It's a long time coming, and going

THE INTREPID COMMUTER

April 05, 1993|By 1990 Census of Population and Housing/STAFF GRAPHIC

As far as Intrepid Commuter knows, Ali Shirazie and Maryliz McHale-Hewes don't know each other, but both are examples of the changing nature of Baltimore commuting.

Mr. Shirazie lives in Towson, Ms. McHale-Hewes in Stoneleigh. But both commute to work in the Washington area.

The increasing interconnection of the two cities is one reason the U.S. Census Bureau decided last year to name a new market: the Washington-Baltimore Consolidated Metropolitan Statistical Area.

The 1990 census numbers show that nearly one-fifth of Baltimore-area commuters are driving 45 minutes or more to work. They are leaving early, too: more rush-hour commuters are headed out the door before 7:30 a.m. than after.

It's not always the easiest way to live. Mr. Shirazie, who works in downtown D.C., is dropped off at the Lutherville light rail stop by his wife each morning. He rides light rail to the Mount Royal station and walks to Pennsylvania station where he boards a Maryland Rail Commuter (MARC) train to Washington.

Once in Washington's Union Station, he hops on the Metro to Farragut North station and walks 10 minutes to his office. The commute adds up to a patience-wearying four hours round-trip.

Whew.

Ms. McHale-Hewes has no walk in the park. A flight attendant for a major airline, she was transferred three years ago to Dulles Airport in Virginia.

Once or twice a week, she must drive 82 miles to the airport and that includes the Capital Beltway, a rough ride by any standard.

After flying off to Europe for a couple of days, she returns to Dulles from Milan, Frankfurt, Brussels or Madrid. With a 9- or 10-hour flight behind her, she must get back in her car and then hit the road around afternoon rush hour. While the trip to work averages 1 hour and 25 minutes, the trip home can take up to three hours, she writes.

It's an indescribable feeling. Call it car-jet-car lag. "A more boring and mind-numbing route is hard to fathom," Ms. McHale-Hewes writes. "Even if this commute doesn't qualify as one of the worst, just writing it down has served as a catharsis for me."

We offer a tip of the driver's side visor to both Mr. Shirazie and Ms. McHale-Hewes. While their commutes were not necessarily the longest we heard about in our unscientific Intrepid survey of the worst commutes, their letters certainly struck a chord with us.

At the very least, they are a reminder that the continuing dispersion of jobs exacts a price from the work force. People are spending an average 54 minutes round-trip commuting each day -- nearly five hours a week.

No. 7 Downtown, an MTA bus odyssey

Sometimes, it pays to look toward the heavens for help.

It is a lesson that seems to apply to Richard Bernhardt of Northwest Baltimore who wrote to us of a most unpleasant experience with the city's bus system last month, but more about that later.

Here are the specifics. Mr. Bernhardt took the No. 7 bus from the Fallstaff Shopping Center to the Inner Harbor on a Sunday. The trip took about 50 minutes and proved unremarkable.

The problem arose when it was time to return to Fallstaff. Consulting his schedule, Mr. Bernhardt decided to catch the bus at Charles and Lombard streets at 3:25 p.m.

He waited.

And waited.

And waited.

Thirty-five minutes later, Mr. Bernhardt decided to try a different technique. He proceeded to Metro's Charles Center Station only to find it closed -- as it has been since the Mass Transit Administration budget cutbacks last January.

He then walked to Lexington Mall off Howard Street. He boarded a No. 28 toward Security Square, getting off at Mondawmin Mall and catching the No. 7 on Reisterstown Road.

The whole exercise took two hours, and left one commuter very frustrated.

"Downtown on Sunday via MTA?" Mr. Bernhardt writes. "Never again!"

We consulted the Mass Transit Administration about this. It seems the solution to Mr. Bernhardt's problems was only an upward glance away. Since Dec. 24, the No. 7 has been diverted from Lombard Street while the city is rebuilding Lombard around the Inner Harbor. Each of the bus stops has instructions about this taped to the side.

Essentially, had Mr. Bernhardt looked up and read the sign, he might have been spared considerable grief.

TIMING THE TRIP TO WORK

The following is based on Baltimore area commuting patterns

during 1990:

Travel Time to Work

MINUTES .. .. PERCENT

0-4 ... .. .. 2.2

5-9 ... .. .. 7.5

10-14 . .. . 11.6

15-19 . .. . 13.7

20-24 . .. . 13.8

25-29 . .. .. 6.5

30-34 . .. . 15.0

35-39 . .. .. 3.5

40-44 . .. .. 4.6

45-59 . .. . 10.5

60-89 . .. .. 7.4

90+ ... .. .. 1.3

Worked at home 2.6

Mean: 27 minutes

Time of Departure for Work

TIME .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. PERCENT

12:00 a.m. - 4:59 a.m. .. .. .. 2.2 percent

5:00 a.m. - 5:29 a.m. ... .. .. 2.6

5:30 a.m. - 5:59 a.m. ... .. .. 4.3

6:00 a.m. - 6:29 a.m. ... .. .. 9.6

6:30 a.m. - 6:59 a.m. ... .. . 11.4

7:00 a.m. - 7:29 a.m. ... .. . 16.1

7:30 a.m. - 7:59 a.m. ... .. . 14.2

8:00 a.m. - 8:29 a.m. ... .. . 12.4

8:30 a.m. - 8:59 a.m. ... .. .. 5.9

9:00 a.m. - 9:59 a.m. ... .. .. 5.2

10:00 a.m. - 10:59 a.m. . .. .. 1.8

11:00 a.m. - 11:59 a.m. . .. .. 1.0

12:00 p.m. - 3:59 p.m. .. .. .. 5.4

4:00 p.m. - 11:59 p.m. .. .. .. 5.5

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