MTA closes a chapter on metro's book exchange


September 12, 1994

A Baltimore County library went out of business last month, and no one said a word.

Well, almost no one.

Marcia and Julian Klaff had a few choice words. The library was their idea, and they were none too pleased to see it closed.

As a public facility, it was a modest affair. The Milford Mill Book Exchange -- really just a bookshelf placed at the Milford Mill Metro station -- allowed subway riders the chance to pick up a book or magazine on the way into Baltimore.

All the material -- some 2,000 titles -- was donated. The Klaffs volunteered their time to keep the bookcase looking sharp and to replenish the book supply.

Intrepid Commuter heralded the opening of the exchange two years ago. We wrote about how it was a great free service for the Mass Transit Administration, and how it might be replicated at other Metro stations.

Despite this valuable endorsement -- a seal of approval we normally reserve for fine wine, gourmet cooking and really good radial tires -- it got yanked.

"We received no warning . . . the bookcase simply disappeared," the Klaffs write. "After many calls, we were told that the MTA took the bookcase out because it wasn't used, it was empty, and there were torn pages around.

"Our rebuttal: 1. It was well used. 2. Empty is a relative word (Did they really expect it to be refilled daily?). 3. Totally false since we checked it daily and what few torn pages or trash were on the shelves were removed."

Mass Transit Administration officials give a slightly different version of events. They say the bookcase had attracted trash -- a great deal more than the Klaffs ever saw because station personnel were constantly removing it from the shelves.

But officials admit it would have been wise to tell the Klaffs ahead of time that the bookcase was going to be removed.

"We did the right thing for the station, but we should have considered the community and have gone to the Klaffs," says Ronald L. Freeland, the MTA's director of transit operations. "Now, we want to work with the community and see if it can be restored."

One reason the bookcase attracted trash was because the shelves were empty much of the time. Far more people were willing to take a book than to donate one, or two, or a boxful. Sound familiar?

The Klaffs are looking for volunteers to help keep the exchange going. If you would like to become involved, you should contact the MTA's customer comment line at 333-2354 for information.

Mr. Freeland says he recognizes that the bookcase was important, not only to promote literacy and the love of books, but to enhance the relationship between Metro and the Milford Mill community and attract more subway riders.

"We support the concept," Mr. Freeland says. "We just don't have the personnel to devote to it ourselves."

JFX exit habits irritate a mom

Life is not always easy for the vertically challenged.

Take the 5-foot-tall moms who take their children to day care and must turn right onto Northern Parkway at the ramp from southbound Jones Falls Expressway, for instance.

This may not strike you as a large -- pardon the pun -- group but we know of at least one member: a self-described "Irritated Mom" from Cockeysville who wrote Intrepid Commuter recently.

Her complaint is that when she edges up to the traffic signal to turn right, another motorist pulls up beside her on the left. Because she's short, the car blocks her view of westbound Northern Parkway traffic.

It's illegal for cars to be two abreast on a one-lane ramp, but that doesn't seem to deter many drivers.

"I would like to suggest that whomever has authority for this area consider physically narrowing this exit ramp," she writes.

Unfortunately for Irritated Mom, this isn't going to happen. Baltimore public works officials say they have to keep the ramp 23 feet wide so that cars can get around disabled vehicles.

We suspect Irritated Mom would be even more irritated if the ramp had to be closed every time a car broke down.

Nevertheless, we hereby remind drivers that they shouldn't try to move alongside cars making the right turn at this exit.


* Faithful readers may recall that in January, we responded to a request for a left-turn signal at Route 24 and Ring Factory Road in Bel Air. The State Highway Administration has since studied traffic flow on Route 24. The result: No left-turn signal at Ring Factory. However, the study did reveal a need for a signal at

Route 24 and Wheel Road south of Bel Air and it was installed Friday. There are no further plans for traffic signals on the increasingly crowded highway.

* A recent caller notes an automobile fashion trend -- dark plastic shields covering license tags. He wonders whether such sheathing is legal since it makes it tough to see the numbers on the tag. Here's the answer: Maryland vehicle law requires plates to be "clearly legible," but doesn't say you can't cover the plate with a tinted shield. It's up to police and the courts to decide whether a particular shield makes a tag illegible.

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