MTA defends light rail handling of Ravens crowds
In a previous posting, readers questioned why the MTA's light rail system takes so long to move crowds out of Camden Yards after Ravens games. We put that question to MTA spokesman Terry Owens, who provided the following reply:
MTA records show no problems with service August 28th. Our passengers should know that extra measures are taken to handle the 8-10,000 customers who use light rail for Ravens games. Depending on the availability of cars we try to make every train a three car train, and add fill in trains when possible.
Despite the limits imposed by the number of available tracks and cars, light rail platforms are usually clear in less than an hour following Ravens games.
Large crowds can affect schedules. That?s because it takes longer to fill the train and off load passengers when large crowds are involved. Our goal is always to move passengers as quickly and safely as possible. Like everyone we look forward to a great season with the Ravens.
What we have here is a clear disconnect of expectations. Riders look at a 45-minute delay in getting a train after a game and think "it took forever to get a train." The MTA sees the platforms cleared within an hour and pats itself oon the back for doing a good job.
Let's face it: There are inherent capacity limits to the light rail system. You can't expect to come out of a crowded NFL stadium and walk right on to a waiting train and settle down comfortably into a seat. Fans who use light rail should reflect on the plight of the folks trying to get out of the parking lots, which can take a while too. (Ravens fans: You tell me how long it takes to get out of the lots and past the congestion.)
At the same time, the MTA needs to do more to explain how the light rail system works so that riders can form a reasonable set of expectations. Communications, much more than than operations, has always been the MTA's weak spot.
As to Nate Payer's point that light rail systems inherently lack the capacity to handle crowds, I think he needs to make his case based on evidence other than Baltimore's antiquated Central Light Rail line. But the MTA ought to explain what kind of crowd-moving performance we can expect from a modern light rail system on the Red Line. But there's also a cost factor: It makes no sense to build a gold-plated system just to avoid any delay whatsoever after football games and other downtown events.