Friday, December 17, 2010

Response to comment on station notifications

A recent commenter asked:

How come the MARC train stations don't even have basic systems to alert riders and others to the status of trains? People are siting at the stations waiting for riders to arrive and have NO status of the trains? There are audio systems in the stations that used to be used to give status and are no longer used? A simple suggestion: put monitors in each station, hooked to Internet and have the control center update the status as each train proceeds through the difficult can this be?

The answer is that MARC is in the process of solving this problem to a degree. With the help of stimulus funds, MARC plans to replace public address systems with LED sings at all of their stations save the ones run by Amtrak (Washington, New Carrollton, BWI, Baltimore, Aberdeen). The existing system is in need of replacement as it's 20 years old. As replacement parts are hard to come by keeping the old PA system operational is a struggle. The replacements will hit Brunswick first and then Camden and finally Penn, as the Penn line system is in the best shape of the three.

The new system will be linked to the MARC Tracker that alerts riders via text or email about delays. It will provide real time status updates, i.e. "Train 419 to Washington arriving in 3 minutes" much like the current system used by DC Metro subway stations. MARC staff will continue to update passengers about delays, so the system will not rely entirely on automation.