Friday, July 31, 2009

Friday delays...ughh!

My inbox has been pilling up with delay notices from MARC for all three train lines. This is the last thing commuters want to deal with at the end of the work week (though it probably beats Friday rush hour gridlock).

Here's what we're looking at as of about 6 p.m.:

Brunswick: Marc 424 (215p WAS DP) has departed WASH operating approx 20 mins late.
July 31, 2009 3:11 PM

Brunswick: Marc 424 (215p WAS DP) has departed WASH operating approx 20 mins late.
July 31, 2009 3:11 PM

Penn: Marc 433 (330p BAL Dp) expected to depart BALT 15-20 mins late due to late arriving equipment.
July 31, 2009 3:27 PM

Penn: Marc 433 departed BALT 33 mins late due to late equipment and Amtrak traffic in BALT.
July 31, 2009 4:07 PM

Brunswick: Marc 891 (350p WAS Dp) is operating 10-15 mins late approaching Silver Spring.
July 31, 2009 4:08 PM

Bruns: Due to a car shortage, Marc 877 is running 1 car short this afternoon. Marc 874 will be short Monday morning, 3 Aug 2009.
July 31, 2009 5:08 PM

Camden: Marc 855 is operating 20-25 mins late approaching Dorsey to due bad signals in the Camden area.
July 31, 2009 5:54 PM

Camden: Marc 848 will arrive at Camden Stn 15-20 mins late due to signal problems.
July 31, 2009 5:55 PM

Also just how vague can MARC get in its explanations for delays: "Bad signal?" " Signal problems?" "Late equipment?" I guess vagueness is preferable to no explanation.

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Thursday, July 30, 2009

Thursday digest

The 9 p.m. from D.C. To Perryville is creeping along short of New Carrolton because of a "slow signal." The conductor finally came on the as-usual screechingly loud speakers to explain the snail's pace to the riders after so many queries from his passengers. Why does MARC seem to get more frustrating as the night drags on?

And two notices from MARC, first one on additional parking spaces at Aberdeen station and the second on cash transactions, both are pasted in full below:

Attention Aberdeen Commuters: Beginning Monday, August 3, Aberdeen commuters will have 77 additional parking spaces. The new lot is located just south of the existing parking area on the station side of the tracks at the old Hinder Lincoln/Mercury used car lot.

Attention MARC Train Commuters: Beginning Monday, August 3, 2009, MARC Train conductors will no longer accept bills larger than $20 as payment for tickets on board MARC trains.

Commuters are encouraged to use the Self-Service Ticketing (SST) Kiosks located at most stations whenever possible to purchase daily tickets as well as weekly, monthly, and Senior/disability discounted tickets. SST's accept all major credit and debit cards; cash or vouchers of any kind cannot be used.

Thank you for riding MARC Train Service.

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Wednesday, July 29, 2009

MARC Wish List

Here's my top ten MARC amenities wish list (not in any particular order):

1. Cafe car (I know it's a relatively short commute for most but many could use a snack or cocktail after 5 p.m.)
2. Exersize car (what better time for rail commuetrs to get their workout in- I envision a few elipticals and stationary bikes)
3. Partial refunds for lost monthly passes
4. Internet connection
5. Electrical outlets
6. Cleaner bathrooms
7. Less air conditioning
8. More informed personnel at the stations
9. Better communication to riders during delays
10. Weekend service

What's on your wish list?
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Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Brunswick delays delay meet and greet?

Venturing an educated guess here...

Looking at alerts from MARC this afternoon, perhaps the meet and greet originally scheduled for this evening at the Gaithersburg station has been pushed back to "a future date" because of 20-50 minute delays on at least three Brunswick line trains this afternoon. MARC has notified commuters that a combination of disabled freight trains, track maintenance and downed trees are responsible for the delays. Downed trees? Does anyone remember strong winds recently?

Another question, what's the process like when MARC says that the Washington Metro will honor its tickets? In today's case, MARC has instructed stranded Brunswick riders that they can use the Red Line or Ride On to get to their destinations.

Here's the message from MARC: "Washington Metro will honor MARC tickets on the Red Line tonight. Passengers going to Kensington, Garret Park, Washington Grove, Gaithersburg, Metropolitan Grove, and Germantown should use Ride On bus service. MARC tickets are honored on Ride On. Other passengers stand by for further information; we are attempting to arrange alternate transportation."

For anyone who used the Red Line or Ride On, let Stuckonmarc know if your experience was easy, difficult, painful, confusing, etc.

The Post's Dr. Gridlock has a bit more on the Brunswick delays here.

Whatever the reason for postponing the meet and greet, MARC managers are more likely to have an unhappy crowd of customers when the powwow is rescheduled in light of today's Brunswick delays.

Brunswick meet and greet postponed

See note from MARC below:

Brunswick--We apologize for the late notice, but tonight's Meet the MARC Management at Gaithersburg is cancelled. It will be rescheduled for a future date
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Monday, July 27, 2009

Brunswick meet and greet?

Second of two chances (so far) for Brunswick riders to meet with MARC managers tomorrow, July 28, from 5:00 to 7:30 p.m. at the Gaithersburg station. (The first was last Wednesday at the Brunswick station). Not sure what these sessions entail - perhaps a fuller explanation for why two Brunswick line trains were running late this morning?- or if there will be similar meet and greets for Penn and Camden commuters later in the summer.

If you've attended a meeting in the past please post details: are the sessions a forum for venting? Do the mangers take responsibilty for system problems? What did you learn about MARC?

I'll try to catch a Penn or Camden event and report back to Stuckonmarc.

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Monday, July 20, 2009

Fancy new signs at Union Station

Is this really where the system needs an upgrade?
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Inside MARC Mess at Inside Charm City

Inside Charm City's Jeff Quinton corralled the litany of this morning's delays and problems on the MARC system here. At least 16 service warnings went out this morning and that doesn't include a few other trains, which commenters said were also delayed without an explanation from MARC officials.

Hopefully this morning's MARC madness was an aberration or at least attributable to working out the kinks during the first day of a new schedule.

An MTA spokesperson would not field my question about the reason for the latest schedule change. Instead she sent me to customer information, where a very friendly customer service representative provided the most straightforward explanation yet: Amtrak. Just like when you're stalled on your morning commute in a dark tunnel until an Acela thunders by, Amtrak's responsible. The rep said that with the uptick in rail use, Amtrak regularly has to tweak its schedule to accomodate all varieties of express and nonstop trains. These changes force Amtrak's ugly stepson- MARC- to adjust accordingly. The rep lamented that in the good old days the schedule changes would happen twice annually, in line with daylight savings. With Acela's ridership up 6.5% for FY2008, schedule tweaks have also risen to three or four times a year.

Times they are a changin'

Why the schedule change I asked a uniformed personnel at Penn Station this morning. After shooting me a half annoyed, half confused look, the woman answered: "Because it's time for a change." When I pressed her for more specifics, she acted exasperated and finally answered that the new schedule was a regular, twice annual occurrence. Hmmm, I don't remember two schedule changes last year.

A more friendly MARC conductor told me that changes were due to adjustments in the schedules of a few afternoon trains that were conflicting with Amtrak.

Two very different answers...I'll try to get a MARC spokesperson on the phone this afternoon for an official explanation.

Monday on MARC

'The back of the board is not working today' is the message that greets me upon arrival at Penn Station this morning. I craned my neck around the side to check departure times. I scan for my 7:40 to D.C. but all the departure times run from 5:00 a.m. To 6:45 a.m. Did I set my alarm an hour early? Nope. The front of the board is not working either. So begins the workweek.

Sunday, July 19, 2009

'Getting There'

Check out Michael Dresser's blog on The Sun's Web site for MARC mishaps and other transportation news.

New MARC schedule begins tomorrow

Starting Monday, July 20, 2009 we'll see a few changes to the MARC Penn and Camden line schedules, Brunswick stays the same. On the Penn line, nine North and Southbound trains have slight time adjustments to their schedules. Camden has added a College Park stop in both directions.

Here's what we're looking at for Penn:

  • 408 leaves D.C. at 7:40 a.m. (three minutes later)
  • 410 leaves D.C. at 8:30 a.m. (arrives at Penn Station at 9:30 instead of 9:27)
  • 520 leaves D.C. at 12:20 p.m. (five minutes earlier)
  • 428 leaves D.C. at 4:15 p.m. (arrives at Penn Station at 5:06 instead of 5:04)
  • 442 leaves D.C. at 7:40 p.m. (leaves 10 minutes later)
  • 521 leaves Penn Station at 9:47 a.m. (five minutes earlier)
  • 427 skips Seabrook, leaves New Carrolton at 1:17 (arrives in D.C. five minutes earlier)
  • 535 leaves Perryville at 2:50 (ten minutes earlier, no changes from Penn Station on)
  • 439 leaves Penn Station at 5:25 (five minutes earlier)
And Camden:
  • Northbound - 846 will stop at College Park at 4:24 p.m.
  • Southbound - 849 will stop at College Park at 8:10 p.m.
More info on the MTA Web site here.

Why the changes? Not sure, since some schedule adjustments amount to a matter of minutes. It could be that MARC has made the changes to reflect reality. I.e., if the schedules says that the 410 Penn Line train leaving D.C. at 8:30 a.m. arrives in Baltimore at 9:30 a.m., it is actually closer to 9:30 a.m. than 9:27 a.m. But my experience has been that MARC Penn Line trains generally run 10 minutes behind, whereas Camden Line trains actually get into the arrival station a few minutes early. I'll endeavor to get an answer from a MARC official tomorrow morning. Check back for an update and in the meantime let me know what you think about the schedule changes.