options. Why are strangers so reluctant to leave my side and sit on their own? Do I have a comforting maternal presence? Do I smell nice?

CTA Tattler reports that the Red Line slow zone project is finished. A month early! High five, CTA.


The intercounty connector is expensive. (I’m linking highway news because I think it could, in theory, be beneficial to commuter buses in the future.)

DC’s transit is finally, after thirty years’ of 25% performance records, meeting a 73% rating. So now you have a passing level of expectation (a C, but not a C+) of getting your bus on time.

Metro wants artists for a project with Farragut West. Applications are due October 3. The project will “revitalize” the corridor.

More motorcycles are parking at Park and Ride. Because it’s free.

Transit saves money! We knew that, right? DC is ranked eighth.

Reminder in Hurricane Season (we have more to come): if necessary, Metro will shut down. Be cognizant in the storm and make a back up plan.

Metro has a startling crime record.

New Metro Board Member is Deputy Mayor. Hmm.

Metrobus accident on Wednesday.

Councilmember (Ward 1) Jim Graham wants to extend the circulator to Adams Morgan (via DCist by way of Greater Greater Washington), which is just barely (and inconveniently) served by a Metro. (Definitely not close enough if you’re hanging out in Adams Morgan and anyone by my sister, a former New Yorker.) DCist writes:

    Check out Ward 1 Council member Jim Graham's proposal for how to bring the Circulator north into Adams Morgan. Graham was instrumental in getting the Yellow line extension to Fort Totten up and running, so his idea is as good an indicator of how it could actually end up working as any.

I’m sooo for this, I’d love to see this happen.


MARC has scheduling issues.

Frederick will spend $800,000 on a bike project. It will connect downtown through a series of paths off road. This is where I live and I’m not sure how I feel about it. I like the idea that it’s a “peace of mind” but I think it will just add the disparity between drivers and cyclists, especially to on-road cyclists using road that isn’t covered by the paths.

New York

The Amtrak station in Queens is a hangout for ruthless teenage thugs hellbent on ruining the lives of neighbors through rock throwing. Cars have been obliterated and the people have had it. Getting near wires strikes fear in my heart. Isn’t this activity dangerously close to electricity? Bzzzt zap.

MTA tried out its double decker bus this week: (The trial run is scheduled for thirty days, reports City Room, emphasis mine.)

    Beginning on Thursday, the 13-foot-tall, 45-foot-long, 81-seat bus will alternate service on local and express bus routes: BxM3 from Yonkers to Manhattan, the X17J between Staten Island and Manhattan, the M15 limited on First and Second Avenues, and possibly the M5 along Fifth Avenue (if the tree pruning along the bus lane goes well).

MTA said that they will interview riders and drivers to determine the success. The buses will seat 83 when the onboard restroom is removed (are these rehabbed commuter buses?) and because the bus is low to the ground, allegedly does not require a wheelchair lift. (I’m going to need to see that in action to believe it.)

The bus is on loan from a Belgian manufacturer Van Hool. I look forward to looking into Van Hool in a few days. Everyone involved hopes the double deckers will work out. With the unease for double deckers in DC, I can’t decide if I’m excited (83 seats!) or wary (tippage!)

Bloomberg thinks the WTC transit hub is taking too much away from the development of the 9/11 memorial. CityRoom comments here.

Friday, September 12, 2008

More About...Bikes

The Washington Post’s John Kelly’s Washington published an update (required log-in) about the ugly bike incident at Union Station.

First, Metro says that bikes are only removed when they’ve been there too long. The bikes are tagged—think cars in two hour parking—and removed after ten days. I’m assuming there’s some sort of policy in place that allows a bike that is parked every day in the same general area not to get hauled away. (Parking Too Close is a general paranoia I have when I park in Baltimore.)

Kelly says that Metro is going to have a “two-level kiosk” next year capable of holding 150 bikes and this should alleviate the problem. Kelly also writes that the much debated (and much loathed) intercounty connector will include bike paths, which he says, developers call “bad for the environment.”

…Kelly and I are both perplexed. What emissions does a bicycle produce? How is a path bad for Earth? I’m lost on this one. The only problem with it is that, from my point of view, cyclists and motorists are in a constant battle for the road, even with a bike path. The intercounty connector on the other hand, doesn’t exactly help the environment either, so I’m feel a little…lost.


I’m excited for the prospect of cyclists included in the project though, and remain hopeful that the dreaded connector will bring more positive attributes to all who participate. Here’s Kelly’s take:


Let's see: There's too much traffic. There's too much pollution. There's too much fat. It seems to me that every new road that's built around here -- and plenty of old ones -- should include dedicated bike lanes.

Of course, riding a bike in our area can get you killed. Car plus bike often equals disaster. If you'll excuse an Oxonian memory, I never felt nervous cycling in Oxford, even when I was pedaling on a narrow, rain-slicked road with a double-decker bus looming inches from my right elbow.

The reason I didn't feel nervous is because I knew the bus driver had been in my shoes before, maybe when he was a kid, maybe on his commute to work that very morning. When you've ridden a bike regularly, you look out for bikes.

That's not the case here. We've severed our relationship with these sublime machines. Making it easier to cycle -- by building bike lanes and bike paths -- will help us reestablish it.



Wednesday, September 10, 2008


At first I considered this morning's commute a failure. But seven hours and fifteen minutes later I realized it's a victory. Because I've been using this route since August 5—admittedly not five days a week since joining a carpool and buying my own automobile two weeks ago—and only had a problem today. By problem I mean a catastrophic, arriving-to-work-late problem, as opposed to having people fall asleep on me (all-the-time problem), being chased from the bus stop (so far so good), or just-missing-the-bus-home (almost, but not yet).

I maintain my promise to explore my commute in depth, but in short and for the purposes of this post, I leave my home at 7 p.m. in my car, drive approximately five miles to the commuter parking lot, board the 7:40 bus, and ride to a second commuter lot before the bus reaches the destination in Shady Grove. From Shady Grove's Metro Station I board the 43 and get off in front of my building. In all it takes approximately two hours to get there. (It takes one if I drive but saves the money.)

This morning the bus slowed to a complete stop several exits before the one it takes to get to the Metro station. We were stopped so long that I jarred from my morning nap (a perk in the commute!) and thought, "OH NO WE'RE AT MY STOP I BETTER GET OFF BEFORE IT LEAVES!" The bus wheezed from there, lumbering forward occasionally before stopping again, and the lack of movement forward caused several passengers to cry out, "NOOOOOOOO." Cries of agony are a sign you're in for a long and disatisfied journey and done napping.

Naturally, I arrived to my stop late. The bus wheezed past my next stop. A stop with a bus. The stop was full of people who looked impatient and as I whizzed past commuters to the bus I found...it wasn't my bus. Oh. Well. I'd better go inside Metro and withdraw money for my commute home.
...And of course, exiting Metro I was just missing my bus. But I caught it! See what an improvement is over the past? In the past I would have run after the bus and fallen into a rain puddle. Instead I ran after the bus and it stopped.

I had to make a stop after that. I knew it was daring given that i was late, but I saw that I was already late. I had planned for the extra time I'm given (sometimes arriving to work twenty minutes early!) and decided I could stop for breakfast-to-go. So I did! And waited forever for the next bus.

It was the next bus where I learned all the dirty. In the past I wouldn't have learned anything! On the bus I learned that a man was in traffic, where there was a four-car pile-up! So he missed his 43 connection! And the driver said the accident has affected the route! Darn you, 270!

Ultimately many of my co-workers were late too. (And from there I spilled oatmeal on my shirt and suffered various mishaps.) We sat begrudgingly through an all-company seminar, bonded in our crankiness derived from traffic woes.

So it could have been worse...right?

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Plus One Gold Star

The Washington Post reports that after thirty years, DC’s transit has moved from its 30-year marathon of meeting timeliness expectations 25% of the time to a whopping C-level 73%. Some of the worst routes are late 50 percent of the time. As someone who is late to everything—always on time but always rushing to work and class—even I think this is kind of lame, if only because it’s lasted for three decades. But…is a Baltimore bus ever that on time? When is a Light Rail car on time to its station. Remember that time it took me an hour to get from Mount Vernon to Camden Yards? I could have walked but stupidly, in the heat, I thought it might be faster than huffing and puffing after hours of partying. Or that time a tree fell on the tracks and I was almost two hours late to work? Metrobus says that it’s on track with every city. Watching the buses in Chicago on vacation and comparing schedules, discussing the intense emotional pain of “just missing” the thirty minute late train (or ten minutes early—is your glass half full or half empty?) from Brooklyn to Manhattan in the morning rush just confirms that transit service nationwide is reliable. This sucks.

DCist puts it this way:

But let's be honest: for a service that close to 450,000 people depend on daily, not being able to stick within a 9 minute window for more than one out of every four trips is utterly abysmal. We haven't even gotten to the worst of it: some routes, like the U5 and the Y5, are Metro's version of Russian roulette - you've got close to a coin flip's chance of having your bus arrive anywhere close to on time.

If we’re going to flip a coin for our bus shouldn’t we be in a city that encourages fate based on the face of currency? Why don’t we just move to Gotham then? (Did you like how Batman Begins covered transit? I did. Just as clean as a rail car, too!)

I agree that it’s an abysmal record but I wonder if the standards are too high. I relied on Baltimore’s easiest (excluding unforeseen crime scenes on the route) and most popular bus lines to get around the city and I still had to plan ninety minutes in my trip. By car my trip usually took less than five minutes or no more than fifteen, presuming I hit all of the lights. Or maybe my expectations in DC are appallingly low, having been left stranded in all weather (and denied a bus bridge in an ice storm) at all times of day. Maybe I should expect better things of city transits?

But as soon as I do that my connection at Shady Grove will stop running with its precise accuracy, in a rainstorm, and I’ll get to work two hours late with the beginnings of pneumonia. Which can only lead to one thing, you know: The Drink.

Monday, September 8, 2008

Revealing More of my Own Stupidity, or, We Already Knew We Were Getting Screwed

Sudoku hit its pinnacle of student fervency just as I entered my introduction to education-based apathy. As such, I should have fallen into the crowd and joined the craze for numbers-based insanity, but as it stands, I’m not fond of math unless it’s a sizeable direct deposit into my checking account. In fact, that’s the only math I take seriously: my money. I care about the adding and subtracting from my financial funds but not much more. I checked the 401(k) deposit on my last pay stub (it was my first paycheck that included the contribution) and tried to find the amount per year I was getting and after trying to decide how much I’d have at thirty made me nauseous and woozy, I decided I’d rather not know so much. Sorry, Mom, I didn’t want you to find out this way, that when it comes to my financial future I’m apathetic when it involves a calculator. My ignorance starts just after I calculate how much I’m really paying for my car and student loans. And when I’ve multiplied and subtracted the initial total, I vow never to remember the Real Price because, other than whiskey, it’s the most efficient coping mechanism. So, barring necessary mathematics, I think I’m making a point here: I am not keen on math, and therefore, did not catch the Sudoku fever.

Instead I caught the Crossword fever. As a woman of words, I found I really enjoyed folding my newspaper just so during a particuarly boring film editing class and going at it. Thirtheenth President? Fillmore. Seattle genre? Grunge. I picked up the habit again at home as an excuse to watch reality-based programming after work. No, it’s okay to watch this trash, I argue with myself, because I am working my brain in other areas. (To be fair, those are nights I don’t pick up Legend of Zelda on the DS and curse my way through Molida Island.) I’m usually pretty okay, and having resigned that I won’t finish a whole puzzle—because I don’t really want to—I am prone to write in a wrong answer that fits for my own entertainment.

Still, I was stumped at this weekend’s 41 Across: Name the Secretary of Transportation. Jesus, who can name the Secretary of Transportation? I called out in vain.

Apparently my mother can, because she spit out several name, runing my whine fest. Well I bet no one else can (and blogging this will prove me wrong)! And I bet they didn’t do anything!

Oh, they did. Well, then. They set the speed limit of highways to 65 mph. (Thanks! Now I can get to work on time!) The department has also been very involved in railroads, which is all I recognize from high school history.

More importantly, they’re related (or as I think, “in charge”) of the FTA, who is “in charge” of the Urban Mass Transit Acts (this article from the feds shows in interesting history). They decide, after having started the debate and great question, who funds public transit and how much responsibility falls on the state (if any at all). At this point I think it’s clear that little federal funding is trickled into the system as many cities have been struggling for funds long before the economy took a nosedive. They also control how much federal funding goes to the highway, which has long been an appalling disbalance compared to transit. (50/50 versus 80/20! We’re getting screwed!)

And though we have much pain at the hands of these groups, we wouldn’t have FTA without Kennedy. Because he was assassinated, I always felt like the projects he began have largely been attributed to (blamed) his successor. Oh, sorry you’re dead, sir, but what did you do other than start some stuff and have some involvement in some major global crises? Oh, you demanded for the installation of FTA? Okay, well, thanks! (Johnson “signed it into law.”) So because we have it, some money is legally required to aid city transit. Rising fares and dwindling resources are making it seem paltry but I think we’d be lost without it.

Lately it seems the work from the feds seems to be all about terrorism first and highways second, but maybe as the people move to public transit the cities’ demands for funding will be answered. Or maybe we’re not writing enough letters. Now that we (or maybe just me, maybe you knew!) know who the Secretary of Transportation is, Mary Peters, we’ll get more done. And if a new president bring in a new face we’ll request it from him or her as well. Peters is a personal fan of tolls and highways (and without knowing her I knew that) so there probably isn’t much we can do between now and November but it can’t hurt to start, can it?

*If you followed that link, I’ll clear a few things:

1) I really did drink the whiskey during the debates. There’s no way for an educated woman to withstand the stupidity and lies propogated for a full week. In fact, merely thinking about the whiskey-based tincture calms the anxiety post-RNC from headlines like, “NEW WAVE OF FEMINISM” and “PALIN’S FEMNISM.” I’m sorry, what? Palin’s just fine with making 73% of what her predecssor made. It was three straight-nights of high class alcohol dependency. I thought going to the gym would make it better—the running tactic did in college—but all eight screens were that damn woman’s smiling face and long, pointy finger and I couldn’t take it. This week I’m going to chocolate milk and saving the whiskey for the end of the week when these publishing deadlines make their move to destroy me.

2) I think the ladies met wine in a box without me, and though I’m honored to take the credit (even if I’ve never actually had wine in a box!), I introduced them to champagne in a can. It wasn’t big hit. Despite the previous statement, I did try to make a pinhole camera out of a Franzia box. (It did not work.) Maybe their reluctance to bubbly in a can points not to my bad taste but their refusal to embrace California’s industry? I can get behind that rebellion because I feel the same way. Down with the wine valley!

3) I usually allude to my whiskey-based coping mechanisms instead of actually relying on coping methods. I talk about drinking far more than I drink, and because I am a poser, there is, good reason, to doubt my claims. Especially if you met my mother, a mild mannered, no-nonsense yet fun-loving midwesterner.

Sunday, September 7, 2008

Weekly New Post


A man and a woman died in a double suicide Sunday night on the CSX tracks.


CTA is (and slash already did) rerouting the Loop, working to eliminate slow zones, and working on as much construction as possible. Cars on the el are overcrowded and the CTA reports a 9.5% increase in ridership in August (MARTA and MBTA also have gains).


A body was found on the Marc tracks at Union Station on Wednesday morning.

DCist proves it’s probably more on top of transit that I am with a really long article about Metro cars.


Subway to the Sea “may become a reality” now that the city’s MTA is heavily investigating routes. I looked for jobs in Los Angeles during the great Job Hunt of ’08 and the one significant downside was the unreliability of the transit system (my goodness, the sprawl!). If this became a reality I would consider it a huge selling point for the city. Of course, there’s no budget, and this hasn’t been approved, but if the plan MTA is working on for success goes well, maybe it has a better shot.


“Freeloading” passengers who don’t pay busfare upon entrance are targeted in a city-wide “crackdown.” I’ve always been astonished at the courage it takes to not pay and the cowardice that fuels it. Estimates count 130,000 riders per week steal rides without swiping or paying in cash and change. The B46 in Brooklyn reports 4,000 scumbags don’t pay a week.

New hybrid buses! When the fleet is complete it will have the largest hybrid fleet in the world with 1,700 buses. Completion is expected in 2010, around the same time Baltimore expects to complete its hybrid transformation.

Windpower is somehow factoring into MTA’s power.

Long Island Rail will have cable and Wi-Fi.


Unsurprisingly, Wasilla, Alaska has no transit. Let’s not forget, it’s the 47th most populated, and if Palin is an indication of the extracurricular activities, a deer carcass can’t be hauled on a subway car. Or strapped to the roof of a bus.