A modest idea for MTA on light rail
According to the MTA, a light rail train struck a branch that had fallen on the tracks near the Falls Road station Saturday about 5 p.m. The branch got stuck in the undercarriage of the train. It was terrible timing, coming on Artscape weekend with the Orioles in town, but it was one of those things that just happens now and then with a public transit system.
But why would such a problem still be rippling through the system two hours later, when two readers who were at the Linthicum and North Linthicum stations reported going an hour without seeing a northbound train -- hearing nothing from the MTA as they were trying to get to a concert downtown?
One of the most serious deficiencies of the light rail system is that it doesn't have a working P.A. system to inform riders at all stations of problems on the line. Terry Owens, and MTA spokesman, said plans to install such a system are in the works. He said the contract for the work -- which would also include LED signs -- has been put out for bid and that the system should be up and running within two years.
A lot of good that did the riders who waited in vain for a train in 95 degree heat on Saturday. A lot of good that will do before the system is installed. A lot of good that will do after the system is installed and it breaks down.
My question is why the MTA didn't dispatch actual people to its stations to tell the people waiting on its platforms about problems on the tracks. The agency has its own police force. Last I heard, its officers had cars. There are supposedly service quality supervisors on duty. Couldn't one of them take a few stations and spread the word?
Yes, some of the stations are a bit out of the way, but the MTA has resources it isn't even using. When the light rail has a problem, why don't the MTA police call their good friends at the Maryland Transportation Authority Police -- part of the same Transportation Department -- and ask them to spread the word at the stations at or near BWI? They patrol the airport, which is close to Cromwell, Ferndale and the Linthicums. Maybe the Baltimore County police could help with the northern stations. Just let people know so they can drive or take a bus or go home or continue to wait or whatever.
It sound to me as if the MTA got into the same mode of thinking that Amtrak did on the MARC "hell train" -- a heroic effort to fix the system while forgetting about the people. Administrator Ralign Wells has his work cut out for him trying to change that mindset.