MTA apologizes for MARC debacle
The Maryland Transit Administration issued a remarkable and unusually detailed apology Tuesday to passengers on Monday's Penn Line Train 530 -- along with a plea not to take actions that could make matters worse.
The emailed apology, brought to you courtesy of passenger Jeff Quinton, is noteworthy for the detail of the explanation. It is especially interesting that the MTA made no effort to conceal its own frustration with the performance of Amtrak in keeping passengers informed while they sweltered in cars with no air conditioning.
While chastising Amtrak, the MTA also issued pleas to passengers not to respond to such conditions by removing windows or trying to leave the train. It said window removal can keep the train from getting under way once repairs are completed, while trying to leave the train between stations is just plain dangerous.
The full text is well worth reading. It also indicates the MTA can't get its new locomotives on the tracks soon enough.
To Our Penn Line Passengers:
We sincerely apologize for yesterday’s mechanical breakdown on train 530 near the Seabrook station. As those of you on the train know all too well, train 530 became disabled shortly after departing New Carrollton. Not only was the train unable to move, but the train lost all lighting and air conditioning. As soon as the problem with Train 530 was reported, Amtrak sent a mechanical technician out on the next train to attempt to repair the train. The locomotive involved has been removed from service pending a thorough investigation and repairs.
The MTA contracts with Amtrak to operate the Penn Line MARC trains.
The MARC operations center was notified of Train 530’s problems by Amtrak just before 5:00pm. We sent a text and email message out to all Penn Line riders at 5:01pm, with updates following.
We understand that the temperature and conditions on board train 530 quickly became unbearable. Many of you expressed frustration that several MARC trains passed train 530 without stopping. The challenge of rush hour operations is that these trains themselves are already filled to capacity themselves and cannot take on additional passengers. While the train stopped agonizingly short of the platform at Seabrook, it is not possible to unload passengers at a location that is not a station stop.
When it became clear that train 530 was not going to be able to move for a significant period of time, trains 439 and 440 were cancelled and its equipment sent non-stop from Baltimore to Seabrook to transfer passengers. While 439 was en route, the technician was able to get 530’s locomotive working, lights and air conditioning restored, and the train departed Seabrook. MARC then “uncancelled” train 440, the 6:40pm departure from Washington.
Today, MARC management has been reviewing this incident with Amtrak.
One of our primary concerns is, based upon on your e-mails to us, that the train crew did not provide updates to passengers. This is unacceptable and we have told Amtrak that we expect their employees to provide regular updates to our passengers, even when there is no new information to report. MARC’s mechanical department will also be meeting with Amtrak mechanical personnel to determine what went wrong with the locomotive.
While yesterday’s incident was, to say the least, frustrating and the temperature uncomfortable, we do need to ask one thing of our passengers. Please do not ever remove windows from a train, unless directed by a member of the train crew. Doing this makes an already difficult situation worse—once windows are removed, a train cannot proceed until the car(s) in which the windows have been removed are unoccupied and even then the train can only proceed at a significantly reduced speed. It is also extremely dangerous to exit a train through the emergency windows. In addition to the potential injury you may incur falling from the train, trains pass on parallel tracks at speeds of up to 135 miles per hour. These trains approach very quickly and quietly. Again, while we understand the conditions on board train 530, removal of windows and exiting the train is extremely dangerous and should never be done unless directed by a uniformed Amtrak/MARC employee.
We appreciate your understanding of this matter.