Transportation within Baltimore FAQ (v16.0 release July 14th, 2016)
This FAQ is aimed at those who are getting to Otakon by means other than driving themselves. Specifically the question answered is “How do I get to the convention from the bus station, airport, or train station by either walking or using Baltimore’s public transportation system?” (Of course, taxis are always another option.) Also included are a few tips for those who plan on driving to the con (see sections 5 & 6).
This FAQ is aimed at those getting to Otakon by means other than driving themselves. Basically, it's a guide to get you to Otakon using Baltimore's public transportation system; of course, taxis are another option. Also included are a few tips for those driving to Otakon.
WARNING: This information is consolidated from tips from both Otakon staff/attendees and Baltimore-area transportation specialists. All efforts have been made to ensure accuracy, but Otakon bears no responsibility for last-minute changes (schedules, fares, highway conditions, etc.) Prices quoted are from various official online sources, but just make sure you have extra just in case.
Here are a few highlights on major updates from last year for your consideration:
Also some general ideas to help you on your way in:
Public transportation in Baltimore does not run late at night (with one exception the 17 bus runs during non-Light Rail hours from UMBC and serves the BWI Airport and Arundel Mills areas), so those staying at hotels not within walking distance from the BCC may have to use alternate methods of getting back to their rooms at night. Specifically, the last Light Rail trains from Camden Yards or Convention Center leave at about 12:08 AM late Friday and Saturday, and about 8:16 PM on Sunday to get to BWI, and the last regular Super Shuttle is done before midnight!
IMPORTANT NOTES BEFORE STARTING:
As stated at the top of the document, all efforts have been made to ensure accuracy, but Otakon cannot be responsible for last-minute changes or emergencies such as construction, traffic jams, disasters, tsunami, blizzards, giant lizard attacks . You get the idea. Please plan accordingly.
Not all transit or transportation services operate on the same schedules on weekends versus weekdays. Some operations do not operate at all on weekends (MARC Camden Line service). Please consult all applicable schedules to be certain.
For the purposes of your Internet map services or GPS:
For those of you not driving to the con, you might have noticed that the official hotels downtown do not, as a rule, offer shuttle/limo services to the airport. The hotels near the airport do, but possibly only to the airport and back! (See Light Rail, below.) Don't worry. At least you won't have to deal with parking.
So, assuming you can make it to the Baltimore region, how the heck are you gonna cover those last few miles/meters/cubits to Otakon?
A NOTE ON TEAMWORK:
We suspect that the vast majority of you will be traveling to Otakon with friends. You probably couldn't find a place to stay without them. However, if by some chance you are traveling solo and you need to travel via taxi or mass transit to downtown, we suggest you travel on and come off the bus/plane/train looking very obviously Otakon-bound. Wear an anime-themed tee shirt. Carry a manga. Hold a sign saying something like "Going to Otakon" (not "glomp me"). When you do arrive, look around for fellow otaku and consider approaching them and offering to split a taxi ride to the BCC/hotel or perhaps walking together. There is safety in numbers. Every taxi should be able to handle two or three otaku plus their luggage/gear. Even if you never see that otaku again, you've just made a $9 taxi fare into a $3 or $6 fare. And maybe that stranger is a friend you haven't met. (Please use judgment and discretion in this as well.)
Baltimore's newly-rebuilt Greyhound terminal is at the corner of Haines & Warner, south/southwest of the BCC. There's a Holiday Inn Express and the giant Horseshoe Casino within walking distance, but there's not much else to where any sane person would want to go. (It's actually located next to the city's garbage incinerator!)
The front doors/gates of the bus terminal face north. The easiest and biggest landmark to see will be the M&T Bank Ravens Stadium looming. If you need your bearings, the BCC is well beyond and to the right (east) of that stadium.
From this bus terminal, there are three options: city transit (MTA), taxi, or walking. Actually, make that two see below.
MTA Maryland runs the Route 27 bus directly to serve the Greyhound terminal approximately every 40 minutes. You can ride from the bus terminal to the BCC for only $1.70 one-way. The bus stop is outside the terminal, marked by a small blue-and-white sign saying "BUS STOP" on the back (you passed it riding the bus into the terminal). Get on an MTA bus with a destination sign of "27 Reisterstown Road Plaza Sta" (not "Port Covington" which is to the south you want to go north). If the destination should somehow say anything else, ask the driver before boarding if the bus will go north past the Convention Center.
If you are short of time or running late, there is also a taxi stand outside the Greyhound terminal. When you get there and claim your luggage, walk outside. You will see a line of taxis (mostly yellow). Walk up to the one in the front, tell them where you want to go (Convention Center, specific hotel, etc.) and ask what the approximate fare is before you get in so you know how deep you're getting into from the start. Most drivers will err on the side of caution when estimating. A trip during rush hour might cost somewhat more, since the driver might spend a lot of time sitting in traffic. After that, get in and let him do his job.
The average taxi fare from the terminal to the BCC is around $8, according to local taxi drivers. The distance from the Greyhound parking lot to the Pratt Street Lobby doors is 1.3 miles. Nearby hotels (Sheraton, Marriott, Hyatt, etc.) may cost you a dollar or three more, depending on distance. And please be nice and add an extra dollar or two for the driver's tip. Maybe two if you have him loading and unloading a lot of luggage. It sounds expensive, but tips are where they really make their living, just like waitresses and pizza delivery guys. We suggest you pay for your taxi fare in cash so as not to allow the taxi driver to possibly overcharge you for the fare and tip.
Uber is also an option from the bus terminal. Fares using Uber to the hotels around the BCC range around $5-6, and about $6-8 to the hotels in Harbor East.
Horseshoe Casino runs a FREE shuttle to the following downtown hotels from 4:00 PM to 3:00 AM daily: Marriott Inner Harbor (at Camden Yards), Hilton, Hyatt, and Days Inn. This shuttle also stops at the BCC, so it is an option if you wish to pick up your badge first and don't have much luggage with you. Horseshoe Casino is about 2-3 blocks from the bus terminal.
We strongly DISCOURAGE walking the long walk from the bus terminal to the BCC. Walking to the Light Rail is totally counterproductive. As such, no directions are provided here. Given typical Baltimore summertime weather (hot and muggy), do you really want to be walking the 1.3 miles from the terminal to the BCC? The bus or cab fare you'll spend will most likely be the best money you've ever spent. (Again, look for fellow otaku with which to share rides.)
BoltBus is a low-cost bus service from Boston, New York, Newark, and Philadelphia to Baltimore. The BoltBus stop in Baltimore is at Baltimore Penn Station, where you'd need to take the free Charm City Circulator to the downtown area (more on that later).
To reserve a ride and get the cheapest price, go to www.boltbus.com. You can also go directly to the bus and pay to board, but it costs more to do so. BoltBus offers reserved seating, free Wi-Fi, plenty of legroom, plug-in outlets at every seat, and most standard amenities found on a motor coach: restroom, air conditioning, panoramic views, etc.
BoltBus also offers charter buses. If you contact BoltBus, a travel coordinator will assist in arranging exclusive use of one of the busses. All the extra amenities are included. It is noted that weekend availability may be limited, so a group that may want a chartered bus for Otakon may want to call in advance to see if the group can reserve a BoltBus.
All Amtrak and MARC Penn Line trains in Baltimore arrive at a place called BALTIMORE PENN STATION. From there, you could take either the MTA Light Rail, a bus, a taxi, or if you're feeling your oats you can walk the 1.5 miles due SOUTH. If you continue reading, you'll find out about another (free!) way to get to Otakon.
The MARC Camden Line also goes from DC's Union Station directly to Camden Yards. This is only a block or two from the BCC, more precisely across the street. This is NOT an Amtrak station! Camden Station runs on weekdays only between Union Station and Baltimore, with intermediate stops in Laurel, Dorsey, etc. It can be useful and very convenient for a ride to Otakon, but only if you ride in on Thursday or Friday and return on Monday (meaning another night's stay at a hotel or with friends). The fares are reasonable, but there are relatively few trains scheduled on the Camden Line, primarily at what we consider rush hour. Alternatively, you could consider riding in to Camden Station to get to Otakon, then catching a ride home with friends, getting a pickup, or riding out on the Penn Line on Sunday.
Check mta.maryland.gov for schedules and fares on both the MARC Camden and Penn Lines. Check amtrak.com for Amtrak information. All Amtrak trains operating on the Northeast Corridor (Boston Washington) require advance reservations.
NOTES TO REMEMBER ON MARC:
As stated earlier, several options exist for you to get from Baltimore Penn Station to the BCC. You could take Light Rail (more details later). However, the best option to get directly to the BCC (for free!) would be the Charm City Circulator's Purple Route. The stop is on 1600 St. Paul Street mere steps away from the train station, and this bus runs every 10-15 minutes until midnight on Friday and Saturday. The bus will take you down St. Paul Street to the Inner Harbor at Pratt Street (stop #303).
From here, to get to the BCC, you will need to turn to your immediate left and cross Light Street so you are on the opposite side of the street. You should be standing in front the One East Pratt Street building on the left (where the PNC Bank is), and the Bank of America building looming on the right. Way in the distance is a white/silver building with a red H on top that's the Hilton. Walk up Pratt Street going against traffic (on the sidewalk of course) for about a block until you get to a busy street with a traffic light. This is Charles Street.
Depending on what time you arrive on Thursday or Friday, you will see a long line.
This is the BCC (finally!). You will need to cross the street and then look for an Otakon staff member in a black shirt directing the lines to find the end of the pre-reg/reg line. It could be a long walk looking for the end of the line since they are known to actually wrap around the entire BCC.
Walking from Baltimore Penn Station to the BCC is NOT recommended since Otakon is held in the middle of the summer. Again, do you really want to be dragging all your luggage the 1.6 miles from the train station to the BCC? Give your feet a rest for a bit and take the Charm City Circulator.
(Okay, so technically it's "Baltimore-Washington Thurgood Marshall International Airport" - great guy and all but it's too much of a mouthful. Henceforth, "BWI".)
PLEASE NOTE: By now you have heard about the adventures of flying in the years since 9/11; the TSA checkpoints, the carry-on requirements, the long lines, the mostly abysmal airline customer service.... Some of it is exaggerated, but for your own sake, we strongly advise doing research on airline travel. (What to take, what not to take, which airlines charge for extra bags, etc.) This could be a serious issue in the case of (for example) cosplay costume details, props, or items you'll buy in the Dealer's Room at Otakon (swords, jewelry, etc.).
In addition, if you are staying at a hotel other than in downtown Baltimore, you may want to check if your hotel has a shuttle that runs from the airport to the hotel. Most hotels within the BWI Airport District do, and it's also possible you might be arriving on Thursday to warrant a side trip outside a van's normal route. Also, you should be able to take a shuttle to the airport and then ride Light Rail downtown. Another possibility: MTA Maryland's Route 17 bus serves the hotels in the Airport District as well as the hotels near Arundel Mills southwest of the airport. This route runs 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, so it may be useful if you end up staying at a hotel in that area. During the day, this route will take you to the Patapsco Light Rail stop, but after the Light Rail closes, you can take this bus from downtown Baltimore (in the UMBC area on Baltimore & Greene St, about a half-mile walking distance from the BCC) back to the Airport District and Arundel Mills.
Take the MTA Light Rail (see below) from BWI Airport directly to Convention Center Station. Or take the airport shuttle. Or take a taxi. These options get more convenient but more expensive for a single traveler. Your fellow otaku can help make the cost cheaper if they ride with you, though Light Rail remains the cheapest in all cases.
BWI Airport is a massive, well-equipped airport, complete with lots of food and information options. Throughout the airport, there are maps. If you want a guide, look for a purple-topped brochure called "Terminal Map and Guide." Please note many of the better food/drink selections are on the concourses before exiting the secured side of the airport through the TSA checkpoints. If you like the looks of that pizza or beer or souvenir, get it right away and do not assume you can come back and get it later!
If this if your first time in Maryland, welcome! We suggest a stop at the Maryland Information Center, located on the ground level (arrivals) between Baggage Claims 3-6 and 7-9. They should be able to provide you with answers to any questions you may have and items such as state highway maps, Baltimore maps, Light Rail timetables, and tourist brochures (especially important if you have people with you with no interest in Otakon, like parents!)
For those who are fascinated with air travel and transportation, there's an observation gallery on the upper level (departures) between Concourses B and C. It is highly recommended if time permits.
A Meditation Lounge is available for airport patrons from 6:30 AM to 10:30 PM daily on the upper level, next to an elevator between the Delta counter and the International Terminal. This is available for your prayer, meditation, or other spiritual and/or quiet needs.
Transportation Options from BWI:
All aboard for a fast, easy, and cheap ride to the BCC! You use a standard Light Rail pass ($1.70 one-way, or $3.40 round-trip or $4 for a day pass).
Be aware that there are 2 lines on Light Rail the Yellow Line goes from Cromwell Station to Baltimore Penn Station, and the Blue Line goes from Hunt Valley to BWI. Make sure you have the right line! (All lines from BWI are Blue and take you directly to downtown Baltimore.)
Trains depart from BWI northbound an average of every 20-30 minutes.
To ride Light Rail direct to Baltimore from BWI, follow the blue-and-white signs throughout the airport to "Public Transit" and the Light Rail station. Proceed through the doors to the railroad platform and turn right. You'll see the two ticket machines. Pay for your ticket and board the Light Rail vehicle. Once it leaves the airport, the trip is about 30 minutes long to the BCC.
You need not show your ticket or walk through a turnstile to board a Light Rail car/train. However, if at any time you are approached by a uniformed policeman and asked to show your ticket, show them whatever you purchased at the ticket machine. If you used your SmarTrip or Charmcard to purchase the pass, show that instead. This is standard operating procedure on the Light Rail. If you do not have a ticket, have an expired ticket, or if he/she determines that your SmarTrip/CharmCard doesn't have the appropriate pass, you can be fined and/or arrested, and they make sure it's not a pleasant experience. This is the job of the MTA Transit Police, whose uniforms will explicitly say "Fare Inspector". You should not be asked this by County or City Police. Yes, it is possible you won't be asked to show that ticket during your ride. Don't take that chance.
If you are going directly to Otakon, you'll get off at the Convention Center stop (surprise!). Along the way, you will have passed by the M&T Bank Ravens Stadium and Camden Yards on the left. At this point, the Hilton will be on your left and the BCC will be on the right. Get off when the doors open. To open the doors, you must press the green circular button that's recessed in a bright-yellow casing. You must also do this to request a stop as well. The BCC is the big concrete and glass monstrosity across the street. Carefully cross the street, and you'll be at the Pratt Street lobby on your right, approximately 120 feet from the stop.
If you wish to go to your hotel, friend's place, or other destination first, please consult with your hotel, host, or the MTA website. That site has a handy Google Maps-powered trip planner. Or, call 410-539-5000 (the information call center is only open Monday-Friday from 6:00 AM to 7:00 PM) for more information.
There is also a "Super Shuttle" van (you've probably seen them at airports before) that runs from the airport to wherever. This, however, is a bit more expensive: $16 single and round trip for the first person, $15 for each additional person. Between 9:00 AM and 2:00 AM, go to the Ground Transportation desk (BWI lower level) and ask for help; otherwise call 888-826-2700 and set up a reservation. You may need to call from your hotel in order to make sure they stop to pick you up for your return: call 888-826-2700 or, better yet, ask your hotel concierge.
The shuttle may also be reserved (at least 24 hours in advance) at 1-800-258-3826 or www.supershuttle.com, with a slightly more complex pricing scheme. This might be necessary if you want to get there outside of the MTA-LR operating hours (especially on Sunday) or don't care for public transportation, but you'll have to do further research yourself.
As with any form of transportation, if you have a schedule to keep (like, say, a plane to catch), make sure you allow plenty of extra time to get to your destination. People (ahem) have missed flights due to cutting things too close or unanticipated delays. Smoggy the Boar says: Don't let this happen to you!
If you decide to spurn the walking/public transportation route and decide you need a taxi, check out http://yp.yahoo.com. Enter your LOCATION as "Baltimore, MD" (or use one of the hotel addresses from the web page) and then do a search for "taxi" you should get about 3 dozen. Estimated prices to/from the hotels are about $20. Also note that this should not change for a group if they all get on/off at the same locations. Most taxis can accommodate three persons in comfort, four if they don't mind getting close in the back seat. However, factor in luggage in the trunk or on laps as well.
Note that not all of the taxi services will pick you up everywhere! They can drop you off most anywhere, but only airport licensees can pick you up at BWI, and only city licensees can pick you up downtown. Call ahead (or print out the whole list) to make sure you have one that will get you from point A to point B.
Uber is also an option its drivers can pick you up from the arrivals area from BWI. Fares will vary depending on time of day, but generally, the fare from the airport to the BCC is around $13-18. Check Otakon's website closer to the convention. Last year, Uber offered first-time users a $20 credit for the first ride, which means you could be traveling from the airport to Otakon on Uber's dime! Check out www.uber.com for more information on their app and service.
Here are directions from BWI to the BCC in the event that you wish to rent a car or get a ride in that weekend.
|1. Follow the Airport Exit to I-195. You can only go on this road one direction WEST.|
|2. Take Exit 4A to I-95 North toward Baltimore. Just make sure you get on this road.|
|3. Continue On I-95 to Exit 53 (I-395 Downtown Inner Harbor) this leads you to downtown. You shouldn't be on I-95 for more than 10 minutes. The exits on this stretch are pretty close together,, so it is important to stay to the right lines. You could inadvertently miss the exit if you are not careful!|
|4. I-395 eventually splits. Take the left fork! The right fork (Martin Luther King Blvd.) takes you around the far west side of the stadiums.|
|5. Now, at the first traffic light at Conway St., you will see the BCC ahead and to the right. If you are staying at the Hyatt or Sheraton, we suggest taking a right at that light. If you are staying at other hotels, it is probably best to go straight through the light past the Convention Center to Pratt Street. Most of the surrounding hotels will be found in this area.|
If you are flying to Dulles (IAD) or Reagan National (DCA) Airport in the Washington DC area, you will have a formidable challenge getting to Baltimore. Further information is available at http://www.metwashairports.com. Uber is available from these two airports as well, but the price to drive to Baltimore from either airport is significantly higher ($50-67 from National, $75-100 from Dulles).
REAGAN NATIONAL (DCA):
Though the fastest way to Baltimore from National is still by automobile or shuttle van, one transit option does exist for the Otakon-bound: Take a Yellow Line train on the Washington Metro from the airport north into downtown Washington, and change to the Red Line (at Gallery Place) to get to Washington's Union Station. From there, hop on a MARC or Amtrak train to Baltimore Penn Station, then to the BCC via Light Rail or Circulator. You can also change to the Green Line (anywhere between L'Enfant Plaza and Fort Totten) to Greenbelt and catch the hourly B30 bus to BWI ($7 fare), and from there you can catch the Light Rail at BWI.
You have two sort-of cheap ways to get from Dulles to Otakon, but they both involve very long rides on public transit: at least 1 hour to DC, and another 1-2 hours from DC to Otakon:
Either option requires you to change lines on the Metro once in DC. You'll eventually want to head for Union Station (Red Line) for a MARC or Amtrak train to Baltimore, or Greenbelt (Green Line) for the B30 bus to BWI. Your only other options from Dulles would be to rent a car, hire a van, or get a ride with someone else.
Parking in downtown Baltimore is very expensive. Most hotels will quote at least $16/day, with some as much as $35/day. If you wish to bite the bullet and park downtown, check out Parking Panda to purchase multi-day parking in advance. Otakon may offer a special for convention parking, so make sure to check the website if they will offer some savings for parking.
A good option for cheaper (or free) parking would be to park a car at one of the many remote parking lots along Light Rail or Metro Subway and riding into town. If you go to mta.maryland.gov you can find maps of where all the Light Rail stops are, what public transportation is available near the Convention center, and what parking is available at the various Light Rail stops.
This option works best if there are only 1-2 persons in the car and they are willing to leave the car there for 2-3 days. It is also possible in theory for an individual to drive a car/van load of people to the BCC, then have the driver ditch the car in a remote satellite lot and ride back in. If there's a van load, you're dealing with $1.70 times the number of passengers each way on Light Rail/Metro.
The Park-and-Ride lots are heavily patrolled by both local police and MTA Transit Police. Your vehicle should be safe unless you are practically inviting people to steal thousands of dollars of stuff left in plain sight in the car. Nevertheless, if you have a choice, pick the one with the alarm system.
Recommended Park & Ride Lots:
NEW THIS YEAR: Metro Subway is closing 3 subway stops (Reisterstown Plaza, Rogers Avenue, West Cold Spring) for repairs. You will need to take a shuttle bus from Milford Mill to Mondawmin to continue to downtown. Please allow extra time getting to/from downtown. More info is here.
Coming from I-695 East, you will take Exit 6A to MD 170 North Camp Meade Rd/N Linthicum. The station will be on the left.
Coming from I-695 West, you will take Exit 5 to MD 648 Balt-Annap Blvd/Ferndale. You'll need to turn left on to MD 170 to get to the station. The station will be on the right.
Be advised that NO MTA BUSES SERVE THIS STATION.
One last park-and-ride thought: If you have friends, business associates, or the like in Baltimore, you might consider the possibility of parking your car at a friend's house/garage and riding a bus or taxi downtown. You might also try the parking lot of a willing business. BE SURE that all parties are amicable and that someone can watch the car. Don't just put the car in a shopping center parking lot and leave it for several days. Your car may be towed or burglarized.
We assume if you're reading this section, you (1) can drive or have a driver, and (2) can find your way to Baltimore, the BCC, and your accommodations. If you can't, attending Otakon is the least of your worries, Ryoga. However, we want to offer a few useful tips about driving on a "road trip."
Gas Prices: Averaging about $2.23/gallon as of July 1, 2016, in Maryland, which is right around the national average of $2.28/gallon, according to www.gasbuddy.com and gasprices.aaa.com. Prices are not expected to go higher than this at this point this year, and by the time Otakon rolls around, they might be lower.
WAZE: If you or your friend has a smartphone, get the Waze app. It is a free navigation/traffic app, and it provides real-time traffic and road information, including hazards, accidents, speed traps, and more. If you and your friends are headed to Otakon, you can track each other's locations while on the Waze app you can even send them ETA messages as well to let them know you're on the way. Your friends don't even have to have the app installed on their phone to see your location and ETA.
LOCAL RUSH HOURS: The "Balt/Wash" metro area is one of the nation's most congested highway zones for rush hours. You are guaranteed to hit heavy traffic on the "Beltways" around Baltimore (I-695) and Washington (I-495) between the hours of 6:30 AM and 9:30 AM and 3-7 PM weekdays, although historically rush hours on summer Fridays tend to be a bit lighter.
The following areas are guaranteed heavy traffic with average speeds well below 50 MPH:
MORNINGS: Outer Loop I-695 from I-95 northeast of town to
outer Loop I-695 from I-795 south all the way to I-95.
EVENINGS: Inner Loop from I-95 southwest of town north to I-795 or I-83 south, and Towson to I-95.
BOTH RUSH HOURS: I-95 Fort McHenry Tunnel both ways and the entire Washington DC area, especially I-95 between Fredericksburg and the Capital Beltway (I-495).
Also, be careful approaching the Beltway from the West on I-70 backups frequently stretch several miles and are the site of almost daily fender-benders as fast cars brake for the sudden line-up of almost-stopped cars ahead of them during morning and afternoon rush hours.
TRAFFIC REPORTS ON THE RADIOS: The following are recommended radio stations for traffic reports in their areas:
Listening to traffic radio can be like listening to a cryptic code if you are not used to knowing the local highways. If you are not intimately familiar with the local roads, use traffic radio primarily to listen for major highway closures or traffic jams/backups. One example: "JFX" refers to the Jones Falls Expressway, or I-83 inside the Baltimore I-695 beltway.
INTERSTATE 95 ADVICE/TIPS
New for 2016: The major road work project on I-95 south of Baltimore city has ended.
If you are driving from the D.C. area:
There should be no tolls in your way, other than if you happen to take the Dulles Toll Road from west of Washington or MD 200 from Rockville.
If you are driving from Virginia via I-95:
The reversible lanes are designated as Express Toll Lanes. The toll varies on the time of day, the length of the drive, and the amount of traffic currently on the roads. In general, the tolls will be higher going northbound in the morning on weekdays than any other time of day. Given DC's legendary traffic problems, these lanes may get you to Otakon faster on Thursday/Friday morning.
EZ-Pass IS REQUIRED to drive in these lanes. Make sure you have enough money on your EZ-Pass account to cover the tolls about $20-25 should be in your account if you choose to use the Express Toll Lanes in Virginia on Thursday/Friday morning.
If you do not have an EZ-Pass while driving in these lanes, you will be mailed a bill for the missed toll at the time plus a $12.50 fee. You can avoid the $12.50 fee if you visit this website (www.expresslanes.com/missedatoll) within 5 days of the missed toll.
If your car has a special "EZ-Pass Flex" transponder, you can avoid the toll entirely by having 3 or more people in the car and the EZ-Pass is set to "HOV" mode. Be careful! If you are driving in "HOV" mode and you don't have at least 3 people in the car, you can be pulled over and ticketed. The HOV rules are enforced 24 hours a day on I-95.
Between Washington and Baltimore, there are three major roads:
If you are driving from the North (Philadelphia, Wilmington, etc.): Driving through Delaware from Philadelphia/I-95 South, your drive will be faster if you take I-495 around Wilmington instead of staying on I-95 through Wilmington. The speed limit on a clear day is 65 MPH and three lanes in each direction provide lots of space.
Driving into Delaware via the Delaware Memorial Bridge (I-295), be aware that the toll after entering Delaware is $4. No toll is collected leaving Delaware.
There are TOLLS collected at the following Maryland locations, which all take E-ZPass. If you have access to an E-ZPass account/transponder, use it (and make sure there's enough money on it). Maryland residents with E-ZPass accounts may qualify for toll discounts. Visit ezpassmd.com to see if you qualify.
We see no reason for any Otakon traveler to use I-895 in Maryland at all, except in VERY special circumstances such as driving south from Philadelphia and picking up a friend at BWI Airport before going to Otakon. Stay off of it. If you do find a reason to travel it, be aware that I-895 is generally regarded as one long speed trap because it's wide, flat, sparsely traveled, and conducive to doing 80-90 mph when it mostly has a speed limit of 55.
GENERAL TIPS FOR ROAD TRIPS:
If you have never taken a long road trip with a group besides your family before, I STRONGLY advise you to take the following advice, gleaned from 25+ years of driving solo and in groups:
If you find that you have a lot of friends or new friends that are going to Otakon from a particular geographical area (say, New York City, Harrisburg, Pittsburgh, northern New Jersey, or Richmond), you might find that it is possible to charter a bus from your area to go to Otakon! It sounds ridiculous, but some anime clubs have already done so at least three charter buses appeared at Otakon in 2006. For a fare not much more (and possibly a lot less) than a bus or Amtrak fare from your chosen point, you can enjoy a comfortable bus ride straight from your point of origin (say, a shopping center parking lot, a school, or bus terminal) directly to the Baltimore Convention Center on Thursday or Friday morning, and a comfortable ride back on Sunday! Most charter buses hold 45 people the critical break-even point financially seems to be about 30-35. If you think you can find a group of 40 willing people to pay $20-30 in advance, you might want to call bus companies and see what happens!
If you don't have quite enough people or time to warrant a bus, you might be able to rent a van. Large passenger vans are capable of carrying up to eighteen passengers, although luggage may cut into that figure. Some bus companies will direct you to companies that hire vans complete with driver, an arrangement similar to a small charter bus. Car rental companies also rent vans on occasion, but you provide the gas and driver.
In addition, if you know for a fact that you are staying at a hotel in the suburbs and a lot of other people are as well, you might consult with your hotel's manager to arrange for a group ride to Otakon in a van or bus. In 2006, one hotel in Columbia, MD provided a tour bus to and from Otakon each day of the convention. It's best to confirm you have a "critical mass" too big for a car say, ten or fifteen. At worst, the hotel will give you the number of a local taxi. At best, they'll do all the work for you. Expect to pay a price per person for this "luxury" perhaps $5-10 round trip but it's still cheaper than the parking fees or gas!
Idiotically preposterous if you don't live in the downtown Baltimore area, only modestly preposterous if you do. If you are even reading this, we don't need to tell you much except for one thing: you will NOT be permitted to bring your bicycle into the BCC and there are a somewhat limited number of things to which you can secure/lock your bicycle outside the BCC trees, lamp posts, etc. and some of those run the risk of having a bicycle cut off and impounded if it is judged to be impeding the flow of pedestrian traffic. Oh, and wear your helmet.
If you are staying with friends at a downtown hotel, most hotels will make accommodations for your bicycle (such as locking it in a back storage room) if you are a paying guest. Ask your hotel for information.
Another option under the right circumstances: if your family or friend's family (or you) happen to own a boat capable of allowing passengers to sleep aboard, Baltimore has a multitude of marinas in the downtown Inner Harbor area and off to the east. This actually may be a feasible option IF you have access to the boat AND can pay the dockage fees.
The closest marina to Otakon is the Baltimore Inner Harbor Marina Center. Call 410-837-5339 for rates and reservation details. Rates for transients for the weekend are $3/ft/day + electric, $2.50/ft/day + electric Mon-Thurs., if space is available. Other marinas are located in the Canton area southeast of downtown. If you actually have access to a boat, you probably know how to find dockage.
Hey, we’re just making sure we cover all the possibilities. (^_^) If you have a private aircraft, we recommend Martin State Airport, about ten miles east of downtown Baltimore in Middle River. There's also the Essex Skypark, on a remote peninsula southeast of Baltimore, and Baltimore Airpark along I-95 near Perry Hall, northeast of Baltimore. Small aircraft may also use part of BWI Airport. From there, you have the above-detailed transit and car rental options.
No, we're not seriously advocating this as a transportation alternative. This is just an excuse for us to remind you that you may NOT use skateboards, skates, or "Heelys" in the Baltimore Convention Center. It's the BCC's rules, not ours. In fact, we most strongly advise not even bringing them at all, even if it's part of your character's appearance for a cosplay sketch.
This version of All Roads Lead to Otakon was compiled/updated by Kun Sun Sweeley and Jeremiah Soria.
The original All Roads Lead to Otakon was long hosted and maintained by George E. Hagen. He has graciously allowed us to capitalize on the hard work and move it into Otakon’s main site to be maintained by Otakon staffers and we’re grateful.