MTA explains light rail limitations
Chikwe C. Njoku had a suggestion for the Maryland Transit Administration about its light rail service. He thought he saw a way to improve it. So we passed along this message to the agency:
(I) wonder if it would be prudent for the MTA to explore a Hunt Valley/Timonium to Camden Yard train that has a reverse direction stop at Penn? As Baltimore continues to become “DC centric”.. I see many people, including myself, disembarking at Mt. Royal and walking to Penn to catch the MARC. Few wait for the Penn Shuttle to funnel them into the Penn Station.
Granted, walking is a GOOD thing, but everyone may not share this ambition, especially in inclement weather. A Hunt Valley/Timonium to Camden Yard Train could run at key times only during morning and evening rush. Ideally, there would be a dedicated switch track between North Ave and Mt Royal to carry the train into the existing Penn Shuttle Line into Penn Station.
However; that would cost $$ that the MTA doesn’t have. Why couldn’t the train reverse direction into Penn like the former Penn (only) Shuttle used to do? It could then become the “Penn Camden Shuttle” and continue its run to Camden Yards. The reverse trip from Camden would also include a trip over to Penn Station, before going back out on to the main line and up to Hunt Valley/Timonium.
It's not the perfect scenario but as the demand continues to grow.. it could eventually justify a switch being built above Mt. Royal for direct northbound access to the Central line. It could have a minimal impact on the Penn- Camden’s run since it could be inserted only during AM or PM rush.
For the answer, click below:
This is the response we received from MTA spokeswoman Jawauna Greene. I've taken the liberty of breaking it up into paragraphs.
Thank you for the opportunity to respond to your reader’s inquiry regarding the feasibility of adding a Penn Station stop for trains coming from Hunt Valley.
We agree that good Light Rail service to Penn Station is desirable, but geography makes this a challenge. We have modified Penn Station service several times since the spur was constructed to find the right balance between good service to Penn Station and good service for the rest of the line.
At the present time a train shuttles between Penn Station and Camden Station which has the benefit of making service in the Howard Street corridor more frequent, but riders coming from north or south of the downtown segment have to transfer to reach Penn Station. If, as your reader suggests, all trains coming from the north backed into Penn Station after stopping at Mt. Royal this would certainly be more convenient for riders from the north headed to Penn Station but it would significantly inconvenience the majority of riders who are destined not to Penn Station but to the Howard Street corridor (the highest ridership station in the system is Lexington).
To make the move your reader suggested would take 10 to 15 minutes once the time for the operator to change ends at Mt. Royal and Penn Station is taken into consideration. The current travel time from Timonium to Lexington is 32 minutes, so this would increase the travel time by nearly 50 percent.
Second, if trains from the north went to Penn Station but trains from the south did not, it would create an imbalance in the schedule throughout the system. The reader also suggested building an additional track in the future so that trains from the north could go directly into Penn Station and then, I assume, continue south. This is not possible because of the way the trains are configured. The "A" end of a train must always face south and the "B" end must always face north which allows the motors to synchronize between cars.
If a train went directly into Penn Station from the north it would have to return to the north to avoid becoming turned around. With this service pattern any rider destined south of Mt. Royal would have to change trains.
The MTA continually examines service modifications that best meet the needs of our customers. We thank your reader for the innovative (if unworkable!) suggestions.
Don't you just hate it when a government official has a logical explanation for what's being done?