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June 3, 2009

MARC train running late

MARC train 432 out of DC was running 25-30 minutes late out of DC tonight because of mechanical problems. Can't get those new locomotives all on line fast enough.

Too bad, the MTA had seemed to be doing better lately.


Posted by Michael Dresser at 6:22 PM | | Comments (2)
Categories: MARC train


I was amused when I read this posting, as my MTA emails indicate that there were lots more delays yesterday and Tuesday, Monday wasn't too bad except for some light rail issues, while Friday was a disaster. And goign through my deleted emails, I'd say 10% of them are MTA alerts.
I think the reason MTA isn't hearing much is because we are used to worse problems. The problems are improving and in some cases, like Friday, the problems are weather related and outside of MTA's control.
The main thing us MARC riders ask for is frequent and honst announcements. Even if the announcement is that they ahd a red signal and don't kow why. But if the train stops, say something, if its crawling a long, say something. If the trian is going to arrive 5 minutes late, tell us over the loud speakers at the stations. If MTA does that, we'll be a lot happier when here are problems. Why? Becuase we expect problems, that's the nature of public transit and the nature of old aging equipment and of limited tracks and limited state and federal assistance to rail.

MARC trains routinely run late by the time they reach the intended terminus, particularly during the evening rush hour.

For example, Perryville-bound trains run just a few minutes behind Baltimore-bound trains on the Penn Line. If a Baltimore-bound train experiences a couple of minutes worth of delays, that usually results in a substantially larger delay on the Perryville-bound train following behind.

How's that? Well, the Perryville-bound train is likewise slowed by the Baltimore-bound train's delay, but will then often be ordered to stop on a side rail north of Baltimore so that at least one Amtrak train (and you know all about how Amtrak rules those rails) can pass to stay on schedule. Why would MARC be put off on a side rail to let Amtrak pass by? Because there are 4 more stations north of Baltimore where the MARC train would be stopping to discharge/accept passengers, and Amtrak will not wait for MARC to service those stations. So a "minor" 5-10 minute delay headed into Baltimore could be counted on to mushroom into a 25-30 minute delay.

Helps explain why you hear grousing from MARC passengers. BTW, would it surprise you to hear that there's a fair number of regular Penn Line riders who first drive to the Perryville and/or Aberdeen stations from Delaware and even a few from southeastern PA? Some of those folks have extraordinarily long commutes to DC and Baltimore as it is (don't cry for them, they chose it), but tack on another 20-30 minutes, and you can understand why some folks are gonna be upset.

COMMENT: Absolutely. But Amtrak owns them thar' tracks. And if I were running Amtrak I'd put my customers first too,

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About Michael Dresser
Michael Dresser has been an editor, reporter and columnist with The Sun longer than Baltimore's had a subway. He's covered retailing, telecommunications, state politics and wine. Since 2004, he's been The Sun's transportation writer. He lives in Ellicott City with his wife and travel companion, Cindy.

His Getting There column appears on Mondays. Mike's blog will be a forum for all who are interested in highways, transit and other transportation issues affecting Baltimore, Maryland and the region.

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