THE CITY'S new transportation czar won't run the Baltimore area's light-rail line, but the state should pay more attention to its 29-mile commuter service.
"Take light rail to Artscape!" exhorted advertisements this past weekend as Baltimore celebrated its annual three-day Artscape festival. And tens of thousands of people did during a weekend that drew an estimated 1.7 million people to the vicinity of the Maryland Institute.
But why was one of the two ticket machines out of order both Friday and Saturday at the Mount Royal stop, the site of Artscape?
Why was the same thing true at the Mount Washington stop? And why did the working machine accept only exact change?
At 5:22 p.m. Saturday, more than 50 exasperated Artscape goers were lined up at Mount Washington, scratching their heads. When a train came, most boarded without a ticket, disregarding the possible $500 fine.
On Sunday, both machines finally were in service. Mass Transit Administration officers also were on hand to give assistance to passengers unfamiliar with the machines.
It's great that a $120 million infusion of federal money will facilitate the completion of a two-track light-rail system by 2006. As bottlenecks are removed, the annoyingly slow service should become noticeably faster.
But there is plenty that can be - and should be - done in the meantime.
Making ticket machines work is a start. And how about preparing for heavy-usage events like Artscape? This was a chance for the Mass Transit Administration to show off its train and highlight its usefulness. Instead, it became a showcase for MTA's ineptitude.
That's not the way to double ridership by 2020, as Gov. Parris N. Glendening has asked the MTA to do. The weekend snafu also does nothing to bolster the MTA's pleas for needed money.
Next year, perhaps the city's new transit czar can work with MTA to make Artscape less of a transportation nightmare.