Yesterday was the public's first day on the new $353 million extension of the Baltimore Metro from Charles Street to Johns Hopkins Hospital. And the public was pleased.
A few people were more than pleased.
"This is the best thing they ever did," said Patricia Battle, 36, of Upton, in West Baltimore. "I just thank God! This morning it took me only 10 minutes to get to work."
Ms. Battle works at Maryland Messenger, a courier company on Albemarle Street near the new Shot Tower/Market Place station. It was about 1 p.m. She was sensing the unexpected freedom this new public amenity offered her.
"I'm going up to the Lexington Market," she said, smiling.
Bette Belzner, 57, noticed something different at the Johns Hopkins Hospital station when it opened yesterday. This is the second of the two new stations, the eastward terminus on the Metro's 15.5-mile course down from Owings Mills. She helps staff the check-in desk at Hopkins' new reception room, which gives access directly to the hospital and the outpatient clinic from the station.
The first hundred Hopkins employees to come up from the trains after 7 a.m. were "very excited about the subway," she said. "Everybody was asking if you could get to the Market and back for lunch. It only takes a few minutes. Reaction was very positive. I'm amazed."
"I'm third-generation Baltimorean," she explained. "We're very skeptical."
Just before 2 p.m. the foot traffic was flowing the other way, out of the hospital. A festive group of surgeons and support personnel from the brain tumor research laboratory had taken over 11 seats on the train. "We thought it would be fun to jump in the subway and go to the harbor for lunch," said Allen Sills, 30, who organized the expedition.
"We wanted to travel in a minute-and-a-half what it took them seven years to dig," added Reid Thompson, 31. Actually, the tunnels took six years to dig and the ride to Charles Street takes four minutes.
Not everybody traveling on the new extension was out for lunch. And not everything was perfect. Jacqueline Morrison, 43, had a little problem with the turnstile at the Shot Tower Station. It took her ticket, but declined to give way. In an instant there were five MTA trouble-shooters on the job.
Ms. Morrison is a daily rider from Pikesville down to the Commercial Credit Corp. on St. Paul Street, where she works. She likes subways: "You can do things when you ride that you can't do when driving. Like putting on your lipstick."
She predicted the problem she had experienced would slow traffic during rush hour. In fact, there were similar mechanical problems throughout the day. Raymond Wright, an MTA systems engineer, promised all the bugs would be worked out of the turnstiles by the weekend. He also said the two stations would reach the level of traffic predicted by MTA, 4,000 a day. As of 5 p.m. yesterday, the number of riders passing through the Hopkins station alone had far exceeded 2,000.
Ms. Morrison's friend and co-worker, Howard Krevolin, did not join in her quibble. They were out on an exploratory lark just to see what life was like east of Little Italy.
"I always wanted to know where Johns Hopkins Hospital was," he said. Mr. Krevolin moved from Philadelphia six years ago and has become an enthusiast for Baltimore, if not much of an explorer of it.
But, being from Philadelphia, he has more than a little experience on subways. Asked to compare Baltimore's Metro to Philadelphia's elevated and subway systems, he said, looking around at the intriguing mural resembling an assemblage of green eggs: "It's great. It's cleaner. It's safer. The only thing you don't have is our beautiful aroma."
Even Howard Himes was pleased, and for him any little uptick is a gift. Mr. Himes, 49, has acquired immune deficiency syndrome. He got on at the Charles Street Station, heading for the AIDS clinic at the hospital. He makes the trip for treatment two or three times a week, from his Federal Hill home. He found the subway a lot easier than the bus ride.
At the last stop he left the train and floated up toward the hospital on the escalator.