Light rail woes leave riders in the dark
The Maryland Transit Administration light rail system developed what the MTA likes to call "minor problems" this afternoon when one of its trains broke down -- resulting in a delay of about a half-hour for at leatrt one train.
I know that because I was on that train -- a southbound run to BWI -- as it ground to a halt just north of North Avenue. For about 15 minutes we sat there, with no clue what was going on, before the train began moving again into the station.
Where it sat and sat and sat for what seemed like another 15 minutes. Again, no announcement from the MTA -- which might have been useful if you were headed to the Mount Roysl stop to catch a train at Penn Station.
Unlike the typical rider, I have the phone number of the MTA public affairs office embedded in my brain. So I called MTA chief spokeswoman Jawauna Greene to find out what was going on. Nobody had informed her. So I left my cell phone number.
A short while later, I got a call back from Greene saying a train had stopped on the track ahead because of mechanical problems, I was told she would try to get the light rail operators to make an announcement to passengers.
We sat a little longer, with no announcement, and then another southbound train came by on a parallel track marked as headed for Cromwell station, switched over. (Most light rail riders can take either BWI or Cromwell trains to their destinations.) Almost all of the passengers, including this blogger, switched trains.
Now it was the new train's turn to sit. It wasn't too long a wait this time, and there was an announcement -- almost inaudible and delivered in far tonn fast and with too heavy an accent for all but the keenest ears to hear. A teenage girl told me the announcement was that the train would go to BWI rather than Cromwell ( really good information to have delivered audibly and clearly if you're heading for Cromwell or Ferndale). No mention of what caused the problem.
A few minutes later and the train lurched forward, braked and got on its way again. I disembarked at Centre Street and the trained continued its trip downtown.
I'm not complaining about the delay. Stuff happens. And most of my light rail experiences, including yesterday's northbound trip to Timonium, have been positive.
But the MTA needs to do a better job of letting its customers know what the problem is when the bad stuff happens. Greene said the operators generally know what's happening and have the ability to keep passengers informed and are encouraged to do so.
"Nobody wants to be sitting on a train not knowing what's happening," she said.