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August 8 - August 10, 2014
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Home  //  Vitals  //  Vitals: Directions - All Roads Lead to Otakon
Vitals: Directions - All Roads Lead to Otakon

All ROADS Lead to OTAKON

Transportation within Baltimore FAQ (v14.0 release Jul 2014)

New for 2014, still subject to updates and upgrades; please check back often for updates and additional information. Questions, corrections, and comments may be sent to us through our contacts form here or via the Otakon Message Board.

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).

Web sites you might want to visit:

[Google Maps] http://maps.google.com
[BoltBus] http://www.boltbus.com
[Charm City Circulator] http://www.charmcitycirculator.com [Baltimore MTA] http://www.mta.maryland.gov/
[Baltimore Super Shuttle] http://www.supershuttle.com/en/BWIAirportShuttleBaltimore.html
[BWI] http://www.bwiairport.com
[DC] http://www.metwashairports.com
[Amtrak] http://www.amtrak.com
[Greyhound] http://www.greyhound.com
[More Transportation] http://www.baltconvstr.com/pages/transportation.htm
[Map of Hotels] hotelmap.pdf

This information is consolidated from a slew of tips from both Otakon attendees and Baltimore-resident transportation specialists; all efforts have been made to assure accuracy, but Otakon can bear no responsibility for changes to schedules, fares, or highway conditions. Consider yourself warned. Prices quoted are from various web sites, some from previous years, so trust their accuracy only as much as you trust the ’net… I wouldn’t bet my munchies money on it, and would bring along some extra just in case.

It's been a while since this page has been thoroughly updated, so here is a quick list of major updates for your consideration:

  • The MARC Penn Line now runs on weekends 9 round trips on Saturday and 6 on Sunday.
  • MTA Maryland accepts all major credit cards as well as the WMATA SmarTrip card and MTA's Charm Card.
  • I-495 South around Wilmington, Delaware, at the Christiana River bridge has re-opened just in time for Otakon. Northbound lanes are still closed.
  • Tolls at many facilities in/around Maryland have gone up: $8 northbound on I-95 and US 40 bridges; $4 (both ways) for the Baltimore-area tunnels and the Key Bridge; $6 eastbound for the 50/301 Chesapeake Bay Bridge, and $4 (both ways) for the toll plaza at the Maryland/Delaware state line.

Also some general ideas to help you on your way in:

  • Check the “Ride Central” forum of the Otakon Bulletin Board to look for ride-sharing, bus charter plans, or other possible ways to combine efforts.
  • Have a large group or think you can get one together? Try chartering a bus or van from a far-off town to Baltimore.
  • Don’t want to be gouged for parking a car downtown? See here for suggestions on how to park a car and shuttle in on Light Rail, Metro subway, or bus.
  • Be aware that a great many interstate highway rest areas in popular/populous areas, particularly those with tourist information offices open during daytime hours, now feature 24-hour wi-fi access. If you have a wi-fi enabled device, time permits, and you need to check e-mail or directions en route, schedule a stop!
  • MTA now accepts all major credit cards at both METRO subway and Light Rail ticket vending machines.

Note that the public transportation does NOT all run late at night (except for the 17 bus that runs during non-Light Rail operating hours), so those staying at hotels not within walking distance of the BCC may have to use alternate methods of getting back to their rooms at night! (Specifically, the Light Rail last leaves Camden Yards at about 12:08 AM on Friday and Saturday, and about 8:16 pm on Sunday to get to BWI, and the last regular Super Shuttle is done before midnight!)

Contents

  1. Introduction
  2. Arriving via Bus
  3. Arriving via Train
  4. Arriving via BWI Airport
    1. MTA Light Rail System
    2. Airport Shuttle
    3. Taxi
    4. Other
  5. Park & Ride the Light Rail
  6. Tips for Driving (and using other forms of transporation) to Otakon

There is some overlap between the parts — part 4.1 will probably be of interest to all.

1. INTRODUCTION and QUICK NOTES:

IMPORTANT NOTES BEFORE STARTING:
These things are just approximations, OK? Might be a bit more, might be a bit less. We strive to constantly update this site, but we cannot make allowances for emergency construction, traffic jams, accidents, fare increases, disasters, tsunami, blizzards, or giant lizard attacks. Plan accordingly.

Not all transit or transportation services will operate on the same schedules on weekends as opposed to weekdays. Some operations — for example, MARC Camden Line train service — will not operate at ALL on weekends. Please consult ALL applicable schedules to be certain.

If you want to check out Internet map services or a personal GPS:

  • The “downtown” (har-har) Greyhound/Peter Pan Bus depot is located at 2110 Haines St., Baltimore, MD 21201. (That’s about a mile and a half south-southwest of the Baltimore Convention Center and Camden Yards, near Russell St., a little north of I-95. This is technically NOT downtown.) This stop is NOT to be confused with the “Baltimore Travel Plaza” on the east side of town!
  • BWI Airport is located about ten miles south of Baltimore at the south end of Interstate 195.
  • Penn Station is located at 1515 N Charles St. , Baltimore, MD 21201,/b>, next to I-83/the Jones Falls Expressway.
  • The Baltimore Convention Center is, for the purposes of your GPS, at 251 West Pratt Street, Baltimore, MD 21201. (the main entrance) in Baltimore.

For those of not driving to the con… You might have noticed that the official hotels do not, as a rule, offer shuttle/limo services. (Apparently the BWI airport hotels DO offer free shuttles, but possibly only to the airport! See the Light Rail section, below.) Don’t worry. At least you won’t have to deal with parking. So… assuming you can get to the general Baltimore region, but are wondering how the heck you’ll cover the last few miles/meters/cubits… (Mind you, this is assuming you're going to the BCC. And don't take this as the Word of God/Allah/Buddha/Cosmic Muffin — check up on things yourself, please?)

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 small chance you are traveling to Otakon solo and you need to travel in a taxi or on mass transit the final lap downtown, we suggest that you travel on and come off the bus/plane/train looking very obviously Otakon-bound. Wear an anime-theme t-shirt. Carry a manga. Wear part of your costume. Hold a sign saying “Going To Otakon” (not “glomp me”). When you 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 $30 taxi fare into a $10 or $15 fare. And maybe that stranger is just a friend you haven’t met. Please use your own judgment and discretion in this as well.

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“Where the Heck am I NOW?” – or – Another One Rides the (Neko?)Bus

2. ARRIVING via BUS:

a. Greyhound

Baltimore has a Greyhound/Peter Pan terminal at the corner of HAINES (going northwest/southeast) and WARNER (going northeast). There is a Holiday Inn Express there, and the new Horseshoe Casino under construction nearby, but there's nothing else to which any sane person would want to go — it’s actually located next to the city’s garbage incinerator! This stop is NOT to be confused with the “Baltimore Travel Plaza” (a glorified truck stop) on the east side of town.

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 to the north. If you need your bearings, the Baltimore Convention Center is well beyond and to the right (East) of that stadium.

From this bus terminal, there are three options: city transit (MTA) bus, taxi, or walking. (We will disregard roller skates, bicycles, etc.) Actually, make that two — see below.

The MTA operates the Route 27 bus line to directly serve the Greyhound terminal. You can ride from the bus terminal to the BCC for only $1.60 one-way. The bus stop is outside the bus 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 a MTA bus (with yellow/black trim: as seen here or blue/green trim: as seen here) with a destination sign saying “27 Reisterstown Road Plaza Station (a METRO subway stop),” NOT “Port Covington” (which is to the south; you want to go north). If the bus destination sign should somehow say anything else, ask the driver before boarding if the bus is going north past the Convention Center. Go here to see approximate times for the bus.

If you are short on time or running late, there is also a taxi stand outside the Greyhound bus station. When you get there and claim your luggage, walk outside. You will see a line of taxis (mostly yellow). Walk up to the one at the front, tell them where you want to go (Convention Center, your specific hotel, your friend’s address, whatever) and ask an approximate fare 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, because the driver may spend a lot of time sitting in traffic.) Then get in and let him do his job.

The average taxi fare from the bus station 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. (This writer drove it in five minutes with many red lights; with all green lights, one might do it in three.) Nearby hotels (Sheraton, Marriott, Hyatt, etc.) will 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.

It is strongly suggested that you do NOT attempt to walk from the bus terminal to the Convention Center, and walking to the Light Rail is totally counterproductive. As such, no directions are provided here. Suck it down and take a taxi. Do not think that you can walk that distance. It's certainly possible to walk it, but it involves a long overpass with no walkway. There is a pedestrian route that takes you up and down stairs to a walkway attached to a railroad overpass. It’s a couple blocks through a not-very-nice part of town and around/through the Ravens Stadium complex. You WILL get lost. Even Baltimore residents would not walk this route voluntarily, IF they even know of it. DO NOT DO IT unless you’re a martial arts god/goddess with a great map. If Baltimore weather is typical for July/August (hot and muggy), that $1.60 or $8 will be the best you’ve ever spent.

As suggested at the top of this document, look for fellow otaku with which to share rides.

A last quick tip: if for ANY reason someone either needs to catch a bus from the Baltimore Travel Plaza or accidentally gets off the bus there instead of Haines Street, the MTA 20 bus connects downtown and the Travel Plaza. Please see the MTA bus section for more details.

b. BoltBus

BoltBus is a low-cost bus service that serves Boston, New York, Newark, and Philadelphia to Baltimore. The BoltBus stop in Baltimore is Baltimore Penn Station, where you'd just 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 rather than going online to reserve a ticket. BoltBus features 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 does charter buses. If you contact BoltBus, a travel coordinator will assist in arranging exclusive use of one of the buses. All the extra amenities are included (free Wi-Fi, power outlets and additional leg room). 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.

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“Where the Heck am I NOW?” – or – Otakon Express 999

3. ARRIVING via TRAIN:

All Amtrak and MARC Penn Line trains in Baltimore arrive at a place called BALTIMORE PENN STATION. From there, you can either take the MTA Light Rail (see below), a bus, or — if you’re feeling your oats — you can walk the 1.5 miles due SOUTH. Or you can take a cab from the cabstand at the train station. This will take you directly where you want to go. It will cost about $5-8 to get to the Holiday Inn/Days Inn/Sheraton City Center (not to be confused with the Sheraton connected to the BCC) or the BCC, and that includes a tip. (For more on taxis, see Section 2.)

There is also the MARC Camden Line that goes from DC and other points south directly to the Camden Yards station. This is only a block or two from the Baltimore Convention Center — more precisely just across the street. This is NOT an Amtrak station! Camden Station serves weekday-only MARC commuter trains between Washington Union Station and Baltimore Camden Station with intermediate stops (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 quite reasonable, but there are relatively few trains scheduled on the Camden Line, primarily at what we consider "rush hour". Alternately, you could consider riding in to Camden Station to get TO Otakon, then catching a ride home with friends or being picked up on Sunday.

Check www.mta.maryland.gov for schedules and fares on both the MARC Camden Line and the Penn Line. Go to www.amtrak.com for Amtrak information. Note that ALL Amtrak trains operating on the Northeast Corridor (Washington-Boston) require advance reservations.

As another tip, it may be possible to ride MARC from locations on the Brunswick Line (Rockville/Gaithersburg/Martinsburg/Frederick) to Washington and then ride another train north to Baltimore. This can work if, for example, you want to ride in on Thursday/Friday while parents are working and you can be picked up Sunday evening.

NOTES TO REMEMBER ON MARC:

  1. MARC Camden Line trains ONLY operate during WEEKDAYS! MARC Penn Line trains run 7 days a week.
  2. Costs $7.00 one-way to Baltimore Penn Station (from DC), less from intermediate stops (Odenton, Laurel, College Park, etc.). Make sure you get your tickets before you board since they're cheaper that way. Buying the ticket on the train is $3 more and it's cash only on board.
  3. MARC Penn Line trains also stop at a station called "West Baltimore"; this is NOT where you get off! Get off ONLY at Baltimore Penn Station or Camden Station unless you have specific plans such as meeting a friend.

Several options exist for you to get from Baltimore Penn Station to the BCC. One option for reaching the BCC area from Baltimore Penn Station is Light Rail. More details on Light Rail will be in the next section. However, the best option to get directly from Baltimore Penn Station (for free!) is the Purple Route of the Charm City Circulator. This will take you to the Inner Harbor as well, and you can then get off at the Pratt St/Inner Harbor stop (Stop #319), located at Pratt St. and Light St.

From Pratt & Light St., 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 will see a large building with the address of "One East Pratt Street" above the doors and a tall silver building with a red "H" on it in the distance. Walk up Pratt 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 just 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 line or the 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 Penn Station to the BCC is NOT recommended by this writer since Otakon is usually held in the middle of the summer (July or August), Baltimore’s summers are usually very hot and humid, and it’s a nearly 2 mile walk which Google Maps estimates would take 32 minutes in order to reach the BCC from Penn Station. This involves going up and down hills. The perceived size of hills depends on your exercise and upbringing not San Francisco or Grand Canyon trails, but not flat either. With the new option of taking the Purple Route Charm City Circulator (in a nicely air conditioned electric-hybrid bus) from Penn Station to East Pratt & Light Streets, you can reduce your walk to the BCC to less than a mile and 5 minutes or less (depending how fast you walk). This is a much better option than walking all the way to the BCC, ending up very hot and sweaty by the time you get there, and possibly suffering from hyperthermia or severe dehydration (both of which are not good and may be medical emergencies that require immediate attention).

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"Where the Heck am I NOW?" or How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the MTA

4. ARRIVING via BWI AIRPORT:

Okay, yeah, officially it's "Baltimore-Washington International Thurgood Marshall Airport." Great guy and all that, but it's too much of a mouthful. Henceforth, "BWI".

PLEASE NOTE: We are only advising you on how to get from BWI Airport to the BCC. If you have not flown in the past ten years, we strongly advise doing research on airline travel what to take, what NOT to take, etc. This could become a serious issue in the case of, for example, cosplay costume details or props or items you might purchase at Otakon (swords, jewelry, etc.).

In addition, if you are staying at a hotel/motel other than downtown Baltimore, you may want to check to see if your hotel has a shuttle that runs from the airport to the hotel. Many, especially in the so-called "BWI Airport District" do, and it is also possible that enough of 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 the Light Rail downtown.

Take the MTA Light Rail (see section 4.1 below) from the BWI AIRPORT station directly to the CONVENTION CENTER station. Or take the airport shuttle (see section 4.2 below). Or take a taxi. Note that these options are progressively more expensive and convenient for a single traveler. For groups, you might have to use some of those algebra skills you said you'd never need in real life, though the Light Rail remains the cheapest in all cases.

BWI 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-toped brochure titled "Terminal Map and Guide". (Please note many of the food/drink selections are off on concourses past security checkpoints. If you like the looks of that beer or pizza or souvenir, get it right away and do not assume you can come back and get it later!)

If this is your first time in Maryland, welcome! We suggest a stop at the Maryland Information Center, which is located on the ground level (arrivals level) 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 (departures) level 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 AirTran counter and the International Terminal. This is available for your prayer, meditation, or other spiritual and/or quiet needs.

TRANSPORTATION OPTIONS from BWI:

4.1 MTA LIGHT RAIL SYSTEM:

All aboard for a fast, easy, and cheap ride to the Convention Center! You use a standard Light Rail pass ($1.60/1-way, or pay $3.20 round trip or $3.50 for a day pass).

STATIONS

  1. PENN STATION * (Amtrak, MARC)
  2. ---
  3. University of Baltimore/Mt Royal
  4. Cultural Center
  5. Centre Street
  6. LEXINGTON MARKET
  7. UNIV CENTER/BALTIMORE STR
  8. CONVENTION CENTER/PRATT STR (OTAKON! just W of the BCC)
  9. CAMDEN YARDS (Alternate MARC station)
  10. Westport
  11. Cherry Hill
  12. Patapsco
  13. Baltimore Highlands
  14. Nursery Road
  15. North Linthicum
  16. Linthicum
  17. ---
  18. BWI Business District
  19. BWI AIRPORT

NOTE: There are TWO lines that run through these stops. One of them goes from Cromwell Station to Penn Station (the YELLOW rail). The other one goes from BWI to Hunt Valley (the BLUE rail). Make sure you have the right line! You can transfer between these two lines at any stop between the dashes in the list above. (All lines from BWI are Blue and will take you directly to downtown Baltimore.)

Additional notes

  1. Trains depart from BWI northbound an average of every 20 minutes on weekdays, every 30 minutes on weekends.
  2. A ride from the airport to the convention center takes about 30 minutes.
  3. So you'd want to give yourself about an hour and 5 minutes, just to be safe to get to/from BWI
  4. You can buy passes at vending machines near all the LR stops. Vending Machines now accept major credit cards, SmarTrip, and CharmCard. You should not need exact change of $1.60, but it's probably best to be prepared.
  5. The BCC stop is directly across the street from the Convention Center (the stop is WEST of the BCC). The BWI stop is on the ground floor of the airport, near the International Arrivals wing (Pier "E") it's pretty much in a corner/courtyard-room by itself.
  6. If you should be at one of the BWI hotels, then you should be able to take a shuttle to the airport then ride the Light Rail downtown.

(Click image to see full-size version)
Small Light Rail Map

The Light Rail ticket vending machines do give change, but only in the form of coins. If you put in over $1 extra (the machine takes up to $20 bills), you will get the Susan B Anthony and/or Sacajawea dollar coins back instead of bills. You can also use major credit cards for the Light Rail ticket vending machines.

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, located at the far end of the airport next to Concourse E, the International Terminal (sorry, Southwest passengers, for the long walk!). Proceed through the doors to the railroad platform and turn right. You will see two ticket machines. Pay for your ticket and board the Light Rail vehicle. Once it departs, the trip to the Baltimore Convention Center Station should take about 35 minutes.

HOURS:
Weekdays: 5am-12:00pm
Saturdays: 5am-12:00am
Sundays/Holidays: 10am-9pm

RATES:
$1.60 per person, 1-way
You can also buy a $3.50 "day pass" that is good for the Light Rail, buses, and subway if you want to go out on the town (or switch transportation mode).


BUS RATES:
$1.60 per person, 1-way
$3.50 "day pass" (see above)

If you plan to ride Light Rail or buses more than once that day (say, to your hotel first, and then back to the BCC), we recommend you purchase a $3.50 Day Pass. It's good on all MTA buses, subway, and light rail all day long. It expires at the end of the night (MTA defines the end of the night as 3:00 AM).

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 ANY uniformed policeman and asked to show your ticket, show them whatever you purchased at the ticket machine or on the bus. This is standard operating procedure on the Light Rail. If you do not have a ticket, you can be fined and/or arrested, and they make certain it's not a pleasant experience. This is the job of MTA Transit Police, whose uniforms will even explicitly say "Fare Inspector". You should not be asked this by County or City Police. Yes, it is possible that you will not be asked to show that ticket during your Light Rail ride. Don't take that chance.

If you are going directly to Otakon, you want to get off at the Baltimore Convention Center station (surprise!). You should arrive here approximately 30 minutes after leaving BWI. You will eventually pass by M&T Bank Stadium and Camden Yards on the left. At this point, the Hilton will be on your left and BCC will be on the right. Get up and prepare to detrain, taking your luggage with you. The Convention Center stop will be right at the corner of Pratt St. and Howard St. again, the Hilton will be on the left and the BCC 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 that big concrete and glass monstrosity across the street. Carefully cross the street to get to it. The Pratt Street Lobby entrance is 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, your host, or the MTA website and use their handy Google Maps-powered trip planner or call 410-539-5000 (the information call center is only open Mondays to Fridays from 6:00 AM to 7:00 PM) for more information.

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"Where the Heck am I NOW?!?" o r "Would you like some Pocky, Mr Bickle?"

4.2 AIRPORT SHUTTLE:

There is also a "Super Shuttle" (you've probably seen them at airports before) that runs from the airport to wherever. This, however, is a bit more expensive: $22 single and round trip for 1st person, $12 for more than 1 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, 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.

It is our experience that the shuttles are sometimes delayed. 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!

4.3 TAXI:

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 $30. 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.

4.4 OTHER METHODS OF TRANSPORTATION (i.e. walking, car rental, etc.)

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 Airport Exits to Interstate-195 (I-195). You can only go on this road one direction north.
  2. Take Exit 4 to Interstate-95 NORTH (I-95N) 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.
  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.

4.5 WASHINGTON D.C. AIRPORTS:

If you are flying to Dulles Airport or Reagan National Airport in the Washington D.C. area, you will have a formidable challenge getting to Baltimore. Further information is available at http://www.metwashairports.com.

DULLES:

Bluntly speaking, you only have three ways to get to Baltimore from Dulles: rent a car, hire a shuttle van (expensive), or get a ride with someone else. (Once again, we disregard the possible-but-unfeasible walking, bicycling, etc.) A Washington Metrobus connection exists Route 5A from Dulles to Rosslyn and L'Enfant Plaza Metro stations in D.C. but it is effectively useless for the Otakon-bound. It takes approximately an hour (and $7) from Dulles to L'Enfant Plaza, and then there's the Metro ride to Union Station and then MARC or Amtrak to Baltimore. Total elapsed time from Dulles to Otakon: three to four hours. (The Silver Line is not expected to be extended to Dulles until at least 2018.)

REAGAN NATIONAL:

Though the fastest way to get to Baltimore from National is still by automobile or shuttle van, one transit option does exist for the Otakon-bound: Take a Yellow Line Washington Metro from National Airport north into downtown Washington and change to the Red Line (at Gallery Place) to get to Washington Union Station. From there, one can hop either a MARC train or an Amtrak train to Baltimore Penn Station, and then to the BCC by Light Rail or Charm City Circulator. You can also change to the Green Line (anywhere between L'Enfant Plaza and Fort Totten) to get to Greenbelt and catch the hourly B30 bus to BWI ($7 fare), and from there you can catch the Light Rail from BWI.

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“Where the Heck am I NOW?” – o r – Session 5: Commuter Blues

5. PARK & RIDE:

Note that parking in downtown, even at the hotels, can be rather expensive (most hotels were quoting at least $12-16/day, with some as much as $35/day), so one option would be to parking 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 out there for 2-3 days. Also, in theory it is possible 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 $1.60 times the number of passengers each way on the 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’re 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 car with the alarm system.)

Recommended Park & Ride Lots:

  1. If you're taking Metro Subway from the northwest (Owings Mills, Reisterstown, etc.), it's best to park at Owings Mills, Old Court Road, or Milford Mill Road.
  2. If you are taking coming from I-97 from the south, you have Cromwell Station, the largest P&R lot worth considering for Otakon. It is located near the junction of MD 648/176, just south of Exit 15 of I-97. This is best advised for locals coming from Glen Burnie and Annapolis.
  3. If you are coming from I-95 or I-695 from the south, the best place to park and ride is North Linthicum, located at the junction of MD 648/170. Be sure to look closely at any maps first, since this intersection is shaped like a long skinny X. The station is on the southwest side of the Intersection if you are coming from MD 170 from I-695, North Linthicum will be on the left; if you are coming from MD 648 North from I-695, you'll need to turn left onto MD 170 and North Linthicum will be on the right.
  4. If you are coming from I-97 from the south and wish to park at North Linthicum, you'll need to stay on I-97 to the exit for MD 648 North to Ferndale. Be careful! One of them is marked "Last Exit Before Toll"! From there, take MD 648 North to MD 170, and make a left North Linthicum will be on the right.
  5. If you are coming from I-95, I-695, or I-83 from the north, we recommend the Timonium Park & Ride just east of I-83 between Timonium Road and Padonia Road, north of I-695. Free parking just follow the blue-and-white "Light Rail" signs to go north or south on Greenspring Drive.
  6. Other Park-and-Ride options: One could consider parking free at a remote station on the MARC Penn Line and riding both the Penn Line to Baltimore Penn Station and then the Light Rail/Charm City Circulator to the BCC. Stations where this may be feasible include Halethorpe (on the southwest of town near the Beltway) and Martin State Airport (northeast of town outside the Beltway). West Baltimore is NOT an option if you go there, you might as well park downtown. Please see previous sections covering Amtrak/MARC before considering this option. Please also note that most MARC stations have horribly congested parking lots during workdays.

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, you may be towed or burglarized.

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6. DRIVING TO OTAKON

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 $3.67 a gallon as of Jun. 30th in Maryland, which is right around the national average of nearly $3.68 a gallon according to www.gasbuddy.com.

LOCAL RUSH HOURS: The “BoshWash” 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 southbound I-83; I-795 inbound/southeast; 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 Beltway, and south of the Beltway where the HOV construction is taking place. 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:

  • BALTIMORE:
    WBAL 1090AM every 10 minutes on the 5's in the mornings and evenings and on the half-hour 9:00 AM 3:00 PM.
    WTOP (103.5 FM) every 10 minutes on the 8's all day especially good for travelers in DC and points south, west, and northwest of DC; Reports here tend to be more DC-centric.
    WNEW (99.1 FM) every 10 minutes on the 1's all day and every 5 minutes on weekdays especially good for travelers between Baltimore and DC. Reports here tend to be more Baltimore-centric.
  • PHILADELPHIA:
    KYW (1060 AM) every 10 minutes on the 2's all day.
    WTMC (1380 AM) continuously; listen for the "New Castle County" reports for Wilmington-area traffic.
  • NEW JERSEY:
    WKXW ("New Jersey 101.5") every 15 minutes all day (at :03, :18, :33, :48 past the hour).
  • NEW YORK:
    WCBS (880 AM) every 10 minutes on the 8's all day;
    WINS (1010 AM) every 10 minutes on the 1's all day.

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
If you are driving from the D.C. area or further south, be aware of the following: There are 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. Between Washington and Baltimore, there are three major roads:

  • I-95 is four lanes in each direction and usually very crowded.
  • MD 295/Baltimore-Washington Parkway is two lanes each way albeit more scenic.
  • U.S. 1 is a local road between the two, going through all the towns, traffic lights, and commercial areas. We do NOT advise Route 1 unless you're looking for food, motel space, sundries, or gas.

From the North (Philadelphia, Wilmington, etc.) BE AWARE OF THE FOLLOWING:
If you are driving through Delaware from Philadelphia/I-95 South, you will be happy to know that I-495 southbound is open again at the Christiana River bridge ahead of schedule! You can now use I-495 southbound to get around Wilmington faster.
The I-495 northbound lanes are still closed at the Christiana River bridge. You will need to stay on I-95 northbound through Wilmington on your return home from Otakon. Just beware of increased traffic during peak travel hours.

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).

  • The toll plaza at the Maryland/Delaware state line ($4 per car, both ways). If you wish to avoid this toll, you can get off at Exit 2B in Delaware (896 North), continue to Rt. 4, turn left, stay on to the T intersection, and turn left again. You'll enter Maryland via MD 279, and eventually get back on I-95. This adds about 10 minutes to the trip.
  • The Tydings (I-95) and Hatem (US 40) bridges across the Susquehanna River ($8 per car, NORTHBOUND/EASTBOUND direction only). No toll is collected in the direction of Baltimore. Remember to come home from Otakon with that $8 in addition to your gas money!
  • The Fort McHenry Tunnel (I-95), the Baltimore Harbor Tunnel (I-895), and the Key Bridge (I-695) ($4 per car, both ways).
  • If you are leaving Otakon heading for the Eastern Shore of Maryland or lower Delaware, the toll for the Bay Bridge (50/301) is $6 in the Eastbound direction only.

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. Even 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.

REST AREAS

  • On I-95: Chesapeake House, midway between the Delaware border and the Susquehanna River NOTE: Chesapeake House is closed until Fall 2014; Maryland House, about midway between the river and Baltimore; and an unnamed pair of stops near Laurel midway between Baltimore and Washington. The first two feature almost shopping-mall-like services and food courts, including a tourist information bureau open 8AM-5PM daily. The latter offers only basic restrooms and vending machines, plus a tourist information office open 9AM-5PM. Free WiFi is available 24 hours a day.
  • On I-83: Sadly, there are NO rest areas on I-83 in Maryland in either direction. You have been warned. (There is one northbound just north of the state line in Pennsylvania.)
  • On I-70/I-68: There are a couple rest areas to be had along I-70, the closest to Baltimore being west of the Frederick area. The tourist info offices are located at the rest areas to the east of Hancock (where I-70 joins with I-68 after entering Md. from Penna.) and the I-68 rest area at Sideling Hill, the huge mountain cut to the west of Hancock. As with the others tourist offices, they are open 9AM-5PM daily.
  • On US 301/US 50: There are tourist info bureaus and rest stops on U.S. 301 between the Bay Bridge and the Delaware/Maryland line and on U.S. 50 and 13 on the Delmarva Peninsula.

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, gleamed from 25+ years of driving solo and in groups:

  • PACK SNACKS/DRINKS IN EXCESS so you don’t have to stop as often. Pack a cooler and gallon jugs of water/iced tea/punch and make at least SOME of the snacks/drinks healthy — apples, carrot sticks, raisins, juice, trail mix, etc.
  • CONSIDER ANY DIETARY OR MEDICAL NEEDS IN ADVANCE. Is anyone a vegetarian? Then don’t stop for BBQ or burgers every time. Does anyone get carsick? Pack the right pills. Do you want the windows open or the AC on? How cold? Anyone have allergies?
  • TAKE BREAKS when you stop for gas to stretch, get out, move about, and get the blood circulating.
  • IF SLEEPING IN THE CAR while riding (not in Baltimore, please), pack a small pillow to go under the small of your lower back for lumbar support. Your back will thank you for it later. (And don’t sleep while driving, please.)
  • CHECK THE CAR OVER THOROUGHLY — air in the tires, oil, fluids, etc. PURCHASE OIL, etc. IN ADVANCE from an auto parts store or Mal-Wart, L-Mart, Bullseye, etc. You’ll save money doing it that way rather than paying twice that price at the gas station.
  • ESTABLISH RULES ABOUT THE DRIVING SITUATIONS. It doesn’t matter what the rules are, make them. Random examples/suggestions:
    • The car’s driver/owner gets to decide what plays on the radio/CD player or you take turns. It doesn't matter what the rules are — just make them before you start.
    • The driver gets to decide when and where to stop for fuel/snacks.
    • In case of any disputes, the parent/driver/car owner decides for the group.
    • Etc…
  • DECIDE WHO PAYS FOR WHAT. A typical arrangement is that the owner of the car/van gets the gas/oil paid for by the rest of the passengers (“You fly, we buy”). It’s really the fairest system as the car gets the wear and tear.
  • BE KIND TO THE DRIVER(S). Driving long distances for a whole day is actually quite stressful and exhausting. Split driving duties if possible. Leave the driver alone more than you want to. Under NO circumstances whatsoever — except maybe heading to a funeral — should any one driver try to drive more than 15 hours in a day.
  • HAVE AN EMERGENCY PLAN: credit cards from a parent, a cell phone, a sleeping bag, a roadside emergency kit, etc. are almost must-haves for groups traveling long distances. Take it from a guy whose car died for good in another state while full of valuables. Take it from a guy whose car hydroplaned off a highway in rural Pennsylvania, went down an embankment 200 feet backwards, and might still be there if he hadn’t been darned lucky. In some circumstances, such as driving across several states, packing a tent and sleeping bags is not out of the question. Never count on being able to find a motel room. (One major event — a sporting event, a festival, etc. — can book every available room in a 50 or 100-mile radius — and Otakon is fast approaching that scale, sadly!)
  • DON’T SPEED. It sounds lame, but you lose more time with a badly-timed food stop than you gain with the increase in speed from 70 to 80 mph. And you reduce your attention by the police. On average, a driver will gain more time driving EFFICIENTLY than he will driving fast. Limit the stops, keep moving, and plan to miss rush hours if distance covered is a criteria.

CHARTER A BUS OR VAN

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 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!

BICYCLING

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.

GOT A BOAT?

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. Rates for transients for the weekend are $2.50/ft. of boat size for Fri/Sat/Sun, $2.00/ft. 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.

GOT YOUR OWN PLANE?

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.

SKATEBOARDS/ROLLER SKATES?

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.

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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.

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