Sunday, November 30, 2008

This is why MTA sucks

Today The Baltimore Sun asks: " If a bus stop is missing its sign, should the driver still stop?"

Allow me to answer: YES.

Doesn't the drive know the route? If people are standing there, on your route, and you stopped there yesterday, shouldn't you still stop? And if you're confused that the stop has been removed, shouldn't you contact your supervisor and find out if the stop is there or not?

From there it should be MTA's priority to investigate the matter, and in finding the sign is missing, replace the sign.

It shouldn't take long to get the message through the chain of command to someone to go to the site and investigate, and from there, replace the sign. I'd allow a week at most.

Seriously, MTA. This is why I'm always annoyed with you. You're always letting us down, leaving us in the cold.

MTA says that it has tried to replace the sign and that some driver's are confused. Send a clear memo to all drivers that there IS a stop and do what it takes--more than a pole--to secure a clear sign.

Saturday, November 22, 2008

From the top of my twitter, Northern Light Rail service will resume. (Also, Ashlee Simpson had her baby!) I think I would have missed it otherwise as I've been behind with the news. Here's to service!

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Chris Core follow-up

Last week I wrote about Chris Core, WTOP bastion of Value, and his nasty comments about bikers. I included the letter I sent him (to which he has, naturally, not responded).


The WashCycle details Core’s follow-up, where the nasty man sits atop his throne of entitlement to poo poo cyclists some more. Core also promises an entire show devoted to being a dirtbag to cyclists. Core even calls receiving angry hate mail "taking one for the team," which is disturbing. First, the letters don’t seem hateful. I’ve received worse from rational people. Second, being a blowhard is hardly "taking one for the team." But a professional bloviate is generally blinded by his or her own arrogance.


I guess this means that Core is uninterested in motor vehicle safety and isn’t taking into account that the roads are for everyone (because the sidewalks are for pedestrians).

Seriously, though, if we all got along we’d all be much happier. Why can’t we work toward this in everything we do?


 


In unrelated new, my friend recently got a bike. She’s excited, except we’ve finally been hit by cold weather, and to my relief, she said she can’t really enjoy her bike until it’s warm again. Success! I’m not the only one in the area unable to pedal the streets in the face of arctic weather. Oh, look, there’s a Polar Bear! All she needs now, she said, is a helmet, a crate, and a basket. Yes, totally. And a warm scarf for when you feel braver than me.

Monday, November 17, 2008

Still More on Wet Leaf Season

Track 29 has a great post about the problems plaguing the Light Rail, and an update and unaffiliated map.

I think MTA should consider adopting the above map, especially considering that MTA's webpage lists the Light Rail has having ABSOLUTELY NO SERVICE DISRUPTIONS.

[Edited to add that at 3:30 p.m., when I looked up the MARC schedule, the page had been appropriately updated.]

D.C. Transportation Examiner: MTA bungles its MARC hearings

D.C. Transportation Examiner: MTA bungles its MARC hearings

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Wet Leaves Continue to Ruin Everyone's Lives

In an official statement, MTA has asked Light Rail riders to tack on an additional 30 to 45 minutes to the commute for the delays while wheels are repaired.

If the extra thirty minutes puts you outside the bus stop at a new time, check your bus schedule to make sure you aren't waiting in the cold during a lull. Some lines have gaps in their arrival time (even buses that run every ten minutes).

Everything north of North Avenue has been replaced by shuttle buses (or bridges). The trains will run as single cars (bikers may want to be especially aware of crowding) and trains will run from Penn to Camden. From The Baltimore Sun:
MTA has been unable to put enough trains in service because of heightened awareness of the wheel problems, a situation made worse by rails that are slick from falling leaves. Employees are working on interim and permanent solutions to the problem, but shuttle bus service will continue indefinitely until repairs can be made, said spokeswoman Jawauna Greene.
Indefinitely. Yikes!

Friday, November 14, 2008

And now for something a little positive

NYC the Blog has photos of the next MTA (New York) ads, via Gothamist. I really dig the first photo of the plotted points. I am salivating over the white, green, and black on the side of the car and am heavily leaning toward, "THIS IS ART IN ADVERTISING."

I know, I know, it's just a map, but isn't it beautiful?

...Especially compared to the blue MAPS.GOOGLE.COM train and the yellow AOL Instant Messenger people-like train (WTF). My opposition to the blue car is in spite of my love for clean design and the Helvetica typeface.

(Still, anything is better than faced with a giant wraparound add of Ray Lewis drinking Vitamin Water. If anything makes my blood boil, it's remembering those bus ads in Baltimore.)

Of topics I think this one is probably the best for riders. It boldly reminds them that they can plot the route from a computer, which saves time and stress. Looking at you, WMATA, to get on the bandwagon.

Chris Core, cyclist enemy?

Sigh. Via The Wash Cycle, Chris Core is a jerk. Commenting for WTOP, he spewed the haterade, dismissing cyclists for going to slow, following the law, breakin' it, and gettin' in his way. I wonder what kind of vehicle he drives. I think I have a pretty good idea.

Since moving out of Baltimore there's been far less of an opportunity to ride my bike in a city environment. Or a street that isn't lined with cows. Still, I have strong feelings about sharing the road, so I sent him a letter through the WTOP website. It's not any more educational than the linked post above, but I believe it takes more than one dissident voice to get the point across. My letter is pasted below:

Dear Mr. Core,
I am very disappointed with your recent comments on cyclists. I myself rely more on my car than I do on public transit or a bicycle, though it is to my great dismay, yet compelled to contact you regarding your seemingly one-sided argument against cyclists.

Quite frankly, your archaic arguments hold no water. The size of the transportation should not matter on the road. A motorcycle is also small, yet I am sure it has the same respect as an automobile for you, correct?

I have recently moved back to the DC area from another city, where cyclists share the road with large SUVs. The cyclists there put me to shame, zooming through the streets at speeds much faster than 15/mph. I doubt every rider on the road is truly moving that slowly. I myself live too far from a destination to bike, but I admit I would be hesitant to drive the road, as I do not want to be hit by a speeding vehicle with a driver such as yourself. But what if I was able to and did join the traffic? A bicycle is required to ride in traffic where there is not a bike lane and cyclists are subject to the same laws as a motorist. A road has a limit for its maximum speed but the roads you are referring to do not have a minimum.

I worry about how you pass cyclists. Do you speed past them so that the force of the wind threatens to topple the cyclists? If a gust of power generated by a 5,000 lb vehicle threatened to harm you, wouldn’t you also be a little upset? I know that I would.

Finally, as you drive, I beg that you be mindful of the right hook. Because you don’t seem particularly concerned with the safety of cyclists, I urge you to research the dangers, so a person on a bike is not injured. You may or not be aware that several cyclists have died this year in DC over traffic incidents that could have easily been avoided.

Thank you for reading this. I hope you will be more open minded in the future. Respect to others will help make our roads safe.

Sincerely,
Katherine M. Hill

Weekly News

Maybe we should all just agree to recognize that the news posts are on Friday. Because I didn't meant to set a precedent, but I clearly did. Do you mind?

Chicago

Someone fell on the tracks last weekend and was rescued || Police are using CTA video for clues in an Englewood murder. It's a shame the video in Baltimore never works, or police could try that, too. || About CTA job cuts || Bikes without handlebars makes me very very sad. And confused. || Jennifer is mad at this guy. I would like to yell at him, too, because, uh, really? No one is supposed to be as wimpy as I am in the weather. Really, you think people don't bike in the winter? I mean...seriously? || CTA will raise fares 15% but not cut service. Paying more sucks, but cutting service would be worse, and the more I look at various cities suffering the burden of absolutely no funds to more I secretly support fare increase. I won't enjoy it, of course.

DC

SmartTrip upgrade schedule || Parking drama in Columbia Heights || Bike friendly 15th Street? || Traveling from Dr. Gridlock || VA has trucks to pre-heat roads, DC has more plows, and drivers are getting training. Since unplowed roads mean you still have to come to work, it's good to know the roads are clear for cars and buses. Now let's clear the rails! Let's treat them. || DC is consdiering an upgrade to its bike parking. Are there laws on how to park one's bike? And why am I so concerned about it? || Metro's worst bus lines || Barack may (or did or did not at time of this writing) sign bill forking millions to bridges and roads. Um, really? What about...you know...cities? || Congress wants bailout for cars. Sigh. Yglesias points out that maybe if it was energy efficient... || Inauguration Poll from Track 29 ||

DC Transit Examiner:Living in ease || Transit anticipation || Make appropriate plans—various services reduced or not running || Virginia and DC prepared for inclement weather while I refuse to accept the wintry season || Weekend plans may need re-routing ||

Maryland

MTA's Thursday meeting totally blew, and made me kind of really mad. ||

New York

HarperCollins is providing bike parking || Pedestrian friendly Park Slope || MTA effed up West Side project by dealing with Goldman Sachs || How the collapse of international banks also hurts MTA. I'm not being fair here, to be honest. In some ways no one could have known that it would all come crashing down on us last month. And if you can get the money from someone it's better than no money at all. || Bike friendly zoning || Bridge tolls still totally unpopular || UPS and parking enforce don't know how to park (and I just finished listening to This American Life when I read this article) || Even more about how poor MTA is || A man was hit and killed by a LIRR train || Bike thief arrested and convicted. ||

So...I have a friend, with a fire escape, who left her bike unchained over the summer thinking that because it was "above ground" he bike was safe. DO. NOT. DO. THIS. Of course her neighbors stole it. Of course they could, because it was unlocked. Lock your bikes, dummies. Also, please lock your windows Baltimoreans, and raise your escapes (if you can). This seems like a no brainer to me anyway, but I can see how people might not be "paranoid" like I am.

FUN STORY: I was alone over winter break my first full winter in Baltimore and woke up every night one week in a panic because people were on my deck, at my door, or talking in front of my window. Nothing like waking up to long shadows cast on your walls. I lived in Party Central, and it was just lost (drunk) Towson students, but frightening none the less. (Or maybe I read too much news.)

North Carolina

Bike survey! Fill it out!

Thursday, November 13, 2008

D.C. Transportation Examiner: Weekend plans may need re-routing

D.C. Transportation Examiner: Weekend plans may need re-routing

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Wet Leaves Ruin MTA's Life

WOW. That weather. Can we all agree now that November is just the worst month for weather in Maryland? Worse in terms of rain. It just rains and rains and rains, but no one wants to say Maryland has a rainy season. We do. It's just not as long (or green!) as Oregon. Sigh.

The rain continues to plague Baltimore's transit system, and MTA is going to hold an emergency meeting. From The Baltimore Sun:
More information will be available soon, because MTA officials plan to hold an "urgent" meeting this morning to address the problem, said Jawauna Greene, an MTA spokeswoman.

The administration had announced Monday that delays and service disruptions would occur this week, with shuttle buses and one-car trains in use while personnel make necessary repairs.
The article goes on to say that the passengers are waiting forever. I wonder how early one has to leave to get to work this week. I guess if I were riding I'd account for an extra hour? I usually allowed 90 minutes to get to work, for a 30 minute ride (and 15 minute drive at most).

I feel bad for MTA, who is suddenly (and strangely) under scrutiny this month. I wrote in my Examiner blog this week about road treatments in DC and Virginia. I wonder if the rails could be treated for slick leaves and snow? (Short of a boulder fence, there's no way to prevent a downed tree, right?)

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Be good to your driver

The worst thing in the world happened when my bus pulled into the lot this evening. I ran to my next bus to find myself at the end of a very long line...and watched as the bus pulled away because it was too full. This was my biggest fear when I committed myself to this commute, and at the time, I had too much experience with missing buses and no car. When I started my new commute I filled a back pack with clothes in case I missed the last bus, or the bus never came, so I could crash at my sister's. (It's still there, thanks older sister!)

I got a bus, and I was among the many grouchy riders that boarded, but I was not the belligerent crankypants inciting an uprising when our warm bus putt-puttered to the side of 270. When the bus stop, we groaned, and the driver explained, "Didn't you see how fast we were going?! The transmission stopped." Then we re-started and puttered home.

But not before severe abuse from the crankypants. "THIS IS RIDICULOUS," one man shouted, "THIS IS THE THIRD TIME THIS HAS HAPPENED TO ME!" He then argued with the bus driver. Finally the driver said, "Report it to MTA," to which the man said, "YOU REPORT IT!"

And the poor bus driver explained that he does, and buses break down, and that the riders should speak up, too. He added that we all have cell phones, use them.
The man spent the ride complaining, to no one in particular, about how awful MTA is. I hope he blogs.

If the man rides regularly he may ride 10 times a week, at 40 times a month, at 480 times a year. Three out of 480 is pretty good considering an MTA bus in Baltimore may break down more frequently.

I agree that it's a huge inconvenience. But it's not the bus driver's fault! Give the driver a break.

Awww, how sweet!

Today's fake New York Times (via), dated July 4, 2009 ("All the news we hope to print") includes the story "New York Bike Path Expanded Dramatically". The subhed reads "Miles of Segregated Bicycle Lanes Will Be Paved By 2010."

Awwwww
, thanks you guys:

Over the next two years, every other avenue will also receive a full bike lane, blocked off from traffic, while every fifth crosstown street will be opened exclusively to bicyclists and pedestrians beginning next month.

Mark Blair, a transit worker from Queens, was busy re-timing traffic lights for bicycle speed. “Riding your bike up or down the avenue, the traffic lights are going to change in sync,” explained Blair. “You ride 10-15 miles per hour, and you’ll be hitting all greens.” ...

Bloomberg recently visited Paris to examine its popular public bicycle rental program. Although he initially expressed doubts as to whether it could work, public pressure has helped convince him it can, and national legislation sealed the deal. (For more on the new transportation initiatives, also see “Crumbling Infrastructure Brings Opportunities” )

Man, I'd never reach a green light. It's too bad Bloomberg is in this version of the future.

The papers were handed out at subway stations. City Room says to hold onto it because it's a collector's item. Anyone get a copy? I know a lot of you wouldn't pass a free NYT shoved in your face.

Other headlines include IRAQ WAR ENDS and U.S. PATRIOT ACT REPEALED. (Obama, take the hint!) ...So, that's their future. What's yours?

UPDATE via Gothamist, the paper include NYT journalists (awesome!) and may have cost up for $250k, though the pranksters report that it was $100k. CODEPINK, Anti-Advertising Agency, United for Peace and Justice, Improv Everywhere, Evil Twin, Not An Alternative, and Cultures of Resistance and other also ran the project.

D.C. Transportation Examiner: Virginia and DC prepared for inclement weather while I refuse to accept the wintry season

D.C. Transportation Examiner: Virginia and DC prepared for inclement weather while I refuse to accept the wintry season

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Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Wet Leaves Will Ruin Your Life

Remember that time a tree fell on the tracks and I had to take a $50+ cab to work? Or that time the train got as far as Mount Washington, and midway to the next stop decided to go backwards because there was too much ice on the rail, and so MTA promised a bus bridge, but after almost an hour in the cold (and MTA wouldn’t let us sit inside the heated train!) I called a $40 cab? Or that time it was just too foggy/rainy/cold/windy/pretty outside? Employers, do you remember those frantic e-mails you sent on those mornings? Katherine, you are coming in today, right? And more than once, Hi Katherine? Are you feeling well? We hope everything is okay. Which is definitely worth awwwwing over, as it shows that I had a habit of showing up on time. And they were worried! That says good things about them and me!

Apparently the Katherines left in Baltimore were screwed yesterday as MTA reported that wet leaves caused “major disruptions” for my beloved Light Rail. There were also wheel problems, and The Baltimore Sun notes that a cracked wheel (singular) caused major disruptions last spring. I can't point to which day that was because so many mornings included major disruptions. The wheels slide against the leaves (MTA is calling it "wet rail season" but doesn't include that wet rail season lasts through June) and break the leaves. Expect delays forever because The Baltimore Sun writes:

The transit agency said it expects this round of disruptions, including crowding and late trains, to last for about a week.

While the problem persists, northbound rail service will terminate at Timonium. Shuttle buses will serve the stations between there and Hunt Valley. Service between Mount Royal and Penn Station will also be suspended.

Don't worry guys! I can fix this! Don't get on the Light Rail until North Avenue. If you are coming from north of the stop, find a bus. I think the 8 passes by this area at some point, but the routes have changed since I moved, so call MTA (410) 539-5000 for directions from you area or use the MTA Google Maps. (The operators are very nice as long as you are nice. Program that number into your phone. The Google Maps will map the entire route for you and have a series of options for method, time, and distance.) I know, it makes it seem like the area near Loch Raven Resevoir is safe but that's where the trees are. The area around the reservoir is the reason I ride the rail (and riding parallel to 83 and going under the bridge and then later descending Howard toward Lexington Market) but it is hazardous to your stress until the leaves are gone.

As for the cancelled service to Penn Station, you can walk from the MICA stop. Or you can take the bus (I think the 11 still goes down Charles St.?) there. Several buses will go there, I promise, and one will take you past Sofi's if you are coming from northern Baltimore or Towson.

I forgot about Google Maps. I wish I had Google Maps when I was relying on Light Rail, I could have mapped alternative routes and kept it in my bookbag. Sigh. Now I depend on a city which will likely never have Google Maps! At least you have something on me Baltimore. Google Maps and your friendly, singing loudly on the train, eff-word adverse people.

Monday, November 10, 2008

D.C. Transportation Examiner: Make appropriate plans—various services reduced or not running

D.C. Transportation Examiner: Make appropriate plans—various services reduced or not running

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Want to see a furious girl?

Michael Dresser at The Baltimore Sun writes that last Thursday’s MTA hearing about the Red Line was practically set up to fail the city’s citizens. For starters, the building was not handicap accessible:

There, outside the rear door of the Lithuanian Hall in West Baltimore, sat Bob Reuter in his wheelchair. Ahead of him was a concrete lip of as much as 4 inches, with a rickety piece of plywood impersonating an actual accommodation for the disabled. Beyond lay a ramp so steep Reuter compared it to a ski slope - and not one at the beginner level.

Here you go, you guys! We found this scrap board on a house down the street.* Surely it’s sufficient for your needs! Never mind, apparently, that MTA is a critical service for people who don’t drive. When I still rode MTA on a daily basis (as the 8, not the 991 commuter bus) I dreaded the snow. The sidewalks were rarely shoveled on my walk to the bus—which isn’t MTA’s problem until I reach the stop—and I spent one winter dragging luggage across a four foot icy snow bank (the some things a girl will do to see a Lifetime reunion show). I passed a nursing home to get there. I think the employees and resident were provided with ample entertainment watching me haul my goods across the snow, but the people who struggled to get around the sidewalks in their wheel chairs did not. The ice walk continued to the stop, where I perched above the road, and others did the same. And when my bus finally came, it flew past me. I really let MTA have it that day, and all they could ask was if it was an Express bus. No. No, it was local. It was local, and I’m teetering several feet above the highway. Come take care of this. Even some salt would help. And I can walk. I can get around. But what about the people at my stop who can’t?

Quite frankly, I’m still irritated, and that show was almost two years ago.

In short, the following points should take precedent within all forms of transit in all cities:
  • Smooth and efficient routes for riders
  • Timely service (in ALL NEIGHBORHOODS)
  • Reasonable fares
  • HANDICAP ACCESSIBLE and SAFE and BULLY FREE
  • Safe interior (from the set up of the transit to the passengers)
  • Administrative support for the drivers
  • Fair pay for transit employees (as a side note I always felt like the 8 drivers—and this was the route I took the most, so I’m sure the other routes in the city are the same—didn’t get enough bathroom breaks; riders would be waiting for the bus and bully the driver, and I always wanted to say, “Chill! Let the dude pee!” Maybe I’m sensitive to this because I had a job where the bathroom didn’t WORK and I was threatened with termination if I went across the street to pee?)
  • Ramps that don’t break down after every usage.
  • Buses and trains that arrive on time.
  • Bus bridges that actually arrive to their pick-up spot when the Light Rail breaks down

I’m about to get out of hand with my list of grievances, so I’ll stop. I don’t think I’m asking for too much. Do you? (That isn’t rhetorical.)

*This was probably insulting in how I presumed there’s a boarded house within walking distance of any point. If you’ve been hurt or offended I apologize. I drove around the city last week and everywhere I went were foreclosed homes. I’m going to go cry again now.

D.C. Transportation Examiner: Transit anticipation

D.C. Transportation Examiner: Transit anticipation

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Friday, November 7, 2008

D.C. Transportation Examiner: It\'s the weekend whooooooo

D.C. Transportation Examiner: It's the weekend whooooooo

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Weekly News

California

High speed rail passes in CA election (LA Times). And more here from Streetsblog.

Chicago

City gets rid of trolly (General Carlessness).

DC

List of transit initiatives on ballots (Streetsblog). || No more checks for Metro employees (Get There). No they'll get...vouchers. || Obama's future (HuffPo). || SmartTrip schedule (GGW). ||

DC Transit Examiner:

Citywide disdain for bag searches || Metro: more than meets the eye || Wanted: national transit mobility

Maryland

Red Line Metro (City Paper) This was hard to read. Because the "there's no lot there" IS A FAIRLY ACCURATE SUMMARIZATION OF MY TRANSIT LIFE IN BALTIMORE. I have to go outside so I can hug my car now. And cry for all of the anxiety transit heaped on me when I lived there. I miss you Baltimore, I miss you more than I anything or anyone, but MY GOD YOU ALMOST KILLED ME with your transit limitations!

Sec. of Transit says Peace Out, Money! (FNP)

New York

GPS plan stalled (NY Daily News). The plan would announce and track the arrival, destination, and locations of buses in the city. If you've ever waited for a bus that never came, you know how badly this sucks.


I promise more (and better) news next week.

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

RED LINE

City Paper has a story today (and here too) about the red line and TRAC. You need to read it.

I didn't know that Quickbus 40 was from Ehrlich. Would it be okay with you if I continued to silently curse his time in office? I'm still a little upset with some other horrible things he did that were unrelated to transit. I've never taken the 40 so I feel less obligated anyway.

And I need to e-mail TRAC and Chris Merriam back. I'm sorry! I've been really busy. :(

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

THIS IS YOUR CHANCE

Metro's general manager, John Catoe, will host an online chat Friday to discuss Metro (rail, bus, and access). Pipe up now about your feelings regarding the new bag search policy.

The chat will be from noon to 1 p.m. You can log in at http://www.wmata.com/chat/chatsList.cfm

I firmly believe writing letters, sending e-mails, making calls, and participating in these forums are the best way to make your dissent known. (Remember: be mature and thoughtful or your dissent will go unheard.)

D.C. Transportation Examiner: Wanted: National Transit Mobility

D.C. Transportation Examiner: Wanted: National Transit Mobility

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