Thursday, October 16, 2008

Ridership Higher, Service Being Reduced

Despite rising ridership on Maryland's MARC train, MTA is proposing service cuts, beginning before year's end. MARC is a commuter and regional rail service operating between Washington and Baltimore, with limited service north of Baltimore, and between Washington, Frederick, and Martinsburg, WV.

Just a few months ago, MTA was proposing an expansion of MARC service, including weekend service on the Penn Line and midday service on the Camden Line. Governor Martin O'Malley had named MARC expansion one of his top priorities and the ambitious MARC Expansion Plan called for a tripling of MARC Service by 2035.

With high gas prices, MARC ridership was way up. Many trains are standing room only leaving Washington Terminal, including some trains that still have standing passengers when they arrive in Baltimore.

But the slowing economy has led to decreased revenues. The governor has ordered across-the-board cuts, and MTA is not exempt. In addition to reductions in service on commuter bus lines, MARC will be taking a hit too. The proposed cuts are listed below. They will go into effect on January 12, 2009 except for holiday service cuts, which will go into effect sooner.

These cuts are part of a phenomenon being seen across the nation. They are indicative of a transportation funding mechanism which is broken. Although Maryland claims to be a smart growth state, cuts to transit are affecting thousands of commuters, while construction continues to progress on the sprawl-inducing Intercounty Connector (ICC). These cuts come at a time when we are trying to reduce our dependence on foreign oil and when we are trying to reduce the climate impacts of our auto-centric society.

The state is between a rock and a hard place, and I certainly understand the need to cut spending. However, these cuts will take Maryland in the wrong direction. America's transportation infrastructure is decaying, transit ridership is up, and smart growth continues to blossom. Now is not the time for cuts to MARC service.

Please write to MTA and your local legislator and governor O'Malley to object to these cuts. A letter to the presidential candidates wouldn't hurt either. Next year may prove to be a watershed year for transportation investment--or the year we let it all go down the tubes. If the economy is issue number 1, transportation is issue number 2. It influences our environmental, energy, urban, and foreign policies and we cannot afford not investing in it any longer.

Hearings are being held throughout the region on the proposed MARC cuts. The schedule is available here.

Comments regarding these cuts may be made to MTA:
By Mail:
Mr. Glenn Litsinger
MTA Office of Customer Information
6 St. Paul Street
Baltimore, MD 21202

By Email:
“Hearing Comments” as subject


Currently proposed for elimination:

Evening Service: Penn Line trains 445, 446, 447, & 448
This cut will eliminate two round trips from Washington to Baltimore. Currently, the last train leaves Washington for Balto. at 11p, arriving at Penn Station at 11:59p. The last train leaving Baltimore for Union Station is at 9:30p, arriving at 10:35p. With the cuts, the last Baltimore-bound MARC train will leave DC at 8:40p and get into Baltimore at 9:36p. It will continue on to Perryville. After the cuts, the last MARC train bound for Washington will depart Baltimore at 7:25p and arrive in Washington an hour later.

Brunswick Line Service: Train 871 eliminated Mon-Thur
The proposed cuts will eliminate the first departure from Washington on the Brunswick Line Mondays through Thursdays. The existing 1:45p departure will remain on Fridays, but on the other four days of the week, the first train to go to Brunswick will depart at 3:35p.

West Virginia Service: Cutback of Train 883 to Brunswick
The cuts will also reduce service at MARC's three West Virginia Stations to 2 outbound trains. The last Brunswick line departure will remain 7:15p, but Train 883 will stop at Brunswick. Passengers headed to Harpers Ferry, Duffields, and Martinsburg will have to catch the 5:35p departure of Train 879 in order to get home.

Elimination of Holiday Service:
While MARC already doesn't operate on Martin Luther King Day, President's Day, Memorial Day, Independence Day, Labor Day, Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Year's Day. MTA also proposes to eliminate service on Columbus Day, Veterans' Day, the day after Thanksgiving, and December 26.

Reduction of Winter "Holiday" Service:
On December 24th, January 2, and the period from December 27 to December 31, MARC will operate only holiday service. Currently, trains operate on a full schedule on these days.

Laurel Bus Connection: Elimnation of Odenton Shuttle
The cuts will eliminate the shuttle bus which operates from Odenton to Laurel completely. This is a far cry from the proposed implementation of midday service on the Camden Line. This bus currently represents the only way to use MARC to get to the Laurel area between rush hours.

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