Saturday, August 30
I have investigated this CommuterDirect thingy and appears to be workable. As Michelle said earlier in comment, it will be a drastic change, and some of us may not be able to take advantage of it. The following is an English translation of the description of the service from the "info" page of CommuterDirect.Com. For those who enjoy reading this masterpiece in the original MARC-ese please link to https://www.commuterpage.com/smartbenefits.cfm.
The easiest thing is to enroll in the SmartTrip program. Yes, this is the same program METRO operates. Sign up using the link at the bottom of the page linked above.
To get your employer-sponsored transit subsidy you have to provide them with your SmartBenefits account number. Your employer will then deposit your subsidy into that account. You can use some or all of it to but your Marc Monthly pass and other stuff to be mailed to you. Just like on-line bill payments and on-line shopping that keep my marriage from ending in a "bitter divorce" every year.
Those of us whose employers are of the "what-will-they-want-next-free-coffee-and-donuts-every-morning" attitude toward transit benefits can still purchase the monthly pass via CommuterDirect and have it delivered by mail.
I'll let you know more about this next week when I sign up for an account.
Wednesday, August 27
It was just too good to be true. I expected the MARC morons to set up a pristine holding area with new seats that were arranged so that passengers could actually get to and sit in half of them. So imagine my amusement when I arrived to find a stuffed to over-capacity Holding Pen and the three MARC "managers" deflecting questions about the two trains that evening and the generally shoddy service that Maryland commuters have endured and will likely continue to endure.
I got the same shell game when I asked about the Dangerous Overcrowding of the trains, like this evening's 6:05. First the manager who accompanied MARC Director John Hovatter denied that there was overcrowding on the train. Then he denied that it was Dangerous overcrowding. Finally, after listening, while several other passengers nodded their heads, to graphic descriptions of how dangerous overcrowding occurs routinely on their trains he admitted that there is nothing they could do about it. Look at them, he said gesturing to the throng mobbing the Holding Pen doors to the platform, we can't stop that. I countered that Amtrak can and does stop them effectively with their riot squad and dogs they deploy every night to keep passengers from hindering the off-loading of incoming trains.
Why can't you just keep folks from boarding cars that are filled to capacity? Well, our customers would never stand for it, he relented. What I and countless others have seen would make personal injury trial lawyers drool. If for no other reason, MARC should make an effort to regulate the flow of passengers onto their carriages to keep from paying out million-dollar settlements.
On a routine basis, two trains worth of passengers are stuffed, literally onto a single train. Conductors enforce the prohibition of standing in the vestibule easily enough. The scene on these trains like one from a Third-World train service. The only thing missing is the chickens. This can't possibly be America in the 21rst Century, I find myself thinking.
Next....Shoddy Conditions in Union Station!
Dear MARC “Ticket-By-Mail” Customer:Effective November 1, 2008, MARC willOne more thing to bring up at this evening's Meet the MARC Morons tea party in Holding Cell B. Mention how happy you are to lose this little convenience; that there are other little conveniences you could do without, too.
discontinue the CSX “Ticket-by-Mail” program. CONSEQUENTLY, THE NOVEMBER MONTHLY TICKETS PURCHASED IN OCTOBER WILL BE THE LAST SOLD THROUGH THIS PROGRAM.
Tuesday, August 26
Monday, August 25, 2008 12:21 PMFor those who are going to be there anyway, here are a few pieces of mind you can give:
Subject: Meet The MARC Managers At Union Station
Wednesday August 27, 2008 MARC operations managers will be inside Union Station at the Gate B waiting area on Wednesday, August 27, 2008 from 4:30 p.m. until 7:00 p.m. with timetables and to answer questions about the service.
- Dangerous Overcrowding of trains due to short train sets, cancelled trains, conventions tourist season, etc.
- Shabby conditions in Union Station “waiting area.” Including the non-function “automatic doors,” poorly arranged seating, poor condition of seating, etc.
- Idiotic management of train problems
- Poor, at best, communication system; Late notification of late or cancelled trains.
- The comfort and convenience of the paying customers is obviously not a priority for MARC.
- MARC Commuter stress-relief squeezy toys.
I'll be there. Look for the guy with a hat and a beard. Send me a piece of your mind (or, heaven forbid, post a comment here) and I'll add it to the list.
Also, if you go there be sure to report on your experience. E-mail it to me or, again, post a comment!
Sunday, August 24
Apparently I was wrong in that assessment. In Friday's Annapolis Kapital-paper a letter-writer remarked at how much more efficient a set of hovercraft would be in ferrying folks back and forth across the Bay than, say, a new bridge. Apparently the writer saw one of the craft courtesy of the Australian Navy or Coast Guard at some show in Annapolis. The cost of buying and operating a fleet of these machines would be negligible compared with spanning the Bay with miles and miles of steel-reinforced concrete, he argued. And he is probably correct.
The writer, moved by the recent tragedy and ensuing chaos on the Bay Bridge, is searching for that which man has searched ever since confronting the opposing forces of time and geography. But the idea of operating a ferry service on or close to the waters of the Bay fails when applied in the modern era for several reasons. The main problem is that such a service would have to be a state-run operation.
Why does it have to be a state-run operation?
a. Because no one in his right mind would risk any amount of time and money when he could get "the government" to do it for him.
b. Our good fellow taxpayers over the years who have floated (no pun intended) the idea in the public press (or in this case the Annapolis Kapital) did so precisely because they think it is a compelling public service that will allow the state to confiscate your property to see it done.
c. Because no private individual outside of a Berkshire-Hathaway shareholders' meeting would be able to absorb the cost just in liability insurance let alone the frivolous lawsuits, of operating such a service.
Given that air-tight argument, under which organ of the Maryland government would the development and operation of a public transportation system such as a ferry fall? Yes, the Maryland Transit Authority, that great mover of people; that efficient investor of your tax dollars on such innovations as the electronic computerized message marquee on the MARC train cars whose two messages I've ever seen are "NO MESSAGE;" and "DO NOT PUT YOUR FEET ON THE SEAT;" that brain trust of folks whose motto must be: "We regret the inconvenience and appreciate your patience."
Yes, these are the same folks we would have to trust to ferry us safely from shore to eastern shore, at night, in the dead of winter. Right. About those who think a Chesapeake Bay commuter ferry service is an idea whose time has come one thing is sure: They have never had to commute on a daily basis to and from Washington DC on the MARC train thing.
To them I submit that the worst things that could befall a MARC train commuter (outside of the freak and tragic accident a few years back when a MARC train collided with an Amtrak train, at night, in the dead of winter) is that their train will never arrive or arrive late at the worst possible time (usually after work, on a Friday) or that the thing will break down halfway between New Carrollton and Seabrook (the middle of nowhere for those unfamiliar with Maryland geography).
Now imagine the nightmare scenario facing the MARC Hovercraft Bay Ferry service commuters, at night, in the dead of winter, in the middle of the Chesapeake Bay.
Thursday, August 21
Wednesday, August 20
First it was a fatality. Now apparently the poor devil is still alive but in critical condition. The trains have started running again, apparently, though they are "extremely overcrowded."
I guess I'll head up to the station....taking pictures!
Tuesday, August 19
So I nvite them and all to provide differing perspectives on MARC commuting, all of them should be varying degrees of bad. I will set aside an open thread monthly for "good" MARC experiences, just to make my mom happy (she thinks I am too negative about most things, bless her).
Also, I welcome pics. I think pics will be an excellent way to illustrate our torture. If you find that your fellow passengers are annoyed at your picture taking, just tell them it's for the The MARC...Train blog and you should be OK.
One lady blogger (http://anything-pj.blogspot.com/2008/07/my-packed-marc-train.html) has tried this but take your time and compose your shot. Try to work a MARC logo into the frame if at all possible.
Now I have to get ready to catch the MARC Train but I'll be back.