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Councilmen: Commute Isn’t Only Thing Hurt Under Revised MARC Schedule

Proposed changes to MARC’s Brunswick line could have adverse effect on future development, according to members of the Montgomery County Council.

Members of the Montgomery County Council have taken issue with service reductions proposed for MARC’s Brunswick line schedule.

“Given the level of congestion in the county, any level of reduction of transit service during rush hour is problematic and concerning,” said Councilman Phil Andrews (D-District 3) of Gaithersburg. “We need to maintain and increase transit service particularly during rush hour, not decrease it.”

The Brunswick line runs from Marntisnburg, W.V.a., to Washington, D.C., and stops through Germantown along the way. Last week MARC officials announced an adjusted Brunswick schedule in order to reduce congestion and lag on the tracks — a move that may mean fewer departures at some Montgomery County stops.

The schedule changes were met with opposition from the transit system’s own Riders’ Advisory Council, which took issue with service cutbacks in Montgomery County and West Virginia, lacking data to support the changes, and the lack of public input, .

Several council members don’t like the proposed schedule changes, either.

Craig Rice (D-District 2) of Germantown said reducing service could take county mass transportation efforts a step backward.

"Having a change in how the schedule works means that it might force people to get back in their cars,” Rice said. "That's the last thing that we want to do."

The changes could also have adverse consequences for future development, Andrews said.

“If the trains are not as frequent then it will become less attractive for building housing next to them,” Andrews said. “It certainly will be a concern for someone who might be moving there for that reason, or perhaps a developer who is counting on a train service as a draw for the project.”

Councilman Marc Elrich (D-At-Large) of Takoma Park said the county would be better suited not to consider MARC’s train service when determining appropriate population density of future developments.

“The fact that they’re just cutting off more trains and the county has absolutely nothing to say about it, indicates that you’d be absolutely foolish to plan how much density you can have based on MARC,” Elrich said. “If we were sensible, we’d make sure we don’t make anymore plans predicated on it.”

Rice said more pressure could be put on the county to develop its own alternative transportation, as a result of the schedule changes.

"It forces us to look at [Bus Rapid Transit] and ramp up the way we can get that done," Rice said.

Bus rapid transit (BRT) is similar to light rail, except that it is operated on county roadways. A countywide bus rapid transit system could ease pervasive traffic congestion, county planners said during a presentation at the Upcounty Regional Services Center in Germantown .

Bus Rapid Transit got a lukewarm reception from residents, particularly among those who lived in the northern reaches of the county, who were unconvinced BRT would improve their weekday commutes. Of the 16 corridors proposed, only two prongs stretched north, east of Interstate 270 and just shy of Damascus.

The council transportation committee, led by (D-District 1) of Potomac, plans to send a letter to the Maryland Department of Transportation seeking a fuller explanation of the rational behind the schedule changes.

Berliner said the council would likely take a position on the matter after assessing the reasons behind the change.

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Germantown Patch Editor Tiffany Arnold contributed to this story.

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