Baltimore, it seems, has signs for everything, except Penn Station

THE INTREPID COMMUTER

June 19, 1995

Thomas A. Lilly, a Lutherville entertainer, travels throughout metropolitan Baltimore frequently and spots all kinds of signs for roads and traffic. But one sign he seldom sees is for Pennsylvania Station.

That's in stark contrast, he said, to the many signs for Baltimore-Washington International Airport on the Beltway, Interstate 95 and the Baltimore-Washington Parkway.

"But what about directions to the train station?" Mr. Lilly asked. "We dropped off a friend intent on taking in the sights of the Big Apple, and the first sign [for the train station] we saw on our trip from Lutherville said 'Penn Station 400 feet.' "

Kenneth E. Wiedel Jr., general manager at Penn Station, said the only signs for the building are, in fact, in its immediate area, and some of those have only been up since the construction of a new parking garage.

One reason more signs aren't posted is because Baltimore has two stations for rail commuters -- at Camden Yards and Penn Station -- and Penn Station signs might cause confusion.

"Someone who wanted to come here might wind up going to Camden Yards," Mr. Wiedel said.

Camden Yards handles only Maryland Rail Commuter (MARC) service, while Penn Station carries Amtrak and MARC commuters.

Mr. Wiedel said he'd like to see more signage for the station, but, "I don't know where they'd put it." He suggested one place might be at the St. Paul Street exit of Jones Falls Expressway.

Meanwhile, Mr. Lilly worries that tourists or local types might have a hard time finding Penn Station.

"It's like we pretend there isn't one," he said. At the urging of several readers, we took a ride on Putty Hill Avenue between Harford Road and Perring Parkway in Parkville in Baltimore County and found it to be quite an uneventful ride. It wasn't like "riding on a washboard," as one reader had suggested.

However, it seemed that every few yards in the westbound lane, the Intrepid Vehicle encountered a minor pothole, a dip or repatched surface. The trouble was mainly in the right lane of the two-lane road, especially near Parkville High School.

"I travel this way every day, and it's a disgrace. There's no other way to describe the situation," said Ronald Schwartz, a Parkville resident.

Carl Schmidt, chief of the county's division of highway maintenance, said the stretch of Putty Hill Avenue has not been the target of many complaints about its surface and is not scheduled to be resurfaced soon.

SMOKE 'EM:

You're at a busy bus stop downtown. Several Mass Transit Administration buses come before your bus arrives. As each bus pulls away, you're left in a cloud of black smoke.

"It's not very nice," said Ann Moment of North Baltimore. "When they start up, out comes that gush of black smoke. I do not fully understand why clouds of black smoke from city transit vehicles are tolerated."

Buses are routinely serviced, with each of the 450 buses with electronic engines receiving a tuneup every 50,000 miles. Another 400 buses with mechanical engines get tuneups every 75,000 miles, said MTA spokesman Anthony Brown.

The MTA also is installing an overhaul engine kit certified by the Environmental Protection Agency on all of its buses in hopes of reducing emissions, Mr. Brown said.

While we're talking MTA buses, Glendon Rivera of Pasadena wonders why buses don't use those "nicely resurfaced cement pads" at stops more often to either pick up or discharge passengers.

Not to do so is "not only dangerous, but inconsiderate to others," said Mr. Rivera, who travels on Hanover Street daily and said buses seldom pull to the curb for passengers. At best, he said buses will pull partially into the stop.

"But its rear end is still sticking out, and nobody can pass it," he said.

Lt. Carl Gutberlet of the city police traffic unit said officers use discretion when citing MTA drivers for not using bus stops. If the bus commits a clear violation, an officer might warn the driver. If the driver persists, then the officer will issue a ticket, Lieutenant Gutberlet said.

Mr. Brown of the MTA said drivers are trained only to stop in the street parallel to the curb when the bus stop is blocked or occupied, and never to enter the stop only partially.

UPDATE:

Many of you have inquired about the Intrepid One's attempt to get permanent license tags as we enter the third week of driving on expired temporary tags.

In brief, we're still waiting for the Montgomery County dealership, which promises to pay any $40 ticket we happen to get, to produce what it promised to produce when we bought the car April 14. Stay tuned.

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