Buses' 'tap-and-glide' routine worries observer

THE INTREPID COMMUTER

April 24, 1995

We've all seen and perhaps even performed the little ditty that an Owings Mills commuter refers to as the "tap and glide" as we coast through a stop sign.

But it's a dangerous two-step when it involves an Mass Transit Administration bus at a crowded Metro stop during rush hour.

The commuter, a downtown attorney, said MTA buses routinely roll through stop signs at the sprawling Owings Mills Metro station. What makes matters worse, he said, is that many stop signs are at pedestrian crosswalks and near pick-up/drop-off lanes where commuters constantly are afoot.

"I have been very tempted to take the time one morning and use my video camcorder to prove my point," he said.

He said that although MTA officers frequently patrol the station, they don't enforce the stop signs and spend much of their time "ticketing a car for parking a few inches over the parking lines."

Your Intrepid One observed several buses at the Owings Mills station last week that paused at stop signs and never fully stopped. When pedestrians were present, however, the buses came to a complete stop.

Lt. Victor Thomecek of the MTA police said he had not heard of infractions by MTA drivers. He said the area is monitored by MTA officers. It is part of the officers' duties to note and ticket all moving violations -- and not just those of MTA bus operators, he said.

While we're on the subject of MTA buses, Donna Chiappini is riled that they serve her Joppa Heights community in Baltimore County only on weekdays and then, only during the morning and evening rush hours.

Ms. Chiappini, who lives on Waltham Woods Road, takes the first 19 Joppa Heights Express at 7:11 a.m. (another bus runs at 8:05 a.m.) to her job downtown at Maryland General Hospital by 8 a.m. She returns on one of three buses that get her home between 5:45 p.m. and 6:15 p.m.

"On weekends we have no buses at all," said Ms. Chiappini, who does not drive and has used MTA service regularly for the past four years to commute to her job at the hospital, where she is a nurse.

"The only problem I have is if the first bus doesn't show up in the morning or if I have to work later than 5:10 p.m. [when she catches the first bus to return home]."

Anthony Brown, an MTA spokesman, said the Joppa Express route was primarily designed to carry passengers to and from work during the morning and evening rush hours.

"If we did something at midday, no one would use it," Mr. Brown said.

DECISIONS, DECISIONS:

To turn left or not to turn left -- and if you do turn, do you do it before, or do you do it after oncoming, left-turning traffic? That's the question.

The issue really digs at Richard S. Dowd of northeast Baltimore and Carol Lupps of Harford County.

Mr. Dowd feels the "safest, most efficient and most courteous way" to turn left when approaching left turning cars is to turn in front of the traffic, thus not causing a gridlock of traffic behind you.

Not so, says Ms. Lupps. If you cut in front of a left turning car and the motorist changes his or her mind "you'd be up the creek and in a high heap of trouble."

Your Intrepid Chauffeur tends to agree with Ms. Lupps, but his Intrepid Spouse tends to be more adventurous and make left turns depending on the situation.

Michael Psenicska, owner of the Perry Hall Driving School and a driving instructor for 20 years, said the standard rule for most situations is that left-turning cars should cut in front of other left-turning vehicles.

"It's been that way for as long as I can remember," Mr. Psenicska adds.

Many automated traffic lights, particularly those in suburban areas, freeze straight traffic while channeling left-turning traffic to pass in front of left-turners coming from the opposite direction . . . sometimes two lanes at a time.

Officer Robert W. Weinhold Jr. of the Baltimore Police Department said the physical evidence and geometric makeup of the intersection often determine how to make the left turn, but he said it's best to yield the right-of-way to oncoming traffic.

"If it's perfect and even on all sides, you go past the traffic to turn," he said.

Officer Weinhold added that if a mishap occurs while making either style of turn, issuing a ticket is at the investigating officer's discretion.

BIKER COPS:

Davon Wingrate of West Baltimore has a novel approach to easing downtown traffic during rush hours. Post motorcycle police officers, he says, at busy intersections to conduct the flow of traffic.

"This way, there is never any down time, as when you have to wait for a traffic light," he says. "Somebody is moving all of the time."

Mr. Wingrate came up with the idea after sitting at a traffic light while on northbound Calvert Street at Lombard Street. He said he waited for 20 seconds while no traffic passed on Lombard Street.

Sgt. Frederick Kinder of the city police communications unit said that doing so would be a waste of personnel. "Heck," he said, "that's why we have traffic lights."

KEEP IN TOUCH

Write to the Intrepid Commuter, c/o The Baltimore Sun, P.O. Box 1377, Baltimore 21278. Please include your name and telephone number so we can reach you if we have any questions.

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