Monday, August 31, 2009

Recession Claims More Restaurants

Damn you economy! Damn you! Now you're taking restaurants away from me!

This current recession has been hard on all aspects of the economy, but the restaurant business has been hit especially hard. Instead of heading out to eat dinner, many customers are cutting back; going out less, eating less when out, going to cheaper places, etc.

In Baltimore we've lost a number of places that just couldn't weather the storm. Just today news that Babalu Grill and Blue Sea Grill in Powerplant would be closing. Last week, the popular Mt. Vernon spot the Brass Elephant shut its doors, potentially for good. It joins a list of other places that have closed recently: Ixia, Bicycle, Fin, The Spice Company, and a few others.

If you don't want to see more of your favorite places turn their lights off and lock the doors for the last time, do them a favor and patronize these places. Now I'm not suggesting eating out everywhere, every night, but go out there and give them some business. Every little bit helps.

Saturday, August 29, 2009

$1 Orioles Tickets

(image credit, baltimore orioles)

Probably the greatest idea the Baltimore Orioles have ever done. In addition to $6 College Night Fridays and $8 Bargain Tuesdays, $1 tickets in September and October are an excellent promotion.

Now the catch: These only counts for non-prime games, so no Yankees or Red Sox for a buck. There are also only 500 tickets per game for this price, so you need to be quick about it. Lastly, you can only get them online. You can't walk up to the Ticket Booth for these. Plus, there is a $.50 internet fee, so really it's the Buck-Fifty promotion, but that just doesn't sound as good.

Only a few more home series: Yanks, Texas (just in case you couldn't tell by the uniforms the Rangers are from Texas), Rays, and BoSox. So go out and see the Rangers and Rays with the family or your friends, for a hell of a lot less. Make it a whole lot cheaper by getting your dogs and sodas out at the vendors on Conway Street or Paca Street.

Now if only there was the MASN MAXIMUM ACCESS BEERS, maybe next season O's?

Monday, August 24, 2009

The CharmCard is Here...Almost

(image credit, www.mtamaryland.com)

Baltimore's smart card has a name, the CharmCard!

Riders can sign up to participate in a 60-day field test of the CharmCard on the Metro Subway between October 1st and November 30th to test the new system. Eventually riders can use this on the Light Rail and the Bus in Baltimore, as well as the WMATA system in DC.

This is a long time coming, but it is finally here! Riders will be able to load cash value onto the card or passes; day, weekly, monthly. Enabling for a smoother and quicker fare paying process.

Having thought about this for a while, there are a few issues that I am wondering how the CharmCard will address.

- How will this work on the Light Rail? There aren't fare gates at the stations, and the Light Rail works as a proof-of-payment system. Will the fare inspectors carry portable card readers? Maybe they could add card readers onto the trains so that CharmCard uses can tap-in and tap-out when they get on and off.

- Will this eventually be able to work on the MARC? If the solution to issue #1 is portable card readers, then maybe it will one day.

- If you can have cash value on the card, and you ride the subway multiple times in a day, will CharmCard keep charging you $1.60 every ride, thus racking up the fares, or will it register you as if you had a Day Pass and just charge you $3.50?

-Follow up to Issue #3. If you have both cash and day passes on your card, will it know the difference? i.e. will it only charge you $1.60 if you do a single trip. If so, I guess that answers the previous issue.

- Will the Ticket Vending Machines ever be debit/credit card friendly? CharmCard can take up to $200, but you don't see me carrying around that much money in Baltimore.

- Will the CharmCard be able to be reloaded or bought on mtamaryland.com in the future? This will save riders even more time, so they can load up before they even leave their house.

We'll see how this works. This is a true positive for Baltimore public transit. I'm guessing after the 60-day field test there will be a review period for sometime, probably with a full release sometime in early 2010.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

MTA adds QB 48

MTA Maryland is going to add a new QuickBus Route, the 48, to it's schedule starting this Fall. The Limited Service bus line, like the QB40, will make the trip between Towson and UMB a whole lot quicker.

The service will run Monday-Saturday, with Evening and Sunday service covered by the No. 8 bus route.

I'm wondering if MTA will improve signage along this corridor to make this line more visible. Many QB 40 stations have tall yellow kiosks denoting it as a QuickBus stop. Ideally these should be placed at all of the stops along the route, and on the new QB 48.

Originally when planned, the QuickBus stops were all supposed to have Next Vehicle Arrival technology and monitors. These were added to stations back in 2006, but I've never seen them work. What ever happened to that? Any ideas out there?

Anyways, here is a good article in the Sun from Michael Dresser.

MTA to add Towson-UMAB express route -- baltimoresun.com

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Thursday, August 13, 2009

"M on Madison" proposed for Howard and Madison

Interesting apartment design for an empty lot at N. Howard and W. Madison Streets. Only a few blocks from Mt. Vernon Square and directly across the street from Maryland General Hospital.

The smartest aspect of this project is the first floor office/retail space. This adds more to the that strong section of Howard Street, and a bonus for residents and hospital employees.

The location places it right between the Centre St and and Cultural Center Light Rail stations, with a short walk to either.

Baltimore preservation panel OKs apartment concept -- baltimoresun.com

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Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Where's the New Charm City Circulator?


It's the summer now, some may even call this the "late summer". It is around this time that Baltimore is supposed to roll out the brand spanking new Charm City Circulator, but where is this free bus service.

The one thing I've learned about Baltimore is that press releases, news updates, and service reminders come few and far between in this town. It's mid-August. We got the new name back in June, but no official route map, no official stops, nor schedule. I haven't seen any signs around the downtown area. I live down here now, I haven't seen anything.

How do you expect anyone to use this services if it's not being advertised?

There were rumors floating back earlier this summer that dedicated bus lanes were going to be painted on Lombard and Pratt Street for not only this service, but the MTA buses that use the same roads, but it doesn't look like that has happened yet.

Seems like this thing will get rolled out, without any long term warning, just in time for the major tourist season to be done, and commuters well entrenched in their normal morning and afternoon routine.

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

4-C it is for the Red Line..with some modifications

The news from Gov. O'Malley is that Alternative 4-C is the right choice for the Red Line, and that will be the Locally Preferred Alternative that will go to the Federal Government for approval. This is a huge step for this project, and hopefully with approval, will move this along to construction by 2012.

There were two big modifications to the project. One includes moving the portal down Boston Street, closer to the American Can Company. This should appease some of the detractors in Canton. The other is single tracking the Cooks Lane tunnel. I don't know how I feel about that second choice, but if it gets the Red Line built, and there is a promise that it will be double tracked then it is a good compromise. It will be a mile long single track, but the good news it the aren't any stations planned for that tunnel.

I'm sure more news will come out later today, and in the next few days and weeks. we here at Baltimore Skyline will do our best to keep you posted!

Monday, August 3, 2009