Monday, February 1, 2010

Stuck on MARC interviewed on stimulus $ for high speed rail

A Capitol News Service reporter called Stuck on MARC on Friday to get feedback on whether or not Maryland commuter rail was short-changed in the President's announcement of $8 billion of stimulus funds for high speed rail across the country. You can find the full story here and here.

Here's the section of the story that focused on our conversation:

Meanwhile, thousands of Maryland commuters like Julia Marsh of Baltimore continue to hope for better service on Amtrak and MARC trains.

Marsh, who has ridden the MARC Penn Line from Baltimore's Penn Station to Washington's Union Station every day for almost two years, questioned the impact of the proposed high-speed rail investments on middle-class commuters.

"Why are the president and vice president really making this push for high-speed rail when the commuter rail in such horrible shape?" she asked, adding, "It's really going to take a major investment, and throwing a little bit of money at the problem isn't going to do much."

MARC Riders Advisory Council Chairman Rafael Guroian said, "Speaking as a commuter, I wish that the grant would have been higher; however, even $8 billion wouldn't have been enough for what they need to do in our area.
At first I indicated on the blog that I was pleased to see that Baltimore would directly benefit from $112 million in improvements to the Northeast Corridor, specifically from Boston to New York and Washington DC. In conversations with MRAC Chair Rafi Guroian I learned that MARC could get a piggyback benefit from updates to Amtrak rails, which the state commuter system also uses. Rafi also warned that the piggyback effect would take a substantial sum of money to make a difference.

After speaking with a veteran Amtrak conductor I learned that throwing money at studies and 10-year plans rarely result in actual improved infrastructure in the near or intermediate term.

I also realized that we got barely a drop in the proverbial bucket.

Indeed the Capitol News Service reporter quotes Congressman John Mica of Florida calling Maryland's allotment of the funds "peanuts" and "an insult." Indeed the $70 million that will go directly to Maryland's railways is meager compared to $2.2 billion for California and $1.2 billion for Florida.

Here's to hoping that those studies lead to actual enhancement of the MARC system, preferably in the form of decreased delays.

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