No. 24 will go out of its way to help

THE INTREPID COMMUTER

March 15, 1993

It would be difficult not to sympathize with the plight of Rita Whiting and her fellow residents of Middle River.

Ms. Whiting lives in a community called Maple Crest. She is, quite frankly, rather poorly served by Baltimore's state-run bus system, specifically by the No. 23 bus, which runs between Oliver Beach and Francis Scott Key Medical Center.

The Mass Transit Administration bus runs only during the rush hours and never on Sundays. It's a 45-minute hike to the nearest bus stop, and a potentially dangerous one since people have to walk through woods or across tracks.

It's too costly to catch a taxi to the closest supermarket, Ms. Whiting writes, and that leaves a lot of folks stranded. "We really need help in our battle for ourselves and loved ones and friends," she says. "If we had bus service, more people could work and buy papers."

Intrepid Commuter was touched by Ms. Whiting's letter -- particularly the part about buying more newspapers. She has been pleading with the MTA for months, and has been joined in her efforts by a coalition of Middle River communities including Wampler Village, Villa Gardens, Ballard Gardens, Aero Acres, and Victory Villa.

We are pleased to announce that the MTA plans to make amends. Beginning in June, the No. 24, which runs along nearby Martin Boulevard, will be diverted to Middle River Road and to Compass Road.

This brings the bus line into the heart of these communities, and it will mean more midday and weekend service.

"There's much more frequent service on the 24," says Dianna Rosborough, spokeswoman for the MTA. "We'll monitor the service and see if it's used. Changing the Number 24 doesn't cost us anything."

Whiting says that sounds great, but she'll wait and see what happens since the MTA has promised and failed to act before.

How about installing more cross-street signs?

Alas, we must offer a true confession: The Intrepid One is prone to getting lost when visiting previously unexplored city neighborhoods.

It's a shortcoming we suspect we share with Judy Alexander, a Baltimore resident who wrote us recently to ask about those long green signs you frequently see hanging above the traffic lights at intersections.

"Is the city going to complete the street sign project where major cross streets are identified?" Ms. Alexander writes. "It seems as though there are a lot of major intersections still in need of these signs. I'm sure other commuters would agree they are helpful when locating new locations of businesses and friends."

Judy, we couldn't agree more.

The city started erecting the 18-inch-high green signs with white letters in 1985 at major downtown intersections. They were so well received that the city expanded the program, and about one-quarter of the 1,200 intersections with signals now have cross-street signs.

The city's public works department would like to continue the expansion, but it would cost about $1 million to put the signs at all the eligible intersections. So, lately the city has been adding only 40 a year, at a cost of about $300 each.

"Due to budget constraints, they're being installed on an as-needed basis," says department spokeswoman Vanessa Pyatt.

Who determines where they're needed? Ms. Pyatt says that the department generally receives requests from the public, and then takes a look at the traffic flow to see if the nominated intersection is a good candidate.

On the topic of signs, we wanted to share an observation of a loyal reader who wonders why there are no road signs pointing travelers from downtown Baltimore toward Annapolis.

It seems the closest highway sign with the word "Annapolis" is outside the city limits on Ritchie Highway near the Beltway.

Do we detect a lack of enthusiasm for our capital city?

We again turn to Ms. Pyatt, who says the priority in downtown signage is to make sure people know how to find the major highways, not the destination points.

"Motorists should have some knowledge of the interstates and the general direction they are traveling," she says. "My advice is that motorists should be equipped with both a city and state map."

But does this mean the city doesn't want anybody going to Annapolis? "No, not at all. Whatever gave you that impression?" Ms. Pyatt replies.

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