MARTINSBURG, W.Va. — Riders on MARC Train 883, the late commuter train from Washington, D.C., to Martinsburg, might soon be singing the disappearing railroad blues.
Maryland Transit Administration officials said that the train — which leaves the District of Columbia at 7:15 p.m. and is the final commuter run of the day to the Eastern Panhandle — doesn't have enough riders from Brunswick, its last stop in Maryland, to continue onto Harpers Ferry, Duffields and Martinsburg.
The number of passengers on Train 883 from Brunswick to Martinsburg averages about 25, MTA spokesman John Wesley said.
If the proposed change is made, the last train to Martinsburg, the 881, would leave Union Station at 6:15 p.m., he said.
An early train that currently leaves the District at 3:15 p.m. for Brunswick would go all the way to Martinsburg, under another proposal, Wesley said.
"This is an ongoing fluid process," Wesley said. "We will weigh all of the feedback from our passengers and stakeholders before making any changes to the schedule. Our goal is to improve the service and make the best use of our resources."
Rafael S. Guroian, a spokesman for the MARC Riders Advisory Council, which represents commuters in both states, said members have raised questions about the proposals, which also include changes in service on the Maryland runs.
Guroian estimates there are 50 to 60 riders on Train 883 between Brunswick and Martinsburg.
He also suggested that the MTA wants to end the train's day in Brunswick because Martinsburg lacks the space to store it overnight. It has to head back to Brunswick, then back to Martinsburg in the morning.
But Wesley said storage is not an issue.
"We believe the proposed schedule provides better options for passengers in the morning and afternoon," he said. "The late train is lightly used. Sacrificing 883 west of Brunswick will give passengers more options."
Guroian argued that the 7:15 p.m. departure from Union Station benefits commuters who work late.
"A lot of people rely on that. The 6:15 is too early for them," he said.
West Virginia riders pay a surcharge of $3 a day for service to the panhandle, Guroian said.
The charge won't be eliminated at the end of January, even if the 883 stops at Brunswick, Wesley said.