Saturday, May 31, 2014

Chesapeake Shakespeare Company

New sign along S. Calvert Street.

New sign is up at the future home of the Chesapeake Shakespeare Company at 7 S. Calvert Street (historically 202 E. Redwood Street) originally built in 1885 for the Mercantile Trust and Deposit Company. 

as the home of the  Mercantile Trust and Deposit Company, ca. 1958

Friday, May 30, 2014

Rethinking the Camden Line, Phase I

2002 Baltimore Rail Plan
The 2002 Baltimore Rail Plan, besides planning for brand new routes, also envisioned expansion and reimagining of current routes. One of which was the Camden Line. The 2002 plan proposed expanding service to include local, more frequent service between Dorsey and Camden Station, in addition to the current commuter service to Union Station. While the plan did not go into very much detail it did include infill stations, and presumably "light rail" style frequencies. As things go, this never made it past the drawing board as the Red Line got the priority and maybe the Green Line extension next.

This doesn't mean we shouldn't think about how to better use the Camden Line. In fact, with the infrastructure already there it really is a good option to provide better transit service to Baltimore. So let's say there is both funding and the full cooperation of CSX, with that in mind let me propose that we do exactly what the 2002 plan recommends, along with what the 2007 MARC growth and investment plan (plus 2013 revision), wanted to do with regards to the commuter service. This would include adding a third track between Dorsey and St. Denis to allow for better separation and flexibility between freight and passenger service.

This could be viewed as a two-phase plan. Phase One would include DMU service between Dorsey and Baltimore, but with new stations at Morrell Park, Landsdowne in the vicinity of Hammonds Ferry Road, and a return for a station in Elkridge. St. Denis would be expanded with better parking and either an overpass or underpass to cross the tracks. At Dorsey, a pocket track could be built to allow trains to wait for the return trip north without blocking MARC commuter or CSX freight trains.

At Camden Station, a proper station house should be built to replace the abomination currently in use.  A larger waiting room, more than one bathroom, and more than one ticket kiosk are essential. A newsstand or coffee shop would be a nice addition, wi-fi would be better. Platform canopies are also a must. Since all of the other stations are low floor, one of the current platforms here would be rebuilt for low-floor boarding.

Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Street Collapse on 26th St

photo by Baltimore Business Journal
Collapse of section of 26th Street between St. Paul and N. Charles spilling mud, debris, and cars down on to the CSX (old B&O Belt Line) tracks in Charles Village. The Jones Falls has also flooded in Mt Washington and along Falls Rd near Penn Station and the Streetcar Museum.

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Small Improvements to Light Rail That Could Make a Big Impact

  1. Sequence lights on Howard Street so trains can move between stations without having to stop at red lights. This would significantly cut down on the travel time between Mt. Royal/UB and Camden Yards. The technology is there, it just needs to be implemented in a more sensible way. 
  2. Improve passenger information at each station. This would include updating the maps to reflect the current light rail operation. The maps at most stations outside of downtown are poorly designed and show the light rail configuration when the extensions to Penn Station and BWI first opened in 1997. Way-finding and neighborhood maps showing immediate transit connections and local attractions are a must. Posted schedules should be updated immediately whenever a new version of the timetable is made.
    Newer Light Rail map at downtown stations.
  3. Update signs at all stations. A few years back the downtown stations had new signs that replaced the originals from 1992. In addition the stations feature a system diagram, as well as a "At This Stop" sign that highlights a nearby feature. As of now these have not been expanded to the remaining stations on the light rail. FYI This new design can also be seen at the Halethorpe MARC station. 
  4. New neighborhood directional signs. We have all seen the blue and yellow "Light Rail" signs with an arrow pointing in a vague direction to where a light rail station is located. These should be redesigned to include the name of the nearest station and the distance to it. (e.g. Woodberry, 3 Blocks). More are needed especially around walk-up neighborhood stations. A good example is at the Mt. Washington station. There is a walkway underneath I-83 on the side near the Whole Foods, but you would never know because there is not a sign there. If a sign were added, and the walkway better lit, it would add much more accessibility to the retail surrounding the station.
  5. Woodberry Station with unmarked entrance at right.
  6. Improve waiting passenger comfort by adding more benches. There has actually been some improvement with this, but many stations only have benches on one platform, not both. There are some stations that it is impossible to do this, like Baltimore Street and Centre Street because of the narrowness of the platform, but maybe here MTA could add simple canopies that do not interfere with traffic to at least protect people from the rain. 

Friday, February 28, 2014

Check the Flag Code, Baltimore

photo by blogger
Things are moving along at the apartment renovation at 301 N. Charles Street. The developers even added two new flags to the poles that have stood devoid of ensigns for far too long. Except there is just one little problem, they flags are one the wrong poles!

If I remember one thing from the flag etiquette it's that the US flag is always to the left when hanging from a building when there are two poles. It's the same rule the the flag is always to the right of a speaker when on the stage (that is, the left of the stage when viewing from the audience).

The other helpful giveaway on this particular building (and we have the state of Maryland to thank for this) is the finial on the right hand flag pole is in the shape of a bottony cross; which denotes that this is the pole that the Maryland state flag is supposed to fly from.

Really, it's not that complicated. I will now step down from my soapbox rostrum.

Monday, February 24, 2014

Spring Training!

Hopefully this picture will help everyone get over the Winter Blues. Spring Training is in full force down in Sarasota. Baseball will be at Camden Yards in no time!

Sunday, January 26, 2014

Then and Now: Loyola University Maryland

Loyola University Maryland, for the longest time known as Loyola College, was founded in 1852 and moved to it's present North Baltimore campus in 1921. The view of the corner of N. Charles Street and Cold Spring Lane has changed a lot over 93 years, just take a look at the signage on the corner. 

circa 1920s

Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Happy 2014, Baltimore

We had a lot of fun in 2013. The Ravens won the Super Bowl, Canton Crossing opened, old offices downtown started to be turned into apartments, weekend MARC service, and a whole lot more. 

With 2014 the Orioles will be soon back at Camden Yards, 10 Light Street will turn from offices to apartments, Harbor Point should break ground, the city will celebrate the bicentennial of the Star Spangled Banner, and hopefully be one year closer to construction of the Red Line.

As you can see there is a lot to look forward to. Here's to a great year for Baltimore and a continued renaissance in 2014. 

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Too Many 7-Elevens?

Have you ever been downtown and left a 7-Eleven forgetting something that you needed to go to another 7-Eleven for and thought to yourself "This is an outrage, there really needs to be a 7-Eleven every couple of blocks." Well you're in luck! A new one is opening at 300 N Charles Street, only 3 blocks from a location at 100 West Lexington Street and 4 blocks from one at 529 N. Charles Street. Luckily there is that one on Lexington Street or you would have to walk all the way like a schmuck from the 7-Eleven at 301 N. Howard St. 6 whole blocks to the location at 300 E. Baltimore St, but that one is a midway point.

I know what you're thinking, three blocks that's a ridiculously long walk when you need to be at a 7-Eleven immediately. No fear, because if you happen to be at the 7-Eleven at 10. N Calvert St  you don't need to walk the 2/10's of a mile to the 7-Eleven at 22 Light Street, no buddy, you're only 580 feet away from the next closest 7-Eleven at 231 E. Baltimore St.

If you find yourself up by JHU, no worries there are 4 in the immediate vicinity. Things look bleaker in Federal Hill with only two: 1000 S Hanover St and 1111 Light St. (that's a lot of elevens). If you're in Locust Point you're screwed, with only one at Key Highway.

I hope this helps you navigate from one 7-Eleven to another. Thankfully, some are even in line-of-sight of one another, so you don't even need a map or an app! Happy travelling!

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

A Treatise on Raised Crosswalks

One of the major concerns I have noticed in many residential neighborhoods is the lack of awareness around intersections, especially in regards to obeying stop signs. Too often drivers view stop signs as a suggestion rather than traffic code. For instance, recently in Hampden, stop signs were added at 36th St. and Elm Ave. and at 34th St. and Chestnut Ave. While many looked at this as a great example of traffic calming, many resident complained because it interfered with long standing driving patterns. Clearly it's hard to win.

Now this brings me to my point: raised crosswalks. Baltimore has already invest in speed humps, which are effective at traffic calming, but can still be abused since one can run a car over them above the posted speed with little inconvenience.  However, as far as I know, Baltimore has not taken the next step of integrating this at crosswalks.

stepping stones in Pompeii 
The concept of these go as far back as Roman antiquity. Where stepping stones were placed in the thoroughfare so that pedestrians were able to safely cross the street without having to step down into the muck that frequently ran through Roman streets. The stones were spaced to allow the wheels of carts and chariots to pass around them.

photo from streetswiki
Raised crosswalks are a good idea not only because they slow traffic coming up to intersections or at a designated a pedestrian crossing, but also make pedestrians more visible since they are not stepping down into the street. For ADA purposes they can be easier to navigate than curb cuts and ramps. However they can have an impact on storm water drainage and emergency response vehicles so the placement and construction have to be thought through. Regardless this would be a great addition around city schools, parks, and other places where traffic can and should be slowed, to give pedestrians an easier opportunity to safely cross the street.