Wednesday, June 23, 2010

WaPost article details nightmarish incident on MARC

The Metro section of today's Washington Post has a long article detailing the MARC train that stalled outside Union Station Monday night, leaving 900 passengers stranded and struggling for relief amid sweltering temperatures for two hours.

This isn't the first time MARC commuters have been stuck in a heat box for hours. Below is an email last year, June 9, about a very similar incident, which also forced riders to resort to drastic measures - removing windows using emergency handles - to get relief.

MTA officials have apologized, Amtrak has promised "corrective actions," and an investigation is ongoing, according to the Post.

The Post article quotes Gov. O'Malley calling the incident "utterly unacceptable," we'll be watching to see what follow up action he takes to assure it doesn't happen again, for the third summer in a row.

To Our Penn Line Passengers:

We sincerely apologize for yesterday’s mechanical breakdown on train 530 near the Seabrook station. As those of you on the train know all too well, train 530 became disabled shortly after departing New Carrollton. Not only was the train unable to move, but the train lost all lighting and air conditioning. As soon as the problem with Train 530 was reported, Amtrak sent a mechanical technician out on the next train to attempt to repair the train. The locomotive involved has been removed from service pending a thorough investigation and repairs.

The MTA contracts with Amtrak to operate the Penn Line MARC trains. The MARC operations center was notified of Train 530’s problems by Amtrak just before 5:00pm. We sent a text and email message out to all Penn Line riders at 5:01pm, with updates following.

We understand that the temperature and conditions on board train 530 quickly became unbearable. Many of you expressed frustration that several MARC trains passed train 530 without stopping. The challenge of rush hour operations is that these trains themselves are already filled to capacity themselves and cannot take on additional passengers. While the train stopped agonizingly short of the platform at Seabrook, it is not possible to unload passengers at a location that is not a station stop.

When it became clear that train 530 was not going to be able to move for a significant period of time, trains 439 and 440 were cancelled and its equipment sent non-stop from Baltimore to Seabrook to transfer passengers. While 439 was en route, the technician was able to get 530’s locomotive working, lights and air conditioning restored, and the train departed Seabrook. MARC then “uncancelledd” train 440, the 6:40pm departure from Washington.

Today, MARC management has been reviewing this incident with Amtrak. One of our primary concerns is, based upon on your e-mails to us, that the train crew did not provide updates to passengers. This is unacceptable and we have told Amtrak that we expect their employees to provide regular updates to our passengers, even when there is no new information to report. MARC’s mechanical department will also be meeting with Amtrak mechanical personnel to determine what went wrong with the locomotive.

While yesterday’s incident was, to say the least, frustrating and the temperature uncomfortable, we do need to ask one thing of our passengers. Please do not ever remove windows from a train, unless directed by a member of the train crew. Doing this makes an already difficult situation worse—once windows are removed, a train cannot proceed until the car(s) in which the windows have been removed are unoccupied and even then the train can only proceed at a significantly reduced speed. It is also extremely dangerous to exit a train through the emergency windows. In addition to the potential injury you may incur falling from the train, trains pass on parallel tracks at speeds of up to 135 miles per hour. These trains approach very quickly and quietly. Again, while we understand the conditions on board train 530, removal of windows and exiting the train is extremely dangerous and should never be done unless directed by a uniformed Amtrak/MARC employee.

We appreciate your understanding of this matter.

Monday, June 14, 2010

Ladies! Meet a man on MARC

Until a fellow commuter asked me out on a date while we were walking from the MARC train into Union Station this morning, it never occurred to me that the MARC is the perfect place to scope out single men.

First off the dating pool is selective, these men have jobs ladies, and probably steady ones if they work for the federal government.

Secondly you have a number of things in common such as the fact that you both take public transportation and most likely live close to one another.

Finally, since you probably see this person most weekdays you can scope out their habits- is he an annoyingly loud cell phone talker? does he snore when cat napping- before deciding whether or not you'd want to date him.

So ladies, give that bespectacled gentleman with the nice leather briefcase who always rides in the first row of the third car a second look. With our daily commutes cutting into our social lives, the MARC just might be your ticket to finding a man.

P.S. I had struck up a conversation with the man who asked me out last week before he asked me out this morning. He was friendly, interesting and intelligent, and easy on the eyes. I declined his invitation as I'm madly in love with my wonderful boyfriend, but I thought I'd share this experience for all the single ladies out there.

Friday, June 11, 2010

Sun's Dresser previews MARC's "cruelest months"

The Baltimore Sun's transportation reporter, Michael Dresser, has a feature in today's newspaper [presumably since it was published online last night] about what MARC riders can expect from the beleaguered commuter rail this summer.

High temps during the summer months usually mean delays due to speed restrictions on the rail and Dresser quotes on commuter predicting the worst: "It's going to be a long, hot summer."

But Dresser also quotes a MARC official predicting that new diesel engines and repaired AEM-7 engines should alleviate some of the past problems that MARC riders had to contend with during the summer.

Dresser also dips into what could become a political battle in the race for governor, noting that former MD Gov. Ehrlich Jr. has criticized current Gov. O'Malley for scrimping on funds to the MARC system, even though a closer look at spending proves otherwise.

Transit advocate Rafi Guroian settles the dispute, "Neither is a hero to MARC," Dresser quotes him as saying.

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Ask a MARC Operator/Conductor?

A friend emailed me a link to this really cool feature that The New York Times is running this week.

NYT readers are invited to post their questions about New York City's transit system to Dennis H. Boyd, a train operator aboard the No. 4 Lexington Ave. subway line. The Times will publish the first set of Boyd's responses this Wednesday.

Any interest out there among MARC commuters for a similar feature at Stuck on MARC? My first inclination would be to get one of the more friendly and knowledgeable MARC conductors, such as Mike of the Penn Line's #415, to field questions.

It would be a chance for riders to learn more about the conductors they see on a regular basis and for the conductors, in turn, to impart some of their wisdom to us.

Let me know your thoughts.