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MARC plan calls for new stations, more service

MARC commuter rail could eventually get new stations, more frequent service, and connections to Northern Virginia and Delaware. That's what a draft update of the system's Growth and Investment Plan calls for over the next 40 years.

Photo by morganglines on Flickr.

The Maryland Transit Administration (MTA) envisions $467 million in capital improvements between 2013 and 2019 and another $1.8 billion for the following decade, according to the draft plan, an update of the original 2007 plan. It also includes potential plans for between 2030 and 2050.

The draft update identifies four trends affecting MARC. Over the past 15 years, system ridership has gone up an average of 3.5% per year, largely due to the Penn Line between DC, Baltimore, and Perryville. Parking is at capacity at stations on all 3 lines. MTA wants to make the system more sustainable. And MTA wants to encourage transit-oriented development.

MTA already has programmed investments for MARC that are either underway or are planned to happen soon. They include weekend service on the Penn Line, starting December 7; a new station at Halethorpe, on the Penn Line; and the purchase of 54 new railcars. MTA also plans to buy 10 new diesel locomotives, overhaul 63 bi-level railcars, and repower 6 diesel locomotives.

MTA also plans to implement positive train control, as required by law. And MTA plans to improve the track on the Camden and Brunswick Lines, build a facility for mid-day train storage in Washington, procure a maintenance facility at Riverside Yard in Baltimore, and build an interlocking at Hanson, just south of New Carrollton.

For the future, the draft update lays out four objectives for MARC: maintain a state of good repair, increase ridership, improve service, and enhance the customer experience.

On the Penn Line, MTA has $1.296 billion of planned improvements for 2020-2029, including new stations at West Baltimore and BWI and station construction at Bayview (in Baltimore) and at Elkton (in Cecil County). Plans also include expanded parking at Aberdeen, Halethorpe, Odenton, Bowie State, and Seabrook. Trains would have expanded peak and reverse peak hours and 30-minute headways for off-peak service. And there would be a shuttle link with SEPTA, the transit system for Philadelphia and southeastern Pennsylvania. MTA also plans to expand capacity at the Martins maintenance yard north of Baltimore and to build a pedestrian overpass at Odenton.

For 2030-2050, the potential plans for the Penn Line include a complete fourth track, including new bridges and tunnels, as well as service to L'Enfant Plaza and northern Virginia.

On the Camden Line, the $33 million of planned improvements for 2013-2019 include longer trains, a pedestrian crossover at Savage, 2 additional round trips, and turnback service between Washington and Dorsey. For 2020-2029, the $186 million of planned improvements include parking expansions at Laurel, Muirkirk, and Laurel Park Raceway; a third track between Savage and Laurel; one additional mid-day afternoon train; and one additional reverse-peak train. The potential plans for 2030-2050 include more third track, 20-minute headways for peak service, limited mid-day service, and weekend service.

On the Brunswick Line, the $57 million of planned improvements for 2013-2019 include longer trains and more bus connections. The $264 million of planned improvements for 2020-2029 include a third track on Barnesville Hill, east of the Monocacy River, as well as an additional or expanded station in Montgomery County and a parking garage at Germantown. There would be increased limited-stop and express service, along with one additional round trip from Brunswick and one reverse-peak trip to Brunswick. Potential plans for 2030-2050 include more third track, limited reverse-peak service, and 3 additional round trips from Frederick.

For comments on the draft update, you can e-mail MTA at until mid-November.

Miriam Schoenbaum lives in upcounty Montgomery County. She is a member of the Boyds Civic Association, the Boyds Historical Society, and the Action Committee for Transit


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Wow, planning with future transit in mind. There's an idea!

by Thayer-D on Sep 26, 2013 10:20 am • linkreport

The link to the plan looks like its a locked Google Doc, can you provide an open link?

by Aaron on Sep 26, 2013 10:24 am • linkreport

Thanks for letting us know. We're working on the problem.

by Matt Johnson on Sep 26, 2013 10:38 am • linkreport

Why the later date (2020) for starting Penn Line improvements while the others start in 2013?

by Tom Coumaris on Sep 26, 2013 10:46 am • linkreport

They want to expand MARC to NOVA and Delaware but not Southern MD??? Southern MD has plenty of existing rail right of way that could be reporpused for MARC...

by Chuck on Sep 26, 2013 10:51 am • linkreport

@Tom Coumaris, actually it's not a later date for starting Penn Line improvements. The 2013-2019 planned improvements for the Penn Line include the weekend service, Halethorpe station, Hanson interlocking, and mid-day storage yard mentioned earlier in the post.

by Miriam on Sep 26, 2013 10:53 am • linkreport

The link to the draft plan has been fixed.

You can find it here:

by Matt Johnson on Sep 26, 2013 10:55 am • linkreport

It would make a lot of sense for MARC to go to Newark, DE it's the only break in rail transit (except Amtrak of coruse) between NOVA and Boston other than easter Connecticut/Rhode Island.

by BTA on Sep 26, 2013 10:59 am • linkreport

Not a single mention of electrification. Does anyone really want to be riding loud and slow diesel trains in 2050?

by Nfa on Sep 26, 2013 11:04 am • linkreport

@Chuck - I'm not sure that's so true. Taking a look at this map:

It appears the only line into Southern MD diverges from the NEC/Penn Line near Bowie. There's no direct route into DC from Southern MD, and I doubt there'd be a lot of demand for a La Plata-Baltimore line. On top of that, it would need significant improvement, since it appears to all be single track.

by Distantantennas on Sep 26, 2013 11:05 am • linkreport

@Miriam: Anything to add about additional tracks? I vaguely recall expansion to 4 tracks gradually working its way south.

Weekend service on the Penn Line makes transit-oriented development thinkable, but the ever-increasing parking lots tend to work at cross-purposes. The master plan for Seabrook looks a bit like TOD, but no one expects that TOD to occur anytime soon. Relocation of the Bowie station from old Bowie to the University and a large parking lot had the same effect. Or is MARC thinking about eventually putting some mixed-use development on those lost like WMATA has been thinking for the last 40 years?

Interesting that car parking is still free at MARC. It would be easy to charge $1-2 bucks, but they don't. But bike lockers are not free. Maybe MARC should start charging for parking.

I guess for MARC, the one good thing about free parking is that the cost of parking is rolled into the price of a ticket which is covered by the transit subsidy. If everybody drives to MARC, then the feds pay for 35% (for non-feds) or 100% (for feds with transit subsidy) of the cost of parking, whereas the customers would have to pay for all the cost of parking if it was billed separately. And maybe the neighbors of MARC stations would also need RPP's and that would be a hassle.

by JimT on Sep 26, 2013 11:21 am • linkreport


That does not include abandoned by still intact ROW.
For instance the North Central Railway that goes all the way up to Pennsylvania and is currently a bike trail.

That said I agree there isnt much demand for a southern Maryland commuter route. It would be nice but expensive. I think re-instituting lines to Annapolis would be more useful and even then, adding capacity on the existing lines is more important.

by Richard B on Sep 26, 2013 11:26 am • linkreport

@JimT, here is what the draft update has for 2030-2050 for the fourth track on the Penn Line:

Penn Station to Perryville, BWI to New Carrollton, Union Tunnel - complete 4 track railroad through Baltimore city.

Plus also new 4-track bridges over the Bush River and the Susquehanna, funded by Amtrak.

Also Amtrak B&P replacement and rehab of existing tunnel for MARC use, funded by Amtrak -- is that a 4-track project?

Finally, station modifications to support 4 main tracks at BWI, Odenton, Bowie State, Seabrook, and New Carrollton.

by Miriam on Sep 26, 2013 11:29 am • linkreport

@Chuck: There has been no passenger service on the Pope Creek's line since 1949, so it is hardly surprising that there is more focus on the three lines that have always carried passengers.

There have been discussions about using the old Baltimore and Potomac's Pope's Creek line for decades, but it never gets beyond talk because of the presumed lack of demand. After the Orange Line is extended to Bowie and the light rail is built from Waldorf to Branch Avenue, there might be some demand for passenger service on the Pope's Creek Line.

by JimT on Sep 26, 2013 11:35 am • linkreport

Charging 1-2 bucks for parking would not actually raise that much revenue as you have to pay for the people or machines to college the money.

A lot of the areas in question also have very cheap street parking nearby so it would be difficult to actually get people to pay.

Weekend service now, and 30minute off hour headways in 2020 would do a lot to make TOD possible. I think reinstating the late train is also important.
The fact that the last southbound train hits most stations at 9:XX and the last northbound train hits at 10:XX is a damper.

by Richard B on Sep 26, 2013 11:47 am • linkreport

@Miriam, "Also Amtrak B&P replacement and rehab of existing tunnel for MARC use, funded by Amtrak -- is that a 4-track project?" Yes, the new great curve tunnel would be 2 tracks, the rebuilt B&P tunnel(s) would be 2 tracks. The rebuilding of the B&P Tunnel(s) would be done after the new tunnel is built and Amtrak & MARC traffic can be diverted to it.

On the MARC plans for the "Penn Line", they are intertwined with the overall Master Plan for the NEC for modernizing the NEC, providing capacity for growth, reducing Amtrak trip times. The NEC Future study led by the FRA ( is working to produce a Tier I EIS for the entire NEC to coordinate the interests of the many NEC stakeholders. There is another round of public meetings coming up with DC scheduled for November 6.

by AlanF on Sep 26, 2013 11:57 am • linkreport

Also Amtrak B&P replacement and rehab of existing tunnel for MARC use, funded by Amtrak -- is that a 4-track project?

Amtrak has not decided what they are going to do for the B&P tunnel replacement. It is likely they will build an entirely new tunnel that will be 2-4 tracks under Baltimore and may or may not end up at Penn Station(Baltimore).

Once that is finished MARC wants to get it's hands on the old B&P tunnel and probably add a station to link up with Upton station(Baltimore Subway Green Line).

This is a 4 track project, even if the B&P stays 2 tracks as it will become a MARC only line in that section and the 2+2-4 tracks through Baltimore will total 4 or more tracks.

by Richard B on Sep 26, 2013 12:02 pm • linkreport

AlanF is a ninja

by Richard B on Sep 26, 2013 12:04 pm • linkreport

@RichardB: Isn't the cost of adding a new parking space about $2/day?

The MARC lots are alot larger than many parking lots I've seen where people pay to park. You don't need a machine or a person to collect money; you just have to paint numbers on the parking spaces. While $1-2 does not sound like alot of money, MARC occasionally raises ticket prices by less than $1 and they sure act like they need the money.

Where on-street parking is cheap and plentiful, no need to build more lots. I'm mainly talking about the Penn Line stations where the lots keep getting bigger.

by JimT on Sep 26, 2013 12:12 pm • linkreport

Richard B, an option to keep the cost down is what some private parking lots do - which is to use self-pay and rare enforcement. Drivers park and pay at a machine (or buy a yearly decal). Once a day (or even only a few times a year) the enforcement officer stops by and tickets everyone not in compliance. That doesn't mean you aren't right about there being little money in it, but it does mean you can make the finances work. At worst it would raise very little money but encourage some more people to bike and walk to the stations.

by David C on Sep 26, 2013 12:13 pm • linkreport

Talking about getting a line into Southern Maryland really makes one lament the loss of the Chesapeake Beach Railroad. A line from Deanwood west to the Chesapeake would actually be a big help.

by David C on Sep 26, 2013 12:16 pm • linkreport

From a regional perspective the expansion of the "Long Bridge" to four tracks provides the more benefits than any project in the CLRP. But based on its location, no government entity will champion the project.

This should be done by 2020.

by jcp on Sep 26, 2013 12:18 pm • linkreport

But it's also a question of getting people to use MARC vs driving to work so I would at think they would want to pilot it for a while to see what the actual effects are.

by BTA on Sep 26, 2013 12:20 pm • linkreport

The best way to start implement parking fees at commuter lots is to add reserved parking. Similar to Metro. Ex. For $15 a month user is guaranteed a stop in the lot until 10:00 am.

by jcp on Sep 26, 2013 12:23 pm • linkreport

It would be great if MARC could link up with SEPTA in Newark or Wilmington. It's not the fastest way to travel, but the SEPTA/NJTransit transfer in trenton is a nice compromise between the sardine-can intercity buses and AMTRAK's price gouging. The same should be available to reach Baltimore and DC. Of course, what would be best is to have multiple tiers of service along the northeast corridor, not just the 2 overpriced AMTRAK options.

by Mike on Sep 26, 2013 12:31 pm • linkreport

jcp, DDOT is just finishing up it's study of Long Bridge replacement options. I think there's a good chance they will champion the project.

by David C on Sep 26, 2013 12:34 pm • linkreport

The MARC/SEPTA link seems to be driven by the town of Elkton, which very much wants SEPTA service but would also like to have service to Baltimore. If you don't mind spending the night in Elkton, there are already decent connecting buses from Perryville MARC and Newark SEPTA.

by JimT on Sep 26, 2013 12:37 pm • linkreport

@JimT - The discussion of a link with Septa is vague in the slides. MARC currently ends in Perryville, with SEPTA ending in Newark. Either MARC would have to extend all the way to Newark, or Maryland would need to find a way to convince Pennsylvania to extend the Newark line to Elkton. It appears there'd need to be investment in either rehabbing the old Elkton station, or building an entirely new one.

by Distantantennas on Sep 26, 2013 12:55 pm • linkreport

" A line from Deanwood west to the Chesapeake would actually be a big help. "

Plus the one seat ride to Beijing would be very convenient.

Sorry, I couldn't resist.

by AWalkerInTheCity on Sep 26, 2013 1:05 pm • linkreport

RE: Brunswick Line

What happened to the proposed MARC station near White Flint at Nicholson Lane, or at the Montgomery County Fairgrounds site? I think there could be real TOD potential once MARC built a third track and could run useful non-peak and reverse direction service.

The entire corridor seems like a missed opportunity as it passes through several well-established communities in Montgomery and is well set up for regional rail operation with two strategic Metrorail connections, plus Union Station. In addition, I'd also reorganize Rockville and Silver Spring as cross-platform transfer stations and add another at Fort Totten.

by Reza on Sep 26, 2013 1:05 pm • linkreport

The old plan from 2007 actually did include plans to extend the Penn line to Newark. I'm disappointed to see that it isn't in the new draft, replaced with a shuttle.

by TWillis on Sep 26, 2013 1:06 pm • linkreport

Or, UD and DE need to convince MARC to extend to Newark. IIRC, there is redevelopment at the former Chrysler Plant site adjacent to the tracks. The Newark station is also easy walking distance to UD athletic facilities, stadium, ice rinks, and easy enough shuttle to main campus and conference facilities. Don't know if an upgraded Newark station is in the works, but given the available adjacent land and ROW, they'd be fools not to plan for it.

by spookiness on Sep 26, 2013 1:10 pm • linkreport

With $2.4B in capital improvements, where's the bike access?

SoCal's Metrolink has allowed bikes from the beginning, before there were bike racks, let alone special bike cars. Metrolink has similar service to MARC, with similar equipment at similar speeds. And it's always been packed, at least since the Northridge earthquake when the freeways were wiped out. People got a taste of the train, and multi-modal commutes with their bikes, and never went back to driving!

VRE has bike access, even if limited. It's long past time MARC had it too.

by Matt O. on Sep 26, 2013 1:12 pm • linkreport

@Spookiness - I think it'd depend on the traffic demand. I'd wager more people from Elkton are going to Newark and Philadelphia, so SEPTA would give a one seat ride, while MARC would require a transfer in Newark. Still, that'd be better than nothing.

by Distantantennas on Sep 26, 2013 1:15 pm • linkreport

@Matt O., at the MARC Riders Advisory Council meeting last week, MTA said that right now they would have to take seats out of the rail cars to provide a space where non-folding bicycles could be secured according to FRA regulations. (MARC does allow folding bicycles.) They said that in the future, maybe they could use retired rail cars as a separate car for bikes and luggage.

by Miriam on Sep 26, 2013 1:22 pm • linkreport

They could do both though maybe? Run the SEPTA down to Elkton certain times and MARC to Newark certain times. You need to put in somewhere to turn trains around in Elkton though which might be tricky.

by BTA on Sep 26, 2013 1:33 pm • linkreport

@Distantantennas et al. I think it will be up to Elkton and Cecil County to decide how much they want it. For years there have been plans to restore rail service at Elkton. My bet would be on SEPTA rather than MARC, because Cecil is is in the Wilmington Planning Region and there seems to be an eastward orientation.

For years there has been a 2-track bottleneck between Newark and Wilmington but that is being fixed, which will make fairly frequent SEPTA service for Elkton much more feasible than frequent MARC service for Perryville, and Elkton is larger anyway. I think there is also a choke point between Perryville and Elkton.

by JimT on Sep 26, 2013 1:59 pm • linkreport

@David C

$2 a day might be feasible, $1 I dont think would be. But you will definitely need machines. You can have people pay monthly for a pass($15-25) but a lot of people are just going to drive up and park for one day. You cannot have the engineer sell them as he is on the train.

Even if you were going to do a print out ticket and monthly pass system with minimal enforcement you would need to hire at least 1 employee and pay for a vehicle for him to get around on(I suppose he could take the train, but with the headways on some trains he would be at each parking lot for over an hour). That is $100,000 a year. The ticket machines would also have to be built, installed and filled and an online system be built and maintained.

One day we will get to it, the problem is that while some stations are ready now, not all of them are. You cant really install this kind of system at Halethorpe or West Baltimore(too much street parking nearby). Some stations dont have enough parking demand.

In future you will have enough stations with demand and without free parking a block away that you will be able to charge $2-3 a day and pay a guy for infrequent enforcement and still come out ahead.

by Richard B on Sep 26, 2013 2:06 pm • linkreport

Newark DE: There is a fully funded project to build a new station at Newark DE with high level platforms. To be completed by late 2016, IIRC. The design plans for the station include references for both SEPTA and MARC service, although they may have to build additional storage tracks for MARC beyond what is currently funded. The design for the station has a center platform between 2 tracks, which come to think of it, could allow for cross-platform transfers between SEPTA and MARC if they were to someday provide that (same as Trenton for SEPTA and NJT). MARC service at Newark DE is also referenced in the NEC planning documents from Amtrak and the NEC Commission.

If MARC is vague on extending to DE, that could be because of uncertainty of the timeframe for NEC upgrades between Aderdeen and Newark DE. Or the cost of subsidizing a full service to Newark. Or, in part, because of current uncertainty about SEPTA's long term ability to maintain service to Newark. Search for SEPTA's Doomsday Plan on what SEPTA will have to cut if it does not get an increase in capital funding.

by AlanF on Sep 26, 2013 2:13 pm • linkreport


I think being vague about Newark is because MARC expects DE to come up with the money for that portion of the line.
Their plan is going to take the trains to Elkton and then basically wait for DE to pony up the money to extend them to Newark in much the same way as WV pays for the line to Martinsburg.

by Richard B on Sep 26, 2013 2:46 pm • linkreport

Even if you were going to do a print out ticket and monthly pass system with minimal enforcement you would need to hire at least 1 employee and pay for a vehicle for him to get around on. That is $100,000 a year.

Nope. You tell tow-truck companies that they can patrol the lots - and tow any car that isn't displaying a proper parking pass (1 day or monthly). Then you charge them a fee for every car they tow. You'll MAKE money on enforcement.

by David C on Sep 26, 2013 2:51 pm • linkreport

We're trying to get people to take transit, not scare them away.

by BTA on Sep 26, 2013 3:04 pm • linkreport

David C
Nope. You tell tow-truck companies that they can patrol the lots - and tow any car that isn't displaying a proper parking pass (1 day or monthly). Then you charge them a fee for every car they tow. You'll MAKE money on enforcement.

then they just tow every car claiming it didn't have the proper pass or that it wasn't prominently displayed. Also can get difficult to enforce collecting the fee from the tow company, who are shady as hell.

by Richard B on Sep 26, 2013 3:26 pm • linkreport

I think the ROW to Chesapeake Beach is still there and a commuter line on it to serve Annapolis's southern suburbs would be great (plus going to the beach on a train). Could be light rail.

by Tom Coumaris on Sep 26, 2013 3:43 pm • linkreport

The Cheasapeake Beach ROW doesnt exist anymore where you want it to, near DC where building a line would be expensive. It also doesnt hit any populations centers. The Southern MD light rail is a much better proposition and even it is going to have trouble getting funded.

by Richard B on Sep 26, 2013 3:49 pm • linkreport

How about just paying someone $100 to collect the money for 2-1/2 hours every day, for those who don't have monthly passes. Or contract it out. There are lots of 30-space parking lots so a 200-space lot where everybody comes at once should be manageable to someone.

If the streets have extra parking for free them why expand the lots?

by Jimtitus on Sep 26, 2013 3:55 pm • linkreport

then they just tow every car claiming it didn't have the proper pass or that it wasn't prominently displayed. Also can get difficult to enforce collecting the fee from the tow company, who are shady as hell.

You're right. It won't ever work because the government has no mechanism for enforcing laws or ensuring compliance. Let's just give up.

by David C on Sep 26, 2013 4:03 pm • linkreport

Yeah, the DC to the Beltway section is the most valuable and it's mostly gone. The CBR did pass by Upper Marlboro and that might be all the farther that a commuter rail would make sense.

If we wanted to get rail to Annapolis, putting together the old South Shore line would probably be the best bet. It would also serve Odenton and Fort Meade.

by David C on Sep 26, 2013 4:11 pm • linkreport

@David C.
You're right. It won't ever work because the government has no mechanism for enforcing laws or ensuring compliance. Let's just give up.
mechanism for enforcement and ensuring compliance cost money. You will need to pay someone to ensure that the towing company does not overstep their authority you just gave them.

There are reasons why most government parking lots use tickets rather than towing companies.

by Richard B on Sep 26, 2013 4:42 pm • linkreport

You will need to pay someone to ensure that the towing company does not overstep their authority you just gave them.

Sigh...Yes and the people who will pay for that is the tow truck companies.

Here's how it CURRENTLY works. Person A finds that there car has been illegally towed. They request a "show cause" hearing in existing court system. The tow truck company claims that they were illegally parked. The towed person shows they were not. The tow truck company pays them back and then pays a fine to the state to cover the cost of adjudication.

We're not reinventing the wheel here. Tow truck companies are already widely used to enforce parking restrictions.

But, we could do it another way. We could pay contractors to write tickets. And we could have them go out only once a month. That would be much cheaper than $100,000 and still would enforce compliance. This is not an unsolvable problem and I know that because it has been solved by other places.

by David C on Sep 26, 2013 4:49 pm • linkreport

@JimtitusHow about just paying someone $100 to collect the money for 2-1/2 hours every day, for those who don't have monthly passes. Or contract it out. There are lots of 30-space parking lots so a 200-space lot where everybody comes at once should be manageable to someone.
If the streets have extra parking for free them why expand the lots?

So pay $100 to someone to write tickets for a lot with 30 spaces, that is only generating $60 a day?

Even with 200 spaces you are only generating $400 a day. There is overhead in any operation. They costs of the tickets, workers comp insurance, SS employer tax and so on.

I really wish we could find competent workers(senior citizens or something) who would work 250 days a year for $100 a day to collect tickets and then ticket people who are not compliant but it's a bit of a pipe dream to think you can find 50 or so people who are willing to take that deal and do it well.

They are thinking of building additional lots to get people off the street and let them park slightly closer to the actual train station. Halethorp has people parked for a mile on each of the access roads leading towards the station.

It will happen at one point, but people who are driving have a choice. If you make one of the station $2 a day to park and then you leave another station next to it free, people will just drive to the free station.

by Richard B on Sep 26, 2013 4:50 pm • linkreport

@Richard B, I can see a MD - DE dispute over how they split the costs for a MARC extension to Newark DE. However, why would DE pay for MARC service from Elkton MD? MD & Baltimore probably benefit more from commuter service to Newark DE, than DE benefits from service from MD. For that matter, why would DE provide funds to extend SEPTA to Elkton MD? Which is outside SEPTA territory and thus would require changes to the SEPTA agreements.

Pulling up the Amtrak 2010 NEC Master Plan, the chokepoint between Perryville and Elkton is a 2 track ~6 mile Prince to Bacon interlocking segment. Adding a 3rd track between the Prince to Bacon interlockings was listed as a near term priority project, but I don't think it has gotten any funding so far. This is a different segment from the Ragan to Yard interlocking 3rd track project in DE which got a HSIPR grant and is currently under construction. So there is a chokepoint between Perryville and Elkton that may be an issue with extending MARC service to Elkton or Newark DE until it is fixed.

by AlanF on Sep 26, 2013 5:03 pm • linkreport

I dont know but the plan shows them extending MARC to Elkton but not Newark. Then there is a shuttle bus service to connect to Septa.

Adding a station in Newark helps DE, either create economic activity by bringing people to Newark or by taking DE commuters to Baltimore/DC. The main cost is bringing the train all the way out to Elkton, if DE isnt willing to pay for the connection from Elkton to Newark(a trivially short distance compared to the rest of the line) then DE commuters can deal with grabbing the shuttle bus to Elkton and DE businesses can deal with MD commuters/travelers skipping past them on a bus where they only want to link up with SEPTA.

by Richard B on Sep 26, 2013 6:57 pm • linkreport

Excellent article and comments.

Glad that MARC has some ambitious plans (and starting December will be doing some notable follow-through!)

by h st ll on Sep 26, 2013 8:06 pm • linkreport

Hear, hear, Matt O. Bikes on MARC and all rail trains is the missing link.

by Martin on Sep 26, 2013 8:43 pm • linkreport

Hmm, I don't think these plans are impressive.

First of all, it is kind of sad that the plans between now and 2020 there is nothing new in here, beyond (useful and significant) improvements already underway. Ok, there is better access, lighting, and signage, and CCTV, but that's not terribly ambitious. It would be good to see some concrete planning getting underway for capital work beyond 2016!.

I am also very disappointed to see that MARC is busy thinking about how to serve far-flung locations, with absolutely zero consideration for more stations closer to the city where the density of people who actually have jobs in Washington and Baltimore is far far higher than Elkton. I am a big fan of increasing transit service of all types, but the cost-effectiveness of commuter rail in Elkton seems pretty doubtful. Take a look at the map north of Baltimore, where the spacing between stops is huge...that's where the people are... Or consider all the densely populated areas along the Camden line not served by Metro or MARC.

I am well aware that MARC does not want to serve these folks, because stops would slow down the train. Higher frequency would do a lot for that problem.

by DavidDuck on Sep 26, 2013 10:52 pm • linkreport

@richardb: Any idea how the 30-space commercial lots manage if a 200-space marc lot can't?

Why don't you think there are people who work in DC who would take a job like this. Show up at 6 or 6:15, collect the money, take the 8:30 train to DC, give the cash to Marc office at union station.

If people at halethorpe would rather walk 1/2 mile than pay $2 then why build a lot that costs $2/space to build?

Note that the lots on penn line south of Baltimore all have more than 200 spaces. Pretty much true with Camden, and few people are going to drive toward Baltimore to save on parking if destination union station.

by Jimtitus on Sep 27, 2013 7:29 am • linkreport

I don't see why the choke point would prevent extending the penn line to Elkton. They manage to deal with the bridge and the section south of Landover. It's only a couple of trains a day anyway. But getting Elkton ready will take time. I should think that allocation between DE and MD of going to Newark depends on logistics of reversing direction or parking it train. Don't they overnight in Baltimore now? Would there be a better place in Delaware?

Trains from Elkton to DE are a different story. They seem easier to do once station is ready. But does Cecil county want to facilitate residents working in Wilmington, given loss of 2% income tax?

by JimT on Sep 27, 2013 7:50 am • linkreport

DavidDuck, NJT has that problem on the NE corridor. It's about 70 miles from Trenton to Manhattan and the intermediate stops slow it down so it runs about 4 or 5 different patterns during peak including some express trains that skip certain middle segments. Sounds complicated but it works pretty well.

by BTA on Sep 27, 2013 9:19 am • linkreport

Why don't you think there are people who work in DC who would take a job like this. Show up at 6 or 6:15, collect the money, take the 8:30 train to DC, give the cash to Marc office at union station.

The first train leaves Baltimore at 4:30 AM, so any attendant would have to get to the parking lot before then to start collecting money. They would either have to live next to the station or have a private vehicle. By 9am the parking lot is almost certainly full so they could drive somewhere to offload their money.

Now I think you can get people to take that job, but to have it be reliable I am not sure. In January, when the sun doesn't come up till 8 and it is pretty cold every day I can see a lot of people saying "$100 for 5 hours sitting outside in the cold, screw that!" and not showing up.

I think a vending machine that spits out parking tickets is the answer. You pay a guy to refill it with change, paper and ink and then you either pay the same guy or a different guy to patrol the lots. With the geographic area covered by all the MARC lines you start with 2-3 of them(so 1 can call in sick or quit and you aren't up a creek) and build up from there.

I dont think you institute it now, but rather you make some station improvements and add some parking spaces and in a few years you can consider doing it. You really need to look at how many lots you have with how many spaces and how difficult it is to dodge the fee. In West Baltimore and Halethorp right now it is too easy to dodge the fee and you are building spaces primarily to keep good relations with the neighborhood. Dorsey for example you could pretty easily charge for parking as there isnt anywhere near the station that MARC doesn't own. I haven't parked at every station but at some point you can start charging for most of the stations between DC and Baltimore and pretty far out on the Brunswick line. I dont think that day is today, I think it is a day is 5-10 years in the future after you make some station improvements.

by Richard B on Sep 27, 2013 9:59 am • linkreport

@JimT, the segment north of Perryville is a high speed portion of the NEC where the Acelas can run at 130-135 mph, the Regionals at 125 mph. NS runs freight trains on those NEC tracks from their Perryville connection to Newark DE, although only at night. MARC trains running to Elkton would sometimes get in the way of Amtrak on the 2 track segment.

I found a 2005 study on building a 3rd track, which would not be high speed, for NS freight and presumably MARC trains over that segement to increase capacity for Perryville to Elkton and keep heavy freight trains off of the high speed tracks to reduce maintenance. Public meetings for that study were held in 2003, so fixing that bottleneck north of Perryville has been on the planning boards for some time.

by AlanF on Sep 27, 2013 10:44 am • linkreport

Ok, so you don't think that they could work around this by careful scheduling and holding the MARC trains? Is this a problem mainly when the amtrak southbound trains are late?

Do I infer that this extra track won't be electrified? I am a bit unclear on where marc will keep the fast electric locomotives. Two track sections might be a good place to keep electric

by JimT on Sep 27, 2013 11:02 am • linkreport

I imagine any additional track there would be electrified. If they werent thinking of electricfication they could just use the switch to the old B&O line 700ft north of the Penn Line.

by Richard B on Sep 27, 2013 12:04 pm • linkreport

@JimT, they might be able to schedule around it, but there are over 90 Amtrak trains a day between PHL and WAS with that segment as a high speed 2 track segment. Also, since Acelas run at 130-135 mph on the segment north of Perryville, that segment is a future 150-160 mph Acela segment if Amtrak can ever replace the old catenary with constant tension.

The new 3rd track (A or 1) would certainly be electrified, all the 3 and 4 track segments between WIL and BAL are. The new track may not be maintained to 125-160 mph "high speed", but possibly 90 or 110 mph class track. Amtrak could use it when traffic gets congested and dump Regionals or long distance trains on it while giving priority to the Acelas.

I am also unclear on the NARC plans for keeping electric locomotives. I know they and Amtrak got burned on the HHP-8s, but they appear to buying only diesel locomotives which indicate MTA is planning to run slower diesel powered trains on the Penn Line. Stupid in the long run, IMO, not to take advantage of a high speed electrified corridor.

by AlanF on Sep 27, 2013 12:05 pm • linkreport

Ok thanks. That really clarifies why marc service for Elkton is actually getting less feasible, until that extra track is added.

Except that Richard b seems to imply that Marc could already use an old b&o track with diesel locomotives. Or at least once perryville trains are all diesel.

I guess we have pretty much shown why septa and marc will not link up before 2030, and why MD has no interest in facilitating service on SEPTA.

by JimT on Sep 27, 2013 1:49 pm • linkreport


If the Perryville Train was diesel, it could get onto the the old B&O tracks and head towards Philly, provided CSX let the on the tracks. I dont know if the B&O line goes through downtown Elkton but it is much more direct in Newark.

by Richard B on Sep 27, 2013 3:20 pm • linkreport

I look forward to weekend MARC service. I hope that VRE follows in a few years. On the weekends, people flying into BWI will have a cheaper option to get to Baltimore, DC, and NOVA and the other 2 airports via MARC, Metro, and 5A Bus (to Dulles Airport from Roslyn now and Reston early next year when Silver Line opens.

That's public transportation progress! Roll On!

by Dan Peacock on Sep 30, 2013 5:51 pm • linkreport

Folks are moving north into Cecil county and MARC service will be wonderful! Maybe it will bring well needed tax dollars to a depressed county that needs the influx.

by laoblu on Feb 11, 2015 5:27 pm • linkreport

Someone above mentioned eletrification for the Brunswick line to replace "dirty, slow diesels". First, that would be a huge expense and unlike to Northeast Corridor where the bulk of traffic is passenger trains, CSX owns the Metropolitan Branch and has no interest, so its use would not come close to justifying the investment. Second, they are diesel-electric locomotives, which are already quite capable of traveling at the maximum speed of the segment at 79 mph.

Adding a third track to the line might be helpful but why not work with CSX to upgrade the Old Main Line between Baltimore and Point of Rocks to route more traffic that way instead of via DC?

by Morris Zwick on Jul 14, 2015 3:17 pm • linkreport

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