Commuters react to proposed MARC changes

January 07, 2012|By ANDREW SCHOTZ |

CHARLES TOWN, W.Va. —  The Maryland Transit Administration will revise proposed MARC Brunswick train line changes after getting plenty of feedback, an MTA official said Saturday.

The planned changes included adding an early train out of Martinsburg, W.Va.

The last train of the day still would leave Washington, D.C., at 7:15 p.m., but would end at Brunswick, Md., instead of coming back to Martinsburg.

Many of the 60 or so people at a public meeting in Charles Town on Saturday critiqued the changes and offered other ideas.

The new schedule was expected to take effect Jan. 30, but Simon R.H. Taylor, a deputy administrator and chief administrative officer for MTA, said that will be pushed back.

MARC probably will release a new plan in March, have a public hearing in April and change the service in May, he said.

Several people at the meeting told stories of having to leave in the wee hours of the morning for metro D.C.-area jobs and getting home in the evening.

Commutes are tightly timed and can be thrown off by, say, a delay in a Metro train in D.C.

Jennifer Cross of Martinsburg said she wakes up at 3:45 a.m. to catch a 5:25 a.m. train, to be in Washington, D.C., at 8 a.m.

She leaves work at 6 p.m. and couldn’t catch the new last train to Martinsburg, at 6:15 p.m., “unless I put on some jet shoes,” she said.

The 7:15 p.m. train she now takes home is scheduled under the new plan to get to Brunswick at 8:40 p.m. and stop there.

“I don’t get enough sleep as it is,” Cross said. “This doesn’t work for me.”

Taylor said stopping that last train, the 883, at Brunswick is out of concern for rest requirements for train crews.

On its website, MARC explained: “In many cases, when Train 883 is delayed, the crew cannot work the next day and CSX must find a replacement crew, which is not always available. Also, by revising the patterns of train service to West Virginia, we were able to add an additional, earlier, morning departure out of Martinsburg.”

That new train would leave Martinsburg at 5 a.m. and get to Washington, D.C., at 7:07 a.m.

Taylor surveyed the crowd and heard that some wouldn’t mind an even earlier departure than 5 a.m.

Another significant change, Taylor said, is adding a train leaving Washington, D.C., at 3:30 p.m. and arriving in Martinsburg at 5:38 p.m.

Skeptics said that wouldn’t help employees — especially in the private sector — whose workdays extend later into the afternoon.

The changes are meant to improve the Brunswick line’s reliability, which now is about 85 percent or 86 percent, Taylor said. That applies to trains getting to their destination within 5 minutes, 59 seconds, of the scheduled time, he said.

Former Charles Town City Councilman Matt Ward said the new schedule, which eliminates a 7:46 p.m. Martinsburg arrival, would get him home a half-hour later, a significant delay for a father of 11 children who wait for him for dinner.

He called extra commuting time bad for family life and for civic life.

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