Friday, December 17, 2010

Response to comment on station notifications

A recent commenter asked:

How come the MARC train stations don't even have basic systems to alert riders and others to the status of trains? People are siting at the stations waiting for riders to arrive and have NO status of the trains? There are audio systems in the stations that used to be used to give status and are no longer used? A simple suggestion: put monitors in each station, hooked to Internet and have the control center update the status as each train proceeds through the difficult can this be?

The answer is that MARC is in the process of solving this problem to a degree. With the help of stimulus funds, MARC plans to replace public address systems with LED sings at all of their stations save the ones run by Amtrak (Washington, New Carrollton, BWI, Baltimore, Aberdeen). The existing system is in need of replacement as it's 20 years old. As replacement parts are hard to come by keeping the old PA system operational is a struggle. The replacements will hit Brunswick first and then Camden and finally Penn, as the Penn line system is in the best shape of the three.

The new system will be linked to the MARC Tracker that alerts riders via text or email about delays. It will provide real time status updates, i.e. "Train 419 to Washington arriving in 3 minutes" much like the current system used by DC Metro subway stations. MARC staff will continue to update passengers about delays, so the system will not rely entirely on automation.

Monday, October 25, 2010

MARC-related Halloween costume revealed

That's right, my fiance and I are dressing up as Baltimore's most controversial public art for Halloween this year: Penn Station's Male/Female.

I've already purchased little LED lights to stick to our chests and purply-blue foil to wrap around them. Searching for silver spandex and possible silver paint/hairspray to complete the costume. Supply source suggestions are welcome.

This will be the second year in a row that we've dressed up as iconic images from nearby Penn Station. Last year we were a hit as the Natty Boh guy proposing to the Utz girl from the Smyth jewelers billboard.

Signal sabotage?

The chatter on two blogs, Inside Charm City and Getting There, is that morning delays on Amtrak and MARC between DC and Baltimore were due to signal problems and - dun dun dun - possible sabotage.

Russian spies strike again?

Amtrak won't confirm sabotage, but also won't rule it out according to Dresser at Getting There. After some sleuthing Quinton at Charm City got a reply via Twitter from MTA saying that "malicious destruction" had affected the signals.

Then again Dresser's reporting found that the delays could be the fault of copper wires, which are the cause of some of the summer time delays.

Anyone else out there see signs of sabotage or have theories about the delay? Drop me a line.

Monday, September 27, 2010

MARC's 2010 holiday schedule - full service during winter holidays

A MARC official has released the 2010 holiday schedule to Stuck on MARC. A few details are still being worked out so check back for future updates. For now, here are the dates that you'll need to find alternate transportation if you have to work on the holidays:

Monday, October 11: Columbus Day--No service

Thursday, November 11: Veterans Day--S (snow) schedule.

Thursday and Friday, November 25-26: Thanksgiving and the day after--no service

Friday, December 24 and Friday, December 31 (Christmas and New Years observed, they fall on a Saturday this year)--no service

***During the week between Christmas and New Year, in response to commuter requests and improving state budget situation, MARC plans to operate full service.

This last schedule adjustment is great news for anyone who works past 7:30pm as the 7:40pm Penn Line was the last to leave Union Station during that week.

Visit MTA's Web site for more special schedule information.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

MARC delays minimal despite suicide attempt

The 'police activity' referenced in the below email notice from MARC was in response to an attempted suicide off the top of the Amtrak parking lot and onto the rails. The jumper was talked down with the promise of a smoothie, a MARC official tells me. Despite the incident- and resulting closure of tracks- the system only suffered delays stretching into the 25-minute range.

"BRNSWK: MARC 891 is canceled following a police activity in Washington/Union station. Passengers should transfer to MARC 875. Washington Metro will honor all MARC tickets."

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

MARC/Amtrak could learn a thing or two from the Japanese

I was just reading a speech given by the Japanese Ambassador to the U.S. He was talking about the need for the US to invest in high speed rail.

Noting that there are 6 Es of Japanese high speed rail service, "the second E, E for exactness. Average delay time per year is less than one minute."

Average delay per year is less than one minute! Can you imagine?

He then goes on to say that this Amtrak train from New York was recently canceled and jokes that he hopes his friends at Amtrak aren't listening to C-SPAN.

Read the full speech here.

Thursday, July 8, 2010

WaPost on Ehrlich courting disgruntled MARC riders

The Washington Post has a good article and video detailing former MD Gov (and current gubernatorial candidate) Robert Ehrlich's efforts to court disgruntled MARC riders following last month's train from hell.

I'd have to dispute one point made by the head of the new group Commuters for Ehrlich, who in the video says that there's no griping forum for MARC passengers. There's a regular, maybe monthly or bimonthly "Meet the MARC Managers" event where riders can approach MTA officials and complain or ask questions. They do a good job of rotating the managers to different stations so all riders get a fair shake.

My question for Ehrlich is whether or not he will pledge to do something politically unpalatable if he's elected governor, that is raise train ticket prices.

MARC Riders Advisory Council chair Rafi Guroian told Stuck on MARC in an interview lats year that more revenue is essential for MARC's growth and improvement.

$175 for a monthly unlimited ticket is quite a bargain; I for one would be willing to pay $25 to get to work and home on time.