Thursday, March 4, 2010

Baltimore Blog addresses MARC snafu at Union Station

Jeff Quinton over at Inside Charm City has taken up the cause of the new crowd control regulations for MARC riders at Union Station. An issue I blogged about last month.

Quinton, who's recently rejoined our ranks as a daily MARC commuter, was peeved about a new policy, outlined on a whiteboard at the station, that requires Penn Line passengers to board through proper gates inside Union Station, much like our Amtrak counterparts do.

The new policy was to prevent people from crowding in the hallway that connects an exit from the Metro to the platform. Like Quinton and other MARC riders who also use Metro I think it's easiest to simply take the escalators up from the subway then walk through the hallway and out onto the platform, waiting on the platform or in the hallway if the train is delayed. I understand the policy because on the seldom occasions when I was taking the Camden Line, which experiences fewer delays than Penn, it would be difficult to fight my way through the Penn Line crowd to make my train.

My problem with the new policy, as I mentioned on this blog, was that MARC still has communication issues with its passengers that cause them anxiety and subsequently a desire to be on the platform to see the situation for themselves. Often times the schedule boards in Union Station do not reflect the situation on the ground for MARC trains, which experience frequent delays.

I have to disagree with Quinton on his characterization of MARC employee Dave Johnson, who in my experience as a daily commuter for the past two years, has been one of the most dedicated public employees I've ever met. Evidenced here and here for example. You have to have sympathy for a guy who deals with an unhappy, impatient public on a day to day basis, in a job where much of what he's trying to manage is out of his direct control.

I give Quinton kudos for reaching out to the DC Fire Marshall about his concerns over fire and evacuation hazards, which are surely a problem with both the old and new waiting policies.

Quinton got a response from DC Fire and Emergency Medical Services Deputy Chief Bruce Faust regarding the situation.

Here the response, read Quinton's full post here.

I am aware of this on-going issue with MARC and the management of the Union Station terminal. We are working together to develop a reasonable solution that meets the needs of all interested parties. I hope to have
some resolution in the near future.

If you do not see improvements, please let me know.

Seems like there's more coordination that needs to happen between MTA, Union Station, MARC commuters and DC Fire Marshall. I wonder if Rafi Guroian, chair of the MARC Riders Advisory Council (MRAC) has formally taken up this issue. If you're interested in making your voice heard through the council attend the next meeting on Thursday, March 18, 2010 at 4:30 p.m. Check for the location, usually Union or Penn Station, here closer to the date.

1 comment:

  1. Julia, we're well aware of the issue on the council, obviously (after all, we're in the rank and file with everyone else). We'll make sure to put it on the agenda again for the next meeting (it's becoming a regular feature, it seems). Sadly, the "end-all" answer is not cheap: a complete reconfiguration of the Metro corridor and Gate A and reinstating tracks 3-6 which were torn up when the Metro was built in the 70s.

    Rafi Guroian