Sunday, September 21

MARC Money

This is not looking good for me. You see, I promised the MARC-ons a flood of money-saving ideas the MTA could employee to scrape together a million dollars here and there. Well as you can see there are no comments on the Don't Hold Your Breath posting last week. So I have taken the liberty to suggest a few tips myself. Perhaps this will dislodged the fingers of my many readers' and permit them to type in a few of their own.

1. The first and easiest way to scrape together fast cash is to check between the cushions of the couches and chairs. You've done this at home and in college to help pay the rent or buy food. Now, the MARC fleet of single- and double-decker carriages has thousands of these little coin caches. The mind reels at the thought of how much rent and food you could score with that kind of treasure just waiting to be found.

2. Stop paying for the design and production of MARC train schedules. If I were the Knuckledragger-in-Chief of MARC, this is the first thing I would cut. If they are spending a dime they are spending half a million dollars publishing fictitious arrival and departure times. Not only are they completely arbitrary but they only set MARC management up for failure. If there is no schedule, MARC can hardly be accused of being behind it, now, can they?

3. Stop putting up those ridiculous electronic message marquees. There is no message of half of them all the time. The other half simply do not work. Talk about a waste of money! To recoup some of these squandered dollars I suggest the marquees be listed for sale on popular Internet classified and auction web sites like eBay.

More to come...

Tuesday, September 16

What Overcrowding?

A recent photo taken on an early evening train. This crowd is obviously in the forbidden vestibule and three-abreast into the passenger compartments of the two carriages.

This is a typical load for the 3 trains out of Union Station between 5 and 7 pm. There are no places to hold onto. Taller folks tend to hold on to the fluorescent light covers that run the length of each carriage.

The man in the blue shirt is actually standing between the two carriages. Now I am sure the conductor on this train cleared these folks out of the vestibule before the man in the blue shirt was cut in half as the train switched tracks three times on its way out of the yard.

These people are not standing in the vestibule for the sheer fun of it. They are standing there because there is no room in the carriages to stand. This is what I call Dangerous Overcrowding.

Got pics? Send them to ( me so I can plaster them all over the web!

Saturday, September 13

Don't Hold Your Breath

Good advice for MARC commuters waiting for the extra carriages to relieve the Dangerous Overcrowding on early morning and evening trains. Oh and that parking garage? Forget it. It's the Loser Lot for those of you who can't make it to the Odenton station before dawn.

According to the Annapolis Kapital, funding for the garage (or just a study of the garage) and the extra carriages were cut this week from the MTA budget. I hate to say I told you so. On the down side, we have to listen tothe tired excuse of "well, we just have no money..." from the MARC folk for another 10 years.

Yeah, apparently those crazy Marylanders, in an effort to keep some of their money from the confiscatory O'Malley administration and entrenched Democrats in Annapolis, are driving less and buying less gas! Imagine that. And they are buying cheaper cars thereby paying less taxes to cover the enormous costs of getting a clear title on your car. The gas and title taxes were supposed to be revenue sources for the MTA projects that just went up in smoke this week.

Think about this for a moment. The revenue sources for mass transit are to come from people who don't use mass transit (they buy lots of gas and cars). Now, if all of those gas- and car-buyers decided to take mass transit instead, where would we be? On MARC trains that look like the one in the video clip posted nearby, that's where. What large group of idiots that meet for 90 a year in Annapolis decided that this was a good idea? Hmmmmmmmm.

Well, in the Kapital-paper (that's as opposed to the Sun-paper) John Porcari, MDoT Knuckledragger-in-Chief, says he is looking for a few good ideas that the MARC-ons can do NOW, on the cheap. Herewith some ideas:

Parking in Odenton - I have been trying for about 10 years now to get the MARC-ons to CHARGE for PARKING in Odenton. Why? For the exact opposite reasons why it's stooopid to base mass transit revenue on taxes that decline with the increase in mass transit use! The LAST reason it is a good idea to CHARGE FOR PARKING is to make money.

People take to free parking like bears to a garbage dump. Charging a even a nominal fee will instantly cause some people (a statistically predictable percentage) to look elsewhere, like going BACK to BWI where most of them used to go before THAT garage project started causing parking and other problems. A larger fee would cause even more folks to try other ways of saving money. Especially those folks who live all the way out in Piney Orchard. People (this excludes MARC managers) make rational decisions a thousand times a day based on the "How-much-it-gonna-cost-me?" model of human behavior.

Oh, but Mr. Netherland, they whined, we don't want to discourage ridership! Why not? If you discourage ridership (IF, that is) in the bargain then you also solve the Dangerous Overcrowding of the early morning and evening trains. They name streets after people with such ideas.

Oh but how would we treat the day-trippers, the one or two day tourists? They have a right to ride too, ya know! Yeah, they have a right to ride. They don't have a right to free parking.

I look forward to reading and posting your ideas. Remember, the MARC-ons get an e-mail message every time we post!

Friday, September 12

It Does Get Worse

Two vignettes on state-sponsored commuter rail "service." One from Bill, a MARC system nomad. You can find him riding any of the three lines. He holds to no station, but he is obsessed with the MARC trains "schedule." I keep trying to tell him there is no such thing. He always responds by laughing nervously.

I also told him that for most MARC commuters "Train # 411" means nothing. He promises to tell us the time of day he catches the train, instead.

Subject: MARC Penn line # 411

I caught MARC Penn line # 411 at Odenton; standing room only; I'm standing in the overflow between the cars with 6 others. Surprised it isn't considered a safety hazard requiring them to add more cars. At least it's not as bad as some countries' trains on which people ride on the top and outsides of the trains - with livestock (HA). Have a great day!
Then one from Bombay, India by Alkesh a database systems genius who works with Bill:

For those who could not visualize what Bill is talking about, Google for 'local train in Mumbai' and watch videos on YouTube! You will forget about risk involved in all the adventure sports here and also learn about time management (during the commute)!!! :-)

BTW, I have commuted by local trains in Mumbai for about 6 years and enjoyed the challenge of getting into the train, getting a seat and of course getting out of it at the station you wish!... And, really miss the fun hanging at a door specifically while the train passes on a bridge :-)

Here is the clip that Alkesh urges us to Google for:

Sunday, September 7

Overcrowding? Not on the Brunswick Line!

I was rooting through some old correspondence using MARC as key and came across this from August (emphasis is mine):

I am curious if, in your world, you have ever come across this…

[a CSX conductor], tells the passengers of his daily trains that they must remain seated until the conductors announce the next station stop. This conductor won't even allow more passengers onto his train if there is no more seating room. He has threatened to throw people off his train who stand up in the seating area in conversation with other passengers.

As you can imagine, no one at MARC or CSX seems to care to get involved. Any thoughts?
That conductor should be promoted! He obviously cares about the comfort and safety of the passengers in his charge. I think my correspondent is of a different mind. If he were to spend some time on the 6:40 after the 6:05 has been cancelled on the Penn Line during tourist season he would quickly appreciate the Brunswick Line conductor's efforts.

Commuters Riot!

This just in... (Hat Tip, Erin)

BUENOS AIRES (Reuters) - Furious rail commuters in Argentina set fire to a train on Thursday in anger over delays during the morning rush hour.

Television images showed black smoke and flames engulfing the train at the station of Merlo, in the western suburbs of the capital, Buenos Aires. At nearby Castelar, passengers hurled stones at the ticket office and blocked the rails.

"We understand that people get angry when the service is delayed or canceled, but they absolutely can't attack a public service in this way," Gustavo Gago, a spokesman for rail company TBA, told local television.

Now by publishing this bit of news The Marc...Train in no way condones or encourages this type of behavior by MARC commuters, no matter how late their trains or how disrespectful their employees or how much of the-run-around they get from MARC Managers.

Saturday, September 6

"Jus' Push the Door Open, Man!"

This is what passes for customer service in the minds of MARC\MTA\Amtrak\Union Station employees. This was the response when I approached the moron (or MARC-on) seated behind the desk in Holding Pen B and suggested that the automatic doors were not switched on, could he, as a paid employee of the....of something, please switch it on.

First he didn't understand what I was talking about. Then he insisted that the doors were working properly (this assessment he made while seated behind the desk next to a young lady he was entertaining). When I insisted that they were not, in fact working, that all he had to do was get up and move a switch, things got testy. At least one of the Union Station Holding Pen B fixtures witnessed the exchange.

Finally he relented, admitted the doors were switched off and said: "Man, just push the door open; just push the door open!" He kept repeating this, while disdainfully shaking his head. Well I gave up and went back to the door, pushed the fake "Push to Exit" button glued to the wall, then muscled open the door using the finger pull mounted on one side.

Once on the other side I watched as passengers struggled with the door. Petite women or women with their hands full (as people who actually work for a living find themselves), men and women with disabilities, senior citizens who struggle to get through thin air had to wait as other passengers pushed or pulled the door open. I watched small children nearly caught as the hydraulic-press-like door easily closed on them after an adult had gone through.

We are not asking for miracles from you morons. We are just asking for a little respect.

Wednesday, September 3

The Holding Pen, Union Station

There was a day when MARC passengers could roam Union Station freely while waiting for their late and cancelled trains.

About a year or so ago, the horde of passengers began to surge. Two trains-worth of MARC passengers began to annoy the good folks at Union Station and so MARC "management" began herding us out of the way. First we were asked to wait in Gate B, or B and C, depending on how many trains were late.

Complying with this request was not easy. Conscientious passengers first encountered the retractable rope line, anchored to their 40-lb-pedestals blocking the entrance to Gate B. Not wanting to overtly defy a duly-placed rope line, MARC passengers snaked their way between and under the impediment.

Once past this hurdle the compliant passenger would have to force open one of the double, hydraulic-activated "automatic doors." These doors are not designed to be manually operated. There is no handle to use to safely push open the door. And there is no overriding the hydraulic piston to which the door is connected.

And the struggles of the MARC passengers were all fun entertainment to the Amtrak employees who seem like fixtures inside Gate B. Two or three of them would just sit there and watch passengers struggle with doors. Well I got tired of this real fast. I would not limbo my way past the rope line and I would not try to muscle open the doors. The first thing I would do is release the retractable rope. Then I would activate the doors with the switch that Amtrak employees apparently couldn't bother themselves with flicking.

Well, my subversive, fun-killing, activities were being monitored, it seems and it wasn't long before the good folks at Union Station were ready to pounce on me. An Amtrak employee jumped up (yes, jumped!) ran over to me and demanded that I close the doors, pointing menacingly with his walkie-talkie. I refused. The police were summoned. The policeman was amused but tried to accommodate the Union Station sting-leader.

After this run-in with the door police, I began noticing certain things about the holding pen. First the doors were one-way. You can push to get in, but not out. Also the doors leading out to the platform were also one-way but were also non-functioning automatic doors. The classic fire-trap. I referred to the holding pen as a fire-trap several times loudly during the meeting with the MARC managers. I suggested that at a minimum:

1. The doors need to be fitted with the standard push bar to assist in manual operation.
2. If the automatic doors are constantly broken they should be taken off their pistons and made to be easily operated.

These suggestions were noted but, hey, this is an old building, the MARC-on tried to give me a history of Union Station. We don't have any authority...we don't have any money...yadda.