The Rev. Samuel A. Blow was expecting a big turnout for the opening of a national meeting of Baptist educators in Baltimore. He just underestimated how many would actually arrive - and yesterday's rush-hour traffic proved it. It's not that organizers didn't plan for the transportation needs of the National Baptist Congress of Christian Education. They did, for a year. But this was a case of people overwhelming the best-laid plans - thousands of delegates registered late.
The construction on Russell Street didn't help matters - and the work allows for only two lanes of traffic at a time. (Will it ever end?) Nor did the tangle of road repairs on other downtown streets. (Who needs all this redevelopment?)
City officials had more traffic agents in place, but clearly not enough, and city police are beefing up their initial patrols. Transit officials set up satellite parking for 150 church buses ferrying Baptists from all over the country to the city. Delegates at in-town hotels - the majority - waited for shuttle buses to deliver them to three meeting sites around the city, but demand exceeded capacity and Pastor Blow had to run his buses on double shifts. Those staying in Hunt Valley had it easy - they simply hopped on the light rail. (Mass transit can't be beat.) And yet many participants were late for their 8 a.m. classes. Pastor Blow, who leads the Pleasant Hope Baptist Church in Northeast Baltimore, took it in stride.
He must have the patience of you-know-who and an abiding faith in divine providence. He predicts that today "will go like clockwork" - let's hope so.
City officials say the tie-ups are to be expected considering the construction downtown and the thousands of visitors in town. Car pools and mass transit are to be encouraged. And fewer conventioneers should use their personal vehicles.
As for Baltimore commuters, they should leave earlier for work and tune their radios to the hourly traffic reports, all the while remembering what the Bible says: Endurance produces character - and character produces hope.