MARC meltdown deserves hearing, probe
Last night's disastrous performance of MARC Train 538 should make the end of business as usual at the Maryland Transit Administration.
The details are still murky, but what appears clear is that the Penn Line train broke down a few miles north of Union Station on a blazing hot day. The air condiitioning failed, and it took about two hours to get any relief to the sweltering, information-starved passengers. Here's an excerpt of one of the emails Getting There received:
Many passengers had removed the emergency exit windows in an attempt to get relief. Those that could walked up Route 50 to the Cheverly Metro station and transportation to New Carrollton where family members could pick them up. Medical emergencies also occurred due to the extreme heat in the cars and about the same time the TV crew showed up Fire and Rescue vehicles began pulling up. Frankly if someone left their dog locked up in a car for 1 and 1/12 hours like this they would be arrested
You bet. And MARC riders deserve both answers and assurances such a fiasco won't happen again. It's one thing to have a breakdown that makes people late. Bad stuff happens. But when a transit agency leaves riders in potentially dangerous heat conditions, that's inexcusable.
This is not the first time MARC passengers have been stranded in extreme weather conditions for long periods. In the past MTA has taken a life-goes-on approach and nothing more is heard of the incident.
There's been far too much of that. This incident deserves an independent investigation, led by somebody from outside the MTA, accompanied by a public hearing at which riders can put their experiences on the record in a way that the MTA can't minimize. Maybe, with public input and suggestions, the MTA can come up with a standby rescue plan for the entirely predictable scenario of locomotives breaking down in hot weather.
If the MTA drags its heels, perhaps the General Assembly can provide some motivation in the form of a special legislative performance audit or oversight hearings. There's been far too much business as usual at MARC, and there's been far too much money invested to accept such results.
And in the short term, can we please see a plan from the MTA and Amtrak to bring relief to stranded passengers within 30 minutes? Is that too much to ask?