The Mess Continues

The Maryland Transit Administration continues to show day in and day out that failure is an option in Maryland State Government:

Thousands of Baltimore-area commuters were forced to abandon trains and board buses yesterday, the first workday disrupted by a light rail shutdown that closed the northern half of the system. State officials were unable to say how long service would be curtailed by a problem caused in part by the fall of autumn leaves.

Commuters attempting to take light rail between North Avenue and Hunt Valley were diverted to shuttle buses, which passengers said added as much as 90 minutes to the trip.

Light rail typically serves 30,000 riders a day – about half of whom use the northern stations.

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So that’s fantastic. Half of the ridership of the Light Rail system disrupted because the MTA couldn’t adequately plan for Fall.

What’s infuriating about this shutdown is the fact that it has been inherent in the design and operation of the system from the get go, according to the Sun story:

Problems with light rail go back to the original design and route of the system, which opened in 1992 under pressure from then-Gov. William Donald Schaefer to get it running in time for the debut of Oriole Park at Camden Yards. The northern section of the line follows a narrow, old railroad right of way along the Jones Falls Expressway through forested parkland before emerging from the woods north of Ruxton.

The problem, Porcari said yesterday, is that trains run over fallen leaves and can grind the wet plant matter into what he described as a “gelatinous substance.”

Some somehow after 16 years, the MTA leadership still doesn’t realize that this is a year in, year out problem? Or the fact that the computer system in place on the Light Rail trains has been in place for four years and they still do not have an adequate solution?

This afternoon, the MTA Follies just got worse:

The Maryland Transit Administration has referred a case to criminal investigators at the Attorney General’s Office involving an employee who used keys to bus fare boxes to gain access to the collected money, according to a legislative audit released today….

…. Among its findings:

—During an 18-month period in 2006 and 2007, the MTA failed to perform maintenance inspections as frequently as required by federal rules on 66 percent of its bus fleet.

—As of January, the MTA had not performed a complete physical inventory of its equipment since July 1998.

—Of its 140 state-owned, non-transit vehicles, 39 were not driven the minimum of 10,000 miles of use on state business in 2007 needed to justify keeping them in the MTA’s fleet.

The only finding to result in a criminal referral was the matter involving access to fare box keys.

According to the audit, the MTA did not maintain a proper inventory of which of the 34 employees responsible for collecting revenues had access to which specific keys. Nor did it record which supervisors issued which keys to each worker.

So, to recap:

  • MTA can’t keep it’s system operating;
  • MTA can’t perform basic maintenance on its trains and buses;
  • MTA can’t keep it’s passengers safe; and.
  • MTA can’t adequately retain its fares

I have spoken time and again about the MTA’s incompetence. And I have to ask again why Governor O’Malley will take no steps to rectify systemic failures at MTA? Why does Paul Wiedefeld and the rest of MTA Senior Manager still have jobs? And why will Martin O’Malley take no responsibility for Baltimore’s public transit crisis?


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