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Suburban Transit to Help on Inauguration Day

The Maryland Transit Administration and the Virginia Railway Express should be able to help about 50,000 people reach Washington on Inauguration Day.

MARC, the Maryland commuter buses and VRE plan to run special services on Jan. 20. That's lots of cars and buses that can park outside the District of Columbia for an event that could produce intense congestion.

The trains will arrive at Union Station, but the commuter buses will drive from park and ride spots to Metro stations on the region's fringe.

The exact schedules and ticket arrangements have not been set yet. But all the train tickets will have to be purchased in advance. They're expected to cost $25 for a round trip, said MTA spokeswoman Cheron Victoria Wicker. The bus tickets will likely be priced at $10.

MARC trains will operate from 5 to 9 a.m. and again from 4 p.m. to 9 p.m. on the Penn, Camden and Brunswick lines. Penn Line service will not operate north of Baltimore's Penn Station. Not all the usual stops along the routes will be used that day. Plans say no standees and no assigned seats.

Commuter bus service will operate shuttles to and from Metro stations between 4 and 9 a.m. and from 4 to 9 p.m. Those tickets will be sold on the spot.

MARC train tickets will go on sale in late December. The MTA says it will launch an Inauguration Web page on Friday, containing information and updates. (As soon as that's up, I'll link to it.) People will also be able to sign up for special eAlerts, dedicated to the Inauguration events.

VRE will probably have more specific service plans by the end of the week, said spokesman Mark Roeber. Ticket prices will likely be a bit higher than the regular fare.

Roeber's advice to riders: Have a plan for the whole day. Know what connections you have to make and when you need to make them. That makes a lot of sense. Tens of thousands of people will be moving from one mode of transportation to another getting to downtown Washington and back.

The special plans for MARC and VRE had to be worked out in coordination with Amtrak and the freight lines that own the tracks and operate the services. Wicker refered to it as a "ballet."

Like many other transportation agencies, MTA and VRE are unable to drag out the plans they used last time something like this happened. There isn't any event that matches what's anticipated for Jan. 20.

Roeber noted that VRE had found there was little demand for a previous Inauguration Day service, so it had not planned to offer any this January. Then people began to call up and ask if there would be trains. Some of the callers found they couldn't get hotels in Washington, he said. Other callers were long-distance bus operators looking to get their passengers close, then get them on transit.

Overwhelmed by the level of interest, VRE decided it could and should provide service, Roeber said.

By Robert Thomson  |  December 9, 2008; 6:43 AM ET
Categories:  Inauguration  
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Hi, I think it is outrageous that MARC will be charging $25.00 for a round-trip and that they will not accept monthly or weekly tickets from its regular riders on Inauguration Day. People pay a lot of money for those monthly tickets, and it makes no sense that those riders would have to pay extra to ride on that day. Plus, having trains only running until 9am and after 4pm means that all mid-day trains will be cancelled for that day, which will greatly inconvenience its regular riders even more. Does MARC not realize that some people will be going to work on that day? It sounds as if MARC wants to give preference to one-time riders at the expense of its regular & faithful riders.

Posted by: LLLrrr555 | December 9, 2008 12:30 PM | Report abuse

I agree with the first post.

Posted by: jabba031 | December 9, 2008 12:43 PM | Report abuse

From Dr. Gridlock: I told MTA spokeswoman Cheron Wicker that I've heard from some regular riders who believe it's unfair that passes won't be honored on Inauguration Day. She said it's not regular MARC service. It's service for the inauguration.

Both MARC and VRE had to figure out how to bring in all the personnel that will be needed on a federal holiday. I think both rail systems are pegging the ticket prices to what they think they'll need to break even, rather than make a big profit on the day's service.

Posted by: Robert Thomson | December 9, 2008 12:51 PM | Report abuse

I disagree with the complaining about price. Yes, as a monthly pass holder, I'm a little dissapointed that I'll have to buy a ticket for that day (if I come to work, working 11 blocks from the Capitol, I'm inclined to just stay home).

However, given the massive cuts that the MTA is considering because of budget shorfalls, I think that the MTA would be foolish not to take the opportunity to make some money (or at least come closer to bringing in enough money to cover operating costs for the day).

Posted by: HokieGuy2001 | December 10, 2008 8:26 AM | Report abuse

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