Tuesday, January 27

MARC...Activism: Keep the Ten-Trip!

You just knew it would come to this! First an e-mail group, then the blogs now an On-Line Petition! That's right. Fellow MARC victim and avid fan of The MARC...Train - Katrina Prieur of Baltimore has drafted a petition that you can review and sign on line at:


Katrina is also turning up the political heat, too. At least one member of Congress has co-sponsored this petition and a review of the signatories includes one Robert "Peak Oil" Bartlett. While the names on the petition are of a dubious nature, I am going to assume that Maryland's only Republican congressman has actually signed the petition.

The Ten-Trip ticket, as the petition describes it, will be missed by those commuters who do not use the MARC "service" everyday of the week or month. The Ten-Trip allows these commuters a more cost-effective way of paying the fare. Without this option they are forced buy Weekly or Monthly passes at a premium since they won't be using the service.

The other option is to purchase a raft of one way tickets, also amounting to a premium over the Ten-Trip. This option means that you have to estimate the number of trips you'll be taking times the expiration period of the one-way tickets divided by annulled-train factor times the Dangerous Overcrowding coefficient. This is a complex formula and invariably results in a fraction of a trip or a negative trip, both of which, unfortunately, are entirely realistic.

So, if you value your time and money and are not real strong in math, please visit the on-line petition and sign your name. My advice is to just give your general location, not your exact mailing address.

Tuesday, January 20


Well, its all over. As promised your intrepid MARC reporter visited the Odenton Station Tuesday morning around 9. I know it was a little late, but I figured there would still be evidence of rioting, looting, and general chaos.

If there had been any of that you would be gazing upon pictures of burning MARC train carriages, the charred shell that used to be the coffee shop, the smoking remains of the station itself.

But there was none of that to show. Less than a hundred cars were in the lot. No passengers milling about. Only maintenance crews laying down a fresh layer of salt on the platform. There were four county police cars patroling the area. Obviously MARC and other State officials who read this blog took the necessary precautions to rob me of the opportunity to say I told you so!

With liberal leave in effect for federal workers today, there should be good parking today. I'll see you there!

By the way, you may have noticed a new MARC Poll has been posted...vote today! Also I have added a new feature that is supposed display "feeds" from various sources.

Jeff Quinton of Inside Charm City fame is an intrepid MARC commuter and usually posts reliable service conditions through out the day.

And Luisa of Commuter Rail to Hell fame posts her kindred commentary on how MARC is screwing up her life now and again.

Sunday, January 18

MARC Inaugural Train

Over the last two months or so, this blog has been visited by people all over the country. Judging by their Goolge search strings, they are the folks who have rented everything with a roof and indoor plumbing in advance of the Inaugural.

If you were one of the folks who checked this blog for "official" information, you were no doubt disappointed. However, if you were checking this blog for a realistic, user-oriented perspective on the MARC train service to DC and back then I hope you found what you were looking for.

At this point, hours away from the Big Day, all of the $25 reserved-seat tickets and souvenir programs have been sold-out. Never fear, the much maligned free market, conspiring yet again to provide scarce commodities and resources at a price the market will bear, has as late as yesterday been offering these tickets on Craig's List and e-bay.

About these tickets, one visitor came to this blog wondering: "do you have to give them your marc train ticket or can you keep" them? While I have never seen one, I can only imagine that, as with everything (and I mean EVERYTHING) Obama the special $25 inaugural tickets are decorated to the hilt with The One's name and images. I do not believe the MTA did this just so they can be collected by the MARC train conductors.

About the legendary MARC train customer service one visitor asks: "what food services are on board marc trains"? I don't think I addressed such a question in any of my posts, so here goes: There is no food service on board MARC trains.

Another visitor is looking for "help getting to marc train station on Jan. 20th." As far as I know it's every man for himself. Via con Dios.

Seeking wisdom from the Oracle at Yahoo a visitor asks: "are metro and marc trains the same thing?" Unfortunately, not. The METRO is a light-rail system designed to carry passengers, packed like sardines in safety and comfort. The system is completely computer controlled and designed to minimize disruptions in service by providing track-level power and easily maintained rolling-stock.

The MARC train is, by comparison, a series of lumbering hulks dragged up and down Amtrak and CSX railbeds that are in some places centuries old. Also centuries old is the management-style that forces Marylanders to pay people union scale to walk up and down the carriages collecting and in some case selling tickets (though not on Inauguration Day). As they did when trains were powered exclusively by steam, these conductors punch holes in paper tickets, chase freeloaders off and shout "All Aboard!" It's all very quaint, kind of like some of the nostalgia rides in Disneyworld and Williamsburg. Quaint, but not a very efficient use of resources and not a very effective way of providing a reliable service.

Which brings me to the next question: "Is the Marc train running on Wednesday evening?" This would be The Day After the Jubilee. For those poor souls finding themselves in DC on Jan. 21 (and I may be one of them) my simple answer is: Maybe. That is, the trains may be running or not depending on the reliability of the system I described above. It's an even bet at best. As with all such bets, it's best to hedge, or have a Plan B.

Thursday, January 1

MARC on Inauguration Day

A sizable fraction of the 2 million pilgrims expected to attend the inaugural ceremony and festivities on Jan. 20th, will doubtlessly be taking advantage of the Penn Line trains, stations, restrooms, parking lots, and coffee shops.

That fraction is referred to by transit authorities as "crush capacity." This is comparable to the Dangerous Overcrowding that MARC victims subject themselves to nearly twice a day during tourist season. The Department of Homeland Security thought it necessary to put out an advisory this week warning of the expected throng's impact on the local infrastructure. Not for us, of course. We are used to it. But the pilgrims may want to reconsider.

Given the expected crush, I invite my hardy band of MARC fans who have the day off anyway, to join me on MARC-Town Hill overlooking Odenton Station to bear witness to this event. We will need to cover the parking lots (both Old, New and Loser Lot) to witness and take digital photos of the mayhem that will no doubt ensue. I can't be everywhere at once. We'll need witnesses for the coffee shop, and the station, the tunnel (where trampled pilgrims are likely to get caught first). Bring a set of two-way walky-talkys and a half dozen donuts.

I will set up a command post in the Ford F-150 on MARC-Town Hill. All coffee and donuts will be available from the Command Vehicle on rotating shifts. Bonus donuts will be awarded to the shift that brings in the most outrageous story and pictures.

Now since they are running only 12 trains starting at 5 am. I figure that if we get there by 6 we should be in good shape of hours of fun.

Why do I expect there to be anymore chaos and confusion than MARC perpetrates on the commuting public on a daily basis? Because on Jan 20th, these people are not going to be regular commuters. They are going to be tourists paying $25 each to be crushed into MARC carriages that will most likely be full before they even get to Odenton. The potential for friction between the pilgrims and the working stiffs who don't get the day off or can't take the day off is great.

And I don't expect MARC customer service to magically appear either, unless MARC gives the regular crew a break and hires airline stewards and stewardesses. And they will be using the same locomotives and carriages whose chances of breaking down on any given day are pretty good.

So let's sum up: Same equipment, same "service," at five times the regular price. A recipe for disaster. Well, that is what I am predicting, anyway. And if it turns out to be wrong, I'll blog about that too.