Changes proposed for the MARC system’s Brunswick line would make service worse for Montgomery County commuters, according to MARC’s Riders’ Advisory Council.
MARC officials announced Thursday they were “adjusting stopping patterns” along the Brunswick line in order to reduce the number of times trains had to slow down to lag other trains. As a result, smaller stations would have “one or two fewer departures” in order “to improve the operational flow of trains,” state transit officials said in a press release.
But the changes were met with disapproval from the transit system’s own Riders’ Advisory Council.
"The biggest issue I have is that MARC's improved service for Brunswick and Point of Rocks comes at the price of worsened service for Montgomery County and Frederick," said Miriam Schoenbaum, a member of the Advisory Council who on Monday criticized the changes in a blog post at Greater Greater Washington.
Brunswick line runs from Martinsburg, W.V.a, to Washington, D.C. On average, 7,800 people travel the route, with 800 of those riders stopping through Germantown daily, according to figures provided by MARC staff. Under the new schedule, which could take affect Jan. 30, the following Montgomery County stations would be effected:
- Metropolitan Grove loses two of nine eastbound trains and one of eight westbound trains
- Washington Grove receives an additional eastbound train
- Barnesville loses one of six eastbound trains
- Kensington loses one of six eastbound trains and one of seven westbound trains
- Garrett Park loses two of six westbound trains
- The service gap between eastbound trains would increase from one hour to one and a half hours at Boyds and Dickerson.
- The service gap between westbound evening trains would increase from one hour to one and a half hours at Boyds, Dickerson and Garrett Park.
Schoenbaum said the Advisory Council learned of the changes at a meeting prior to Thanksgiving but were asked not to publicize the changes until it was announced by state transit officials.
"It made me feel uncomfortable because we're supposed to be the liaison between MARC and the riders," Schoenbaum said.
According to a statement provided by Council Chair Rafael Guroian, the Riders’ Advisory Council’s primary concerns were the service reductions in Montgomery County and West Virginia, the lack of data to support the need and the absence of public hearings.
The Advisory Council also submitted letters voicing their concern to state lawmakers and to Maryland Department of Transportation Secretary Beverly Swaim-Staley and West Virginia Department of Transportation Secretary Paul Mattox Jr., which Guroian provided to Patch.
The Advisory Council will meet Thursday, Dec. 15.
Several MARC “Meet the MARC Management” events were scheduled throughout the county over the next two months. Tina Slater, president of Action Committee for Transit, said her organization planned to testify at MARC’s Jan. 5 town hall in Kensington.
Action Committee for Transit (ACT) is a Montgomery County-based advocacy group. Schoenbaum is vice-president of the group.
Slater said ACT’s general concern was that smaller stops would be bypassed in favor of larger stations with express service trains. She said ACT thought the best option would be to expand service as outlined in the state’s 2007 MARC Growth and Investment Plan.
"When MARC gets the additional service, then it will be appropriate to divide service into expresses and locals,” Slater said. “But until then, you can't have service improvements for some riders without worsening service for other riders."