Tuesday, August 5, 2008

More from the people who brought you "Safe and Reliable"

This city has many, many problems, but it also has a bright spot: the metro. Some preliminary research reveals that many Baltilessors were surprised to learn that there even is a metro here, let alone a world-class system. Prepare to be stunned, because right beneath your feet sprawls a truly remarkable transit system, running from Columbia Town Center to Hunt Valley, from I-70 to Martin State Airport, etc etc.

The schema, approved in 2002, coincidentally bears a striking resemblance to DC's, the final leg of which was completed in 2001.

That's where the similarities end. The Washington DC Metro serves two states and our nation's capital with a combined population of 4.4 million, all with 5 puny lines and 106.3 miles of track. On the other hand, the population of Baltiless is 600,000, shrinking with every murder. Even the crabs are bailing out. With stats like that, it's plainly obvious that this is a bustling metropolis full of sophisticated, industrious commuters who clearly need a vast underground mass transit system, one that's superior to DC, Chicago and Philadelphia.

Wait, what?

Turns out this is just the proposed metro line, approved by the Maryland Department of Transportation. These are the same people who endeavor to build a train station around some actively running Amtrak tracks next to the extant Travel Plaza*. By 2050. Does the local government intentionally cultivate this kind of cognitive dissonance or is it due to the tainted water?

No, I'm afraid the metro system here begins and ends with a single line. A lifetime Baltiless resident told me that they built the single line with the intention of building more if people rode it, but unfortunately I've been unable to source that. The metro features 15.5 miles of track with 14 stops, and is an excellent mode of transit as long as you're planning on going somewhere between Owings Mills and Johns Hopkins Hospital. Also, as long as you're planning on going Monday-Saturday, because the Greatest Metro in America doesn't run on Sunday.

Obviously I needed to experience this for myself. With the intention of seeing as many passengers as possible, I chose to visit on a beautiful warm Saturday afternoon and hopped on at the Charles Center stop- near the Inner Harbor, the popular Gallery Shopping Center and several other attractions.

You see only person in the station? My assistant. Looks like those other lines won't be built anytime soon.

After buying my ticket, I tried to enter the station. Every single turnstile had a red "do not enter/out of order" sign on it. There was no one in the attendant booth. The place was abandoned. With no other option, I just gave an apathetic Baltiless shrug and entered.

There were actually three or four people waiting on the platform downstairs. Who knows how long they'd been there. Suddenly, blue police lights flashed on the walls. An alarm sounded. If you've ever seen a prison movie, you've heard this alarm. When you hear it, your instincts plunge you right into the action. There's a riot in cell block G and the warden is out of his league. Lockdown! But it's too late! The warden has no choice but to entomb the whole thing with 900 tons of concrete**. That's what this kind of alarm tells you. I tried to come to terms with my impending death.

I was at about the 4th stage of the Kubler-Ross model (I was able to accelerate the process due to nearly two years of the daily grief caused by life in Baltiless) when a train pulled into the station. Totally sans concrete. Evidently, Baltiless City had some lights left over after installation of the BELIEVE cameras on the streets and some alarms left over after construction of the prison and they decided they might as well just slap 'em on into the metro.

And then train ride.... wasn't actually that bad. True, my standards were very, very low - I'd been expecting feral children with flaming brands fighting rabid dogs in the tunnels, with the occasional unidentifiable corpse being gnawed on by giant mutant rats - but none of that happened! I could have been on any sub-par unused metro anywhere. I rode it to Owings Mills and back, waiting for the other shoe to drop, but if (when) it did, it happened after I'd left.

To get out of the station, you have to swipe your card again, just like in DC. Except it makes sense in DC because the fare varies by distance traveled, whereas it's a flat rate in Baltiless. Hey, why the hell not? Makes sense to me. Confidential to Baltiless and MDOT: Next time you copy off DC's paper, at least be a little more discrete.

Want to go?
There are 13 convenient stations to choose from! Note: there are no connections to light rail, Amtrak, MARC, BWI Airport, or the bus depot. Give it another 42 years and try again.

*AKA the "TR L PL Z ", as the sign actually reads
**Actually, that's a pretty good plan for Baltiless too.


OM said...

I'm truly ignorant. I saw that first map before I read the article and was shocked and embarrassed that I had no idea Baltimore had such a great Metro system.

This city is so random. It would have made more sense with a good public transportation.

g said...

nothing makes my week like finding a new expose on Baltiless -