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Crowding on MARC

All our local rail systems -- Metro, MARC and VRE -- are providing a useful service to riders through their e-mail alerts, and MARC just upgraded its system. But useful as these systems are, they can also serve as a sad catalogue of inconvenience to customers.

Just now, I saw this one for MARC riders:

"Penn Line - Due to a shortage of available cars train 428 (415p DP WASH) tonight and train 405 (555a DP BALT)tomorrow morning will be short one car. Expect severe overcrowding on both of these trains. We regret the inconvenience."

My mailbag often includes letters from MARC riders contending for the dubious honor of riding on the most delayed or most crowded line. Just judging from the mail, the winner often appears to be the Brunswick Line, to the west of Washington, but lately I've been hearing from Camden and Penn riders.

An online chat on Dec. 3 involved this exchange.

Baltimore, Md.: Re freight traffic on MARC Camden Line: The poster might want to think about driving a little farther from Laurel and taking the Penn Line from BWI. With the Penn, you have to only worry about conflicts with Amtrak, not with freight trains. Plus, you get many more trains to choose from.

Dr. Gridlock: Thanks for that advice, and it is possible for some riders to choose between Penn Line and Camden Line stations. Brunswick Line riders, meanwhile, are out of luck on that.

That drew this comment on Get There from a reader using the handle "Melissa":

"Oh, please for the love of all that is holy don't ride the Penn line. It is so very overcrowded as-is. I take the 7:15AM express from Penn to Union every day and there are no seats by the time we hit Halethorpe, nevermind BWI. In the evenings, the last express train is the 5:20PM (ridiculously early, IMO). It is so crowded that conductors often have to call Amtrak police to force folks from the vestibules.

"I've tried taking the 4:46PM, the 5:34PM, the 6:05PM... All are similarly overstuffed. If you aren't in Union Station standing by Gate A when the track announcement is made, forget getting a seat. Forget standing comfortably. Expect to be crammed cheek-by-jowl with other passengers in the tiny aisles while the conductor tries to squeeze past to collect tickets."

By Robert Thomson  |  December 11, 2007; 4:11 PM ET
Categories:  transit  
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