Greater Greater Washington

Transit


Expand MARC through higher state gas taxes

Money from higher state gas taxes would enable MARC to begin realizing its great potential to enhance the mobility of Marylanders and Washing­tonians, while fostering smarter land use and cutting pollution.


MARC train at Odenton. Photo by skabat169 on Flickr.

With an average daily ridership of 31,300 on MARC's three lines, MARC train service is great for what it is.

The Penn Line, running between Union Station, Baltimore, and Perryville, two ways, all day and into the night, accounts for over half of MARC ridership: not surprising given the greater level of service. But, as Penn Line commuters who routinely experience standing-room-only trains know, even the current level of service is insufficient to meet existing demand.

The Camden and Brunswick Lines offer even less service. The Camden Line's 18 trains between Union Station and Baltimore accommodate reverse commuting, but only during limited hours, and with an average headway of almost 50 minutes. The Brunswick Line's 18 daily trains, between Union Station, Frederick, and Martinsburg, are useful only for an eastward commute during normal working hours.

None of the three lines offers weekend or holiday service, although Amtrak does serve a few Penn Line stops.

Such limited service is not enough to give people a meaningful alternative to driving. And it is surely not enough to support Governor O'Malley's designation of five MARC stations as priority sites for transit-oriented development (TOD). Would TOD at Laurel and Savage, on the Camden Line, actually reduce energy use by TOD's potential of a third to a half? Would TOD at Aberdeen, with 12 MARC trains per day, be a meaningful contributor to Maryland's goal of reducing greenhouse gas emissions by 25% by 2020?

To address inadequate service, the Maryland Transit Administration (MTA) released the MARC Growth and Investment Plan (MGIP) in September of 2007. Full implementation of the plan would triple passenger capacity by 2035. It would also reduce headways to 15 minutes on the Penn Line and 20 minutes on the Camden and Brunswick Line, provide all-day, two-way service on all three lines, and add weekend service as well. The estimated capital investment cost for the whole plan is $3.9 billion.

$3.9 billion over 27 years sounds like a lot of money. But compare it to the $2.5 billion cost of the Wilson Bridge replacement, the projected $2.6 billion cost of the disastrous Maryland Intercounty Connector, and the up to $4.6 billion cost of the absurd proposed widening of I-270 in Montgomery and Frederick Counties.

Putting money towards the MGIP instead would be far more cost-effective, making rail a viable choice in the dense I-95 and I-270 corridors. It would link residents in eastern Montgomery and Prince George's Counties to the jobs in the western parts of Montgomery County and enable the development of real TOD around MARC train stations. Further, it would reduce traffic congestion, dependence on foreign oil, air and water pollution, and our region's contribution to anthropogenic global climate change.

Unluckily for all of us, however, the MTA proposed the plan just in time for the recession. As a result, MARC service was actually cut. And although a few more trains were recently added to the Penn Line, there has been no funding of the MGIP.

Until (perhaps) now.

There is new and increasing political support for raising Maryland's gasoline tax, which makes up a significant proportion of the revenues that go into the state's Transportation Trust Fund. (Note that gas is exempt from the state sales tax.) Because Maryland's gas tax has been 23.5 cents per gallon since 1992, Transportation Trust Fund revenues have not even kept up with inflation. They are now inadequate for basic maintenance of existing transportation infrastructure, let alone expansion.

In the 2011 General Assembly session, 37 Delegates sponsored a bill to add ten cents per gallon and adjust the gas tax for inflation; the Montgomery and Prince George's County executives and the mayor of Baltimore testified in favor. Montgomery County state senators Roger Manno and Rob Garagiola also sponsored legislation, and Senate President Mike Miller was in favor of the idea. The 2012 General Assembly will surely consider gas tax legislation as well.

This is great newsbut only if the money goes to useful projects. It must not be spent on building new roads, which will only increase traffic, pollution, and future maintenance costs.

Instead, much of the money must go towards maintaining existing transportation infrastructure, including mass transit, roads, and bridges. And it is crucial for the rest to go towards expanding mass transit and pedestrian and bicycle facilities, within and between Maryland's cities and towns. Not only will this benefit everybody, it will also offset the regressive effect of the higher gas tax on the people who are least able to afford driving.

Ideally, as Senator Manno's bill did last year, the gas tax will have earmarks for mass transit, including the MARC Growth and Investment Plan. The tax should go up as transportation infrastructure costs go up, either through annual adjustments or by switching from a per-gallon to a per-dollar levy. And, to increase political support, it will return some of the revenue to the counties to spend on their own transportation priorities.

Funding all-day, two-way, weekday and weekend MARC service through higher gas taxes will pay off with better mobility and a cleaner, healthier, and more sustainable future for the region's residents. The alternative is more cars, more traffic, more sprawl, and more pollution. Is this really such a hard choice?

Miriam Schoenbaum lives in Montgomery County's Agricultural Reserve. She serves on the MARC Riders' Advisory Council and is a member of the Action Committee for Transit
Ethan Goffman is Transit Chair of the Montgomery County Sierra Club. 

Comments

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And more VRE as well please.

by Jasper on Sep 7, 2011 1:00 pm • linkreport

Is that $3.9B figure in 2010 dollars, or actual cost at the time that it is spent? If it's the latter, than it amounts to $15 per Marylander, per year. I don't think that's a bad deal if it's sold that way. Or...It amounts to $12 per current MARC rider (conservatively let's say $5-6 if ridership increases as it should with this capacity upgrade.) We need to get better about "bumper sticker solutions." It's easier for everyday joe's and jane's to understand that $15/year gives me the equivalent of the metro in Laurel or the equivalent of one free lane of traffic on 270 or 95 than saying "$3.9B is about the same as we spent on the Wilson Bridge."

by Joe in SS on Sep 7, 2011 1:05 pm • linkreport

Agree, those commuter rail lines are grossly under-utilized now.

Obviously getting to 15 or 20 minutes headways will cost a lot in capital expenditures. But weekend service would just be an increase in labor and fuel/power cost (with some increased wear and tear) so that would be much cheaper and easier. It could probably even be implemented by this Saturday if MTA really wanted to (and had the money) since the trains just sit there.

I went to the Baltimore Grand Prix this weekend. I took MARC on Friday (Penn line, would have taken Camden but timing and my inability to get to the Camden station foiled that) but had to take Amtrak on Saturday and Sunday. Hopefully next year MTA will have either special service for the race (150k over three days, 75k Sunday alone) or will be running on the weekends anyway.

by Steven Yates on Sep 7, 2011 1:18 pm • linkreport

Quite a few MARC riders live in WV and VA (Brunswick line).
I would prefer my tax dollars not subsidize their commute.

by stew on Sep 7, 2011 1:23 pm • linkreport

@stew: How would it be better if they drove on Maryland-funded roads instead of riding on Maryland-funded trains?

by Miriam on Sep 7, 2011 1:26 pm • linkreport

I love the idea of better MARC service, and would love to see the "Metro Express" idea implemented, too (it's in the GGW archives somewhere...), but I'm skeptical about relying so heavily on the gas tax, given its unreliability. Perhaps we should view the gas tax is sometimes seen in the same light as so-called vice taxes on cigarettes and alcohol, or the bag tax. Great to discourage a certain behavior, but unreliable for funding.

by OctaviusIII on Sep 7, 2011 1:31 pm • linkreport

They did run holiday service on most federal holidays when I started commuting on MARC in 2008. They ran limited service (the S schedule then.)

The S schedule is now reserved for days like the Monday after Irene and the day between the two blizzards in 2010.

My previous job was going to initially require us to work on January 20, 2009, and MARC kicking off monthly pass holders then just to make money on tickets for inaugural commuting would have left me in the lurch if they hadn't closed our office a week or two before that.

by JQ on Sep 7, 2011 1:33 pm • linkreport

I never thought commuter or regional rail was something people actually used before moving to Philadelphia last year. Wow! SEPTA runs thirteen regional rail lines connecting a large amount of the suburban area to the city. Some of the services, like the Glenside Combined and the Paoli/Thorndale Line, come close to reaching Metro-like frequencies. It's not perfect - some lines are really infrequent, and the trains are kind of poky and slow - but I wish MARC could be half as good.

by dan reed! on Sep 7, 2011 1:33 pm • linkreport

Is there a CBA on MARC expansion? How many more cars will it take off roads? 31,000 riders isn't very many. Double or triple that and you've still haven't gotten very many.

TOD is great if you can reap the benefits. The way the system is set up the state -- drivers -- pay for it, and developers make the money. I doubt the state gets any return for it. When we used to build railroads it was because the real-estate was profitable. Why not profit sharing here?*

I doubt very much the dollar tag is accurate. These projects keep blowing up, and you've got to find ways to keep the costs down. In addition, I doubt the extra gas tax money will find its way to said rail projects -- the needs in Maryland -- and elsewhere -- are high.

by charlie on Sep 7, 2011 1:35 pm • linkreport

Charlie's got a pretty good point. Nevermind that there is a very definitive "fix it first" mentality...and that backlog is large enough to swallow up any reasonable gas tax increase and then some.

I don't think the idea of using a gas tax increase for MGIP will go anywhere (pun intended). Suggest looking for an alternative revenue source.

by Froggie on Sep 7, 2011 1:43 pm • linkreport

@charlie

I expect costs here would be far more contained, because we're talking about incremental improvements to existing assets. These aren't greenfield transit lines, the plan calls for things like adding a new track here, new switch there, all within the existing ROW.

by Alex B. on Sep 7, 2011 1:45 pm • linkreport

Alex B,
I would say maintenance on equipment is a bigger deal than switches and track since the right of way MARC uses is owned by Amtrak and CSX.

Especially when you look at all the mechanical issues the past few years, especially when it's hot. They need to totally reorganize their preventive maintenance (and that's a good idea even without an influx of cash.)

by JQ on Sep 7, 2011 1:48 pm • linkreport

@JQ

That's fine - my point is that those costs are more predictable than building new infrastructure from scratch.

by Alex B. on Sep 7, 2011 1:51 pm • linkreport

@Froggie. Hmm. Let me see. How much does oil cost? $100/b. How much do we have in the SPR -- about 700M barrels? Somewhere around $75B. Let's securitize it, turn it into a dollar figure, and use that for loans for projects designed to reduce oil usage -- and in particular oil imports.

by charlie on Sep 7, 2011 1:52 pm • linkreport

TOD and MARC isn't really a big potential moneymaker.

By definition the MARC system is suburban oriented, bringing people into the cit(ies) to work. So the station sites are suburban pods.

Putting a bit of density, even cramming it in, at most of the stations can't change the paradigm very much and in the context of the community where the stations are located, which when it comes down to is what matters the most as far as financial efficacy is concerned, _doesn't usually make sense_.

WRT WV and VA users of the Brunswick line, that's another argument for why there should be a regional passenger railroad system rather than two separate commuter railroads for VA and MD.

http://urbanplacesandspaces.blogspot.com/2009/06/regional-transportation-planning-and.html

Dan ... as you know, the SEPTA regional railroad is the continuation of the Reading and PRR passenger railroad services. Virginia didn't step up and maintain the Virginia passenger railroad services that may have existed at the time that the State of Maryland picked up much of the B&O passenger railroad system serving DC and Baltimore, and the way that SEPTA acquired the PRR and Reading Railroad services.

Dan given that you are in school up there, check this out _Man-Made Philadelphia_.

- http://www.naotc.org/ttindex-granular.html

by Richard Layman on Sep 7, 2011 1:55 pm • linkreport

I may have read here or elsewhere that PG County was going for TOD at Metro and perhaps MARC stations. I don't know the full plans but there are apartments going up at Odenton in AA County now. I remember when I started riding they were talking about weekend service and even wifi on trains (the questions on a survey centered around whether you would pay for it - they may have figured out in a world of air cards a lot of people probably wouldn't pay for just service on MARC)

by JQ on Sep 7, 2011 2:11 pm • linkreport

Why is it that every single mass transit projects proposed by the GGW readership first method of funding is an increase in a gas tax, or increase in road tolls? Why is the current or prposed user population always exempt from contributing a dollar to their own method of transportation?

The Silver line, Marc...

With the 2011 Marc ridership of 31K passengers per work day, or 8 million riders per year, a more direct route to Marc funds would be for Marc to simply increase the price of their tickets the ~17 bucks per ticket (fixed in 2011 dollars) for the next 27 years. There, you just raised your 4 billion dollars. Why wouldn't marc riders contribute to something that is benefiting them directly?

And willy nilly comparing any transit project to some "evil road" project is pointless when you completly ignore the number of people/passengers/riders serviced by that money.

Yes, the Wilson Bridge cost 2.5 billion dollars, but it carries 225K vehicles per day, or 8 total days worth of Marc traffic, every single day (assuming each was a single passenger car, which they clearly aren't.

Considering the shocking level of road/bridge/tunnel infrastructure decay and functional obsolensence in the nation, if you are going to raise the gas tax (which I am for), then you should be spending it for the reasons it was raised.

by freely on Sep 7, 2011 2:26 pm • linkreport

JQ -- The MGIP referenced in the original entry covers the MARC expansion plan you're talking about. It's on hold due to lack of financing.

I have to admit I don't know the Odenton area well enough but it would be a perfect illustration of my point. Being close to Fort Meade with the various development potentials available to it, it has opportunity for TOD proximate to the station. Most of the other stations do not, e.g., the ones I am familiar with in Baltimore County (Martins Airport, Halethorpe, St. Denis). BWI is a good example of how housing isn't always an appropriate use at train stations depending on the overall context.

TOD at transit stations within a metropolitan area is a different matter than TOD at railroad commuter stations in a system at a region scale.

Even so, if you don't have a _transit network_ (e.g., Baltimore) and/or the right kind of land use context around the station (e.g., PG County), TOD isn't necessarily a slam dunk at light and heavy rail stations either.

In DC, stations like Fort Totten, Minnesota Ave., Rhode Island, and Deanwood illustrate that TOD can be more complicated than blog entries make it out to be.

by Richard Layman on Sep 7, 2011 2:32 pm • linkreport

freely -- Let's forget biking, walking, and transit for a second and ask the question, why don't motor vehicle drivers want to pay 100% for their use of roads (including parking in public space in cities), the environmental and health costs of the automobility system, and the military and foreign policy costs of maintaining access to oil supplies?

WRT your question, we argue for a balanced transportation system, and given that automobility is massively subsidized--just for road construction and maintenance to the tune of 50% of the cost of roads, not counting environmental, health, military, and other economic costs--and that comes from all of us, whether we drive much or at all, so that the pro-sustainable transportation people are merely asking for a rebalancing of an extremely imbalanced system.

by Richard Layman on Sep 7, 2011 2:35 pm • linkreport

freely -- fwiw I do agree with you that transit investments should be prioritized to where they make the most sense in terms of ridership. The Silver Line is reasonably worth considering for providing a connection to IAD. OTOH, I argue that by failing to leverage this line to build the separated blue line in DC that it is a wasted opportunity and stresses the system's core capacity without adding to it beneficially.

But yep, when I read about how great Denver or Dallas or Salt Lake is for light rail, I think about how in DC the top 5-6 bus lines exceed the ridership of most of those individual lines.

This gets to the monocentric vs. polycentric transit system discussed by Belmont in _Cities in Full_.

by Richard Layman on Sep 7, 2011 2:40 pm • linkreport

@Richard Layman,

Fine, I will play along for a second if you then answer my following question.

Despite the obvious belief to the contrary, the nations roads service more than just those nasty, greedy and unhealthy folk commuting to work from the far suburbs in single occupancy SUV's.

Our entire national economy is based on availibility of getting things from point A to points A,B and C. Rail works great (generally) for getting goods/services from one region to another, but fail miserably at getting "things" the last 100 miles. I know everyone who posts here would put Lance Armstrong to shame on a bike, but most of us can't carry our kids the 15 miles a day to day care on the bike, can't carry home that couch we just bought, on our bike, and so on and so forth.

I pointed out above that the WW Bridge carries 225K vehicles per day. Obviously lots of it is freight, goods, commerce. That bridge is probably responsible for carrying a few hundred million dollars worth of goods per day. How much cargo does Amtrak, Marc or Metro carry per day? Zero.

You are a smart guy. If you wanted to roll in every concevable dime of any quasi related (and lets be frank, unrelated) externality of oil, into the cost of gas, then your gallon of gas would go to ~$10 bucks a gallon tomorrow, and the cost of your groceries just doubled as well. While I am wealthy enough not to be affected by the economic fallout of paying 9 bucks for a gallon of milk, or filling up my euro cruiser with premium gas, and perhaps you are too, the average American is not.

The simple answer to you question is roads carry freight. Mass transit doesn't. Hence, the reason that roads should benefit from some subsidy, because its in the greater good, just like well to do, unmarried, childless single folk like myself pay such high property taxes to send other peoples kids to school.

Now, please answer one of mine.

You openly admit that drivers pay ~50% of the cost of roads. My question to you is "why transit users want to pay 100% for their use of their transit"?

Metrorail's farebox recovery is 60% and it is the shining and unique example both locally and to my knowledge nationally, for a mass transit system covering that much of its operation via fares. "Farebox" recovery is typically what...20%, 30% and of course that doesn't include the 100% subsidy for construction (versus the ~50% for roads).

You are also ignoring the fact that countless roads/bridges/tunnels that are tolled far beyond their own financial needs specificially to fund mass transit projects. Dulles toll road anyone? A clear example of billions of dollars being raised from drivers on literally "one" road when the benefit they and their future users will see (via their own traffic projects) barely register as a decimal point. How many billions of dollars are raised by jurisdictions nationwide via tolls on drivers and then redirected that money to a local transit project? DTR?

So why don't we just do this and make us both happy. I will pay the full price of a gallon of gas and you pay the full price of your metro/bus/amtrak fare. Fair?

by freely on Sep 7, 2011 3:20 pm • linkreport

Not going to happen:

the Brunswick line is the slowest line on earth and cannot be improved unless a new alignment is created.

Way better to widen 270 if you ask me with a toll attached to the extra lane. the benefits would be immensely better that improving the Brunswick line that only serve a few commuters and will never be able to compete in terms of speed.

by Vincent on Sep 7, 2011 3:26 pm • linkreport

I took MARC to BWI for the first time two weeks ago, which has rocketed BWI up on my list of preferable airports. Six bucks for the Perryville Express, and I'm at the airport from Union Station in 30 minutes. That's less time than it takes to get to Falls Church from DC...

Previously, my only experiences with BWI had been via bus, shuttle, and car, which are all far less convenient.

Weekend/late-night service on the Penn Line would be a great asset to the region.

by andrew on Sep 7, 2011 6:35 pm • linkreport

In my writing, all the time I acknowledge that roads carry freight and serve a variety of uses and that the full cost of roads should not merely be borne by typical automobile drivers. I also, and others disagree, argue for timeshifting of freight deliveries in many cases to reduce the impact on local roads.

I don't remember the percentage of food cost attributable to transpo. but I thought it was like 10%, so I think we're not likely to see a doubling of the cost of food if gas taxes are increased, although we will see diversion to other modes.

You could argue mass transit subsidizes freight delivery on local roads through congestion relief. This is definitely the case in DC.

FWIW, I've also written about how Norfolk Southern and CSX justify public funding for their various freight capacity initiatives on the basis of congestion reduction (especially, for NS, in the I-95 and I-81 corridors). I've written about the Alameda corridor project in LA/Long Beach, etc.

- among others, http://urbanplacesandspaces.blogspot.com/2010/11/transportation-frankness.html

I don't have a problem with it.

I am not gifted enough with numbers to be able to parse all the various data. In part, we are talking about different things, through traffic and local roads, and freight vs. automobile traffic, and mass transit.

I don't think it's a big issue that mass transit doesn't carry freight (although it can in Europe), railroads do, and passenger railroad operations often share tracks.

And we don't need to get into how mail was shifted from passenger trains to trucks, which led to a reduction in profitability for passenger trains, etc.

OTOH, just like you can argue that mass transit systems are more expensive to build because they have to be built to handle peak capacity, the same goes for the road network engorged by comparatively inefficient rush hour traffic dominated by the automobile.

That is a huge cost that somehow needs to be absorbed by drivers without impacting the overall "subsidies" provided by everyone for the freight aspect.

If the road network were designed only for freight and limited inter-city travel separated from local travel, it would be a lot different (like I-83 or I-70 north of Baltimore).

by Richard Layman on Sep 7, 2011 7:01 pm • linkreport

When Orioles Stadium at Camden Yards first open, MARC offered Sunday afternoon service to the game. What a joy! OK, a short lived joy but it was enjoyed by a some. This last weekend, I would have taken a Marc train to Baltimore on Saturday, Sunday, or Monday to connect to the light rail to reach the Maryland State Fair. Sorry, but no weekend or holiday service. Maybe we should close some exits on the beltway on weekends to help decision makers realize that folks travel 24/7.

by tour guide on Sep 7, 2011 7:24 pm • linkreport

The MARC increase actually sounds like a good idea. How about using some of Martin O'Malley's sales tax increase for that, instead of spending it on roads. In the meantime, spend the gas tax on the roads, instead of on public transit. It would certainly make for a neater division of taxes and responsibilities.

In the meantime, I actually support the use of gas tax money for bicycle infrastructure. It will get those obnoxious cyclists out of my way when I'm driving down the road.

by mpetrie98 on Sep 7, 2011 11:28 pm • linkreport

Having ridden the service off and on for nearly 30 years, it is clear that MARC has always performed below potential. The service is loved only by its riders.  There are plenty of reasons for this:
  • At the regional level: Poor integration with VRE, the obvious other carrier.  The only reasons for the lack of through service are institutional.  But to Maryland's credit, back when commuter services were first spun off from Conrail the enabling legislation allowed states to join in on regional operations.  Of the nine states and commonwealths along the northeast corridor Maryland was the only one to express any interest.  The others all decided to go it alone, building up their own operating entities.

  • At the state level: no vision, no consistency in direction and funding, ineffective program management, poor rider communications including a twitter account that has been dormant for 1½ years and a strong contender for lamest transit website around.  Occasional spurts of capital funding (for a round of equipment acquisitions, station overhauls or the Frederick service extension) are never followed through on the operating side, resulting in insufficient upkeep and inevitable budget and service cuts whenever times get tight.  It is not lacking in comedy though: in the last gubernatorial election a former governor under whose administration MARC's budget had been deeply cut was making a campaign issue of the degraded service that followed.

    The capital plan was supposed to be the antidote for this, but without funding it became another symptom.  On the bright side, though, when stimulus funds became available the state was able to secure some of it for work that is currently underway.

    Overall, the service was better run before it was transferred from the State Railroad Administration to the MTA.

  • CSX: first in line when public sector funding is available for infrastructure improvements, but treats the service with disdain knowing there's nothing the state, or the passengers, can do about it.  When dispatching was moved from Jacksonville back to Halethorpe there was some hope for improvement, but the freights still get priority.

    Operationally, the name of the game seems to be to try to drive off the service by imposing stupid restrictions, supposedly in the name of safety.
    • On hot days: slow orders (these are never an issue on railroads with properly-maintained track)
    • On cold days: slow orders (these never seem to apply to the freight trains)
    • When it rains: slow orders (issued whenever an NWS flood advisory is or has been in effect during the previous 24 hours for any part of a county through which the line passes).
      These may seem prudent to somebody sitting in an office in Jacksonville, but up here for 40 miles of main line the railroad follows ridgelines to climb from QN Tower up to the summit of Parr's Ridge and then drops down the other side to the bottom of the grade between Tuscarora and Point or Rocks.  There's not much flood hazard between these points but field supervisors and crews, though required to have detailed understanding of the territory in order to be qualified to operate over it, seemingly can't be trusted to exercise the judgement necessary to know when and where caution is indicated.
    Of course we're all for safety -- consider the alternative -- but any assessment of risk needs to consider context.  On a sunny morning following an evening's rain does I-270 have 30mph temporary speed limits?  If CSX's railroad is fraught with so many operational issues does it make sense to invest in, or even to allow, its National Gateway clearance project?

Stable funding would go a long way to help MARC realize its potential.  Getting there will require other issues to be addressed as well.

by intermodal commuter on Sep 8, 2011 1:17 am • linkreport

@ tour guide:When Orioles Stadium at Camden Yards first open, MARC offered Sunday afternoon service to the game.

Oohh, I want that back! preferably in connection with VRE.

by Jasper on Sep 8, 2011 10:37 am • linkreport

The limiting factor on the Penn Line is Amtrack. It always will be first in taking any available rail time. This will always limit the service that MARC can offer. MARC needs to get priority on the rails.

by Retired MARC Commuter on Sep 8, 2011 11:25 am • linkreport

I'm a regular MARC commuter and have used all three lines. I regularly ride the Camden Line and sometimes the Penn Line. I always keep a scanner with me because there will always be things happening that MTA doesn't catch on right away and most of the commuters turn to me for information about the delays. CSX definitely is sitting on their bums when it comes to infrastructure upkeep. Slow orders during any kind of weather. There were times where we had both heat orders and flash flood slow orders on the SAME day. I would love to see expanded service and capacities on the trains. The trains I catch on both Penn and Camden lines get really packed and I have to stand for at least a few stations just to get a seat. The 13 bilevels MTA bought from VRE weren't enough and having mostly single levels in the consists further impacts the train capacities. Delays have been occurring even more and seems that MTA just can't give us straight answers other than "We'll look into it". The website is definitely something that made things even more inconvenient because of the botched design and lack of public input into the site (still looks like a beta site) and there are broken or dead links from other sites.

Weekend service, at this point in time, will most likely not happen for upwards of a decade. Sounds pessimistic but with the way Maryland does things, it's a more accurate projection. I too wish there were more integration of rail into the regional transportation system especially Metro and VRE and even between all three lines. The scheduling right now has trains barely missing each other (i.e transferring from Penn to Brunswick or Camden to Penn and vice versa) and track assignments at Union Station are really inconvenient.

With all the BRAC projects in the state, MARC should have been one of the top priorities in improvements to the dismal public transportation in Maryland, but only Penn Line has seen some improvements. Camden and Brunswick still haven't had any additional trains for years. It's amazing how VRE seems to have improved alot with new equipment and added trains while MARC service is getting progressively worse and worse.

by Ken Conaway on Sep 8, 2011 12:51 pm • linkreport

Thirty years ago I moved from Arlington to Summit Point, WVa and began riding MARC. My next door neighbor, Skinner Postem, informed me how it used to be here. There was all day, every day passenger service between Brunswick and Washington. And there was connection service from Winchester to Brunswick. He and his sister used to take the train from Summit Point on saturday mornings, change in Brunswick, and spend the day shopping in downtown D.C., then return home that evening. The round-trip ticket cost a dollar.

How far we have fallen!

by john tucker on Sep 28, 2011 7:48 am • linkreport

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