Trains and buses and automobiles

Area residents are out and about, but the post-snow going is slow

  • Donnell Barnes rides the No. 40 MTA bus from Edmondson Village to downtown Baltimore, where he planned to go shopping at Lexington Market. The MTA said buses were running on 20 modified local routes, down from the usual 50.
Donnell Barnes rides the No. 40 MTA bus from Edmondson Village… (Baltimore Sun photo by Kim…)
February 13, 2010|By Tricia Bishop, Laura Vozzella and Michael Dresser , and michael

Courts, cafes, nonprofits, gyms, government offices - you name the place, it's likely been closed for days. That made getting to work Friday, the first true clear day of the week, all the more crucial.

But commuting delays spread from car to bus to light rail and even to walkers, who struggled with footing on slippery streets. A commute by car from Columbia to Baltimore, which usually takes 35 minutes, stretched to an hour and a half. There were fewer bus routes, no aboveground Metro service, and the light rail was limited to single-track operations in some areas.

Still, many weathered the morning commute with good cheer. What else could they do?

It was 8:58 a.m., and the trip odometer in Suzanne Cooke's Honda Accord, parked outside her Wyman Park home, read 618.4 miles. The challenge was on.

"I do have a degree of impatience," said Cooke, whose commute, about four miles, usually takes 20 minutes if she makes most of the green lights. "I'm not one to sit in traffic."

With classical music playing on the radio, she set off down Beech Avenue. Destination: South Street, where she planned to meet a prospective client. Cooke, a former parochial school teacher, is an account manager for an employment agency.

She took a left onto West 33rd Street and veered right onto Remington, where the pavement was visible and wide open.

"I never would have expected this!" Cooke exclaimed. "This is awesome."

A tenth of a mile later, at Wyman Park Drive, it was a little different. There was no road, only packed snow with icy pits that mimicked the worst potholes. There was room for only one lane of cars, yet it was still being used as a two-way street, which meant cars had to alternate shifting to the side to let other vehicles by.

"Now I have to make an executive decision," Cooke said, looking at the mess before her. She paused, a driver behind her honked a horn, and she went for it, the car bobbing and bouncing over the bumps.

As she crossed 31st, the road reappeared.

She turned left on West 27th and right on North Howard, where two lanes were cleared. Soon, traffic was at a dead stop, several blocks from North Avenue. The two lanes had merged into one.

Cooke considered bailing at 23rd, but worried that taking a left there would hold up everyone else behind her. Then a plow took the initiative, and she followed.

"The truck has inspired me," she said, making the left, then taking a right onto Maryland Avenue. She avoids St. Paul Street at all costs. Too slow.

" Maryland's a good road," she said, before hitting the brakes to avoid pedestrians in the street.

"Here's another factor: people! You're down to one lane or half a lane, and now you have to be careful of these pedestrians," Cooke said, shaking her head.

A few turns later, she was on Baltimore Street and got a pleasant surprise: "Look! Three lanes!" She beamed behind sunglasses. Paying $1 for street parking is preferable to $15 in a garage. It's something of a life philosophy for her.

She took 38 minutes to drive 3.7 miles on her commute. That's one mile every 10 minutes and 27 seconds - or 5.74 miles an hour.

"Really?" Cooke said. "To me, that is perfectly understandable. The blizzard was only two days ago."

Donnell Barnes rode the No. 40 bus from Edmondson Village into downtown Baltimore, where he went shopping for meat at Lexington Market. Barnes, a 43-year-old construction worker who had the day off because of the weather, normally would take his Dodge Durango truck for that kind of errand.

But he wasn't sure whether parking spots near the market would be cleared of snow.

"I don't know how it is downtown," he said.

He also didn't want to give up his parking place on the street where he lives.

"I don't want to lose my spot," said Barnes. "I dug it out yesterday."

The No. 40 ran smoothly, but major disruptions continued Friday in public transportation routes across the Baltimore region. Maryland Transit Administration buses were running on 20 modified local routes, down from the usual 50.

The Metro ran underground only and less frequently. Subways ran about every 20 minutes instead every 10, said Cheron Victoria Wicker, an MTA spokeswoman. Crews worked to open aboveground stations, but none had been opened by afternoon.

Light rail stations were open, but the MTA said trains ran every 30 to 40 minutes instead of the usual 20 because they were limited to single tracks in some areas.

When Blanche Avery's shuttle bus arrived at the BWI Business District light rail station about 9:45 a.m., she was filled with warm thoughts of her East Baltimore home and freedom. She had been trapped by the snow emergency at her cafeteria job since Sunday, working 12-hour shifts and sleeping in her boss' office.

"This is my getting back in civilization," she said. "Hello, world!"

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