MTA offers free passes to 'hell train' riders
e Maryland Transit Administration is offering passengers on its infamous “hell train” -- the Penn Line No. 538 from June 21 -- five free day passes as compensation for their two-hour ordeal aboard a stranded train in sweltering heat without air-conditioning.
The problem for many riders will be that they travel on monthly passes and may not be able to take full advantage of the offer. The MTA said it is offering the VIP day passes – worth the equivalent of $70 in rides from Penn Station to Union Station – as an “expression of our appreciation for your continued patronage following delays to your train on June 21.”
The offer is restricted to passengers on the affected train. Since that incident, which sent two riders to the hospital, officials from Gov. Martin O’Malley on down have tried to make amends with a series of apologies and listening tours. Amtrak, which operated the train and took responsibility for the failure to attend to passengers’ comfort more quickly, instituted several procedural changes as a result.
The breakdown put the issue of MARC operations squarely in the middle of the governor’s race as former Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr. criticized O’Malley’s appointees’ handling of the commuter rail service. In an email Tuesday, the MTA sent riders a form they could download to apply for the passes.
The agency said the passes could be shared with friends or family but the form stated that the passes are not to be sold.
Dave Clark, an MTA spokesman, said riders who normally use monthly passes have the option of buying three weekly passes for one month and using the VIP passes for the fourth week of the month. Because unlimited monthly passes cost $175 and weekly passes cost $52.50, that would result in a savings of $17.50 for monthly pass users. The savings could be less for the many riders who receive subsidies from their employers.
Clark said the pass offer was a "goodwilll gesture" toward riders on that train. He said there are no verification procedures for whether a rider was actually on that train, adding that the MTA is relying on the honesty of its customers.
The spokesman said that giving a credit toward the purchase of weekly or monthly passes turned out to be too "logistically complex" for the MARC and Amtrak computerized ticketing systems.