Proposed MARC service cuts would affect W.Va. Eastern Panhandle

October 17, 2008|By MATTHEW UMSTEAD

MARTINSBURG, W.Va. -- Proposed reductions in MARC and commuter bus service announced Thursday by the Maryland Transit Administration (MTA) include eliminating stops by one westbound Brunswick Line train in West Virginia, an MTA spokeswoman confirmed.

Train 883, the last to leave Washington's Union Station at 7:15 p.m. would end at Brunswick, Md., instead of making its last stop in Martinsburg, if the proposal is put into effect on Jan. 12, 2009, according to a MTA news release.

A public hearing is scheduled Nov. 24 from 6 to 8:30 p.m. at Martinsburg City Hall on about the proposed changes, officials said.

An MTA spokeswoman said the proposed reduction of service for Train 883 affects an average of 30 riders, based on current numbers.


Last month, the combined average daily boardings from Martinsburg, Duffields, W.Va., and Harpers Ferry, W.Va., on the Brunswick Line was 544 people, up from 504 in September 2006, according to MTA data. The average daily ridership for the entire Brunswick Line for the 2007-08 fiscal year was 7,094.

In addition to the reduction of regular weekday service, MTA also is proposing to eliminate holiday service on all lines for Columbus Day, Veterans Day and the day after Thanksgiving, as well as service on the day after Christmas, according to the announcement.

Holiday service also would replace regular service on Christmas Eve and the week between Christmas and New Year's Day. MTA also is proposing to eliminate the "10-trip ticket."

In making the announcement, Maryland officials blamed the proposed cuts on "dramatic" revenue reductions since July 1.

Other than ticket sales, Maryland does not receive operating money from the West Virginia State Rail Authority for MARC service to Berkeley and Jefferson counties, authority executive director Cindy Butler said in a recent interview.

Butler said West Virginia is responsible for utilities, rent for a MARC ticket office in Martinsburg and maintenance at the three stations as part of an agreement with MTA that was renewed for five years in February. The agreement also includes a five-year extension, she said.

Butler said West Virginia's snow removal and utility expenses range from $35,000 to $50,000 annually, but also noted the state had spent about $110,000 to $120,000 to expand the Duffields station parking lot and is in the planning stages of completing handicapped-accessibility projects at Harpers Ferry and Duffields.

Berkeley County Commission member William L. "Bill" Stubblefield said a letter that he and fellow commissioners sent to Gov. Joe Manchin expressing their concern about retaining the MARC service in the Eastern Panhandle last month was a "pre-emptive action" to keep the service from being eliminated.

Martinsburg resident Jerry Mays, who attended a public meeting in Rockville, Md., last week on MARC's future expansion plans through 2035, said there was no mention of expanding service in West Virginia. Mays said he left the session with the impression that as long as U.S. Sen. Robert C. Byrd was in office, the service would not be eliminated, given the senator's past support of MTA.

Comments may be sent by Dec. 26 to the MTA by mail to Glenn Litsinger, MTA Office of Customer Information, 6 St. Paul St., Baltimore MD 21202 or by e-mail to with "Hearing Comments" as the subject heading.

For information on MTA schedules, fares and other services, visit

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