MTA explains that annoying extra rail stop
A reader named Michael recently sent me this email about the Maryland Transit Administration's light rail service:
I recently read your complaint that the MTA doesn't explain the stop between North Ave and Woodberry, which is one of the most annoying aspects of my commute to the county from the city. They stop there so that MTA employees can board the train/switch shifts from the nearby office.
This is absolutely absurd. Half of the time the conductors are late and we are stopped for upwards of 5 minutes. The MTA should change the location of this (switch) to the North Avenue station, which has 3 platforms (thus avoiding back-ups for every train because one employee was late) and could attract more riders who would otherwise have missed their train.
Twice i have missed my transfer to the lightrail because the 13 bus was late and arrived at the platform only to see the train stopped ahead on the tracks for the above mentioned maneuver. Having the train stop in the middle of an empty stretch for 5-10 minutes so that employees can shave 50 yards off their walk is absurd.
MTA spokeswoman Jawauna Greene provided this answer:
Thanks for the chance to respond to your reader's question about trains stopping to change operators. The operator relief point is located at the Light Rail Division rather than a nearby station because reporting for duty is an important part of our safety procedures. When operators report for each shift they receive daily instructions, pick up portable radios and are observed by a supervisor to ensure they are fit for duty. If this took place at a station instead of the division these reporting activities would have to take place in the open which is not practical.
The North Avenue station may seem close to the division but it is actually close to 2/10's of a mile. It would take approximately 10 minutes for the operator to walk this distance, and because shifts begin and end at all times of day and night in all weather conditions MTA would have to safely transport operators back and forth.
When multiplied by the number of reliefs each year, the budget impact of a seemingly small change would be very significant. MTA makes every effort to minimize delay at the relief point, and in most cases it limited to the time it takes one operator to leave the cab and the replacement operator to enter the cab and get settled.
In some cases the train may be running slightly ahead of schedule, and so the train is held until it is back on schedule. Another cause of delay is that for one reason or another the relief operator is not available. In that case, the operator is instructed to continue after holding for five minutes, but this may mean the operator is entitled to a longer break later in his or her shift.
To reduce delays for riders MTA has recently begun limiting time at the relief point to three minutes. Hopefully your reader will notice the difference.