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New rules for MARC boarding at Union Station

The Maryland Transit Administration has announced a new plan for boarding MARC trains at Union Station during the afternoon rush, which the MTA says is intended to improve passenger flow and security. These are the new arrangements worked out between MARC and Amtrak:

  • Camden and Brunswick Line trains will board through Gate A.
  • Penn Line trains will board through Gate B and/or C.
  • Passengers will be required to board their trains through the assigned gates.
  • Passengers will no longer be permitted to wait for trains before they are posted for boarding in the area outside of Gates A, B, and C or out on the platforms. They can proceed to their trains only when the train is posted for boarding on the station monitors, or an Amtrak employee makes an announcement.

By Robert Thomson  |  February 2, 2010; 3:00 PM ET
Categories:  transit  | Tags: Dr. Gridlock, March for Life  
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I can tell you that the waiting room for Gates B and C at Union Station is nowhere near large enough to accommodate all the rush hour Penn Line riders. At any given moment, you can have people waiting for the 5:10, 5:20 and 5:34 trains at the same time. That is well over 1,000 people who are now supposed to fit in an area that is jammed with a couple hundred. Time and again MARC and AMTRAK have tried dealing with this and the fact is simple--there are too many people and not enough space. And the number of people riding MARC has grown each year in the ten years I've been riding.

Posted by: jhpurdy | February 2, 2010 4:06 PM | Report abuse

My question is...if I am trying ot catch the 5:20 and its been posted since 5 and I arrive at 5:16 via metro, will I have to go to gate B or C or will I be able to simply go directly from metro to the train (via gate A) as I always have.
Assuming I can go directly to the train and the gate B&C issue is for trains not posted, then it sa great idea (although I am also concerned there isn't enough space), but clearly what they had before wasn't working. Of course, will this work? I doubt it.

Posted by: GlenBurnie | February 2, 2010 4:26 PM | Report abuse

This probably won't make sense what with it involving Metro and MARC, but how about placing MARC monitors in the Metro system? No, Does not make sense .... sorry.

Posted by: CubsFan | February 2, 2010 5:08 PM | Report abuse

These rules are at least a month old, by the way. Just thought that should be mentioned.

@jhpurdy: Exactly. There will never be enough space for as many Penn Line riders as they want. Personally, I think they should simply post the trains earlier than they do. At the beginning of rush hour (up until the 6:05 in fact), the trains are already there. Why not let people on them earlier? It'd solve the crowding issue by letting people proceed directly to the trains.

@GlenBurnie: That's what I do. They haven't said anything about that. It'd be entirely stupid if they made you come from Metro, into the station, then through Gate B/C.

Posted by: pikamander007 | February 2, 2010 5:10 PM | Report abuse

It would indeed be insane to make people leaving Metro on the north end to weave back through Union Station and use Gates A,B, and C. That's exactly why we'll have to do it!

As was previously mentioned, posting the tracks earlier would go A LONG WAY in alleviating crowding in the station, at least through the 5:34pm departure. The existing areas, even when people stand where it is 'prohibited', is far too small to hold waiting passengers for 4 or more trains (Brunswick, Camden, and often 2 Penn trains). Methinks somebody gets a kick out of making everybody wait, and 'security' is a good excuse to make it happen. If anything, having passenger move en masse to a train only makes it easier for a bad guy to blend in. Making people wait 5-10 minutes before departure is just plain dumb, especially when you have to go to the 'far north' end (despite a policy of posting tracks 15 min. before departure, this often doesn't happen, especially for certain trains, even when they have been parked in the station well in advance of their departure).

MARC needs to wake up and stop taking what seems like every opportunity to inconvenience commuters with regard to Union Station. We are taking the train to avoid the backups and traffic jams, not trudge through them twice a day.

Posted by: zizzy | February 2, 2010 8:32 PM | Report abuse

As a disabled person, I cringe when reading these comments and picturing myself in this crowd of people, herded into a space too small for them, and held there. Then, when the announcement is made, everyone makes the run for it, and where does that leave me?

I hope the powers take the comments posted here to heart. There is no reason why catching these trains should be an ordeal. And no reason why our beautiful Union Station has to be made so user-unfriendly.

Posted by: dorofacol | February 2, 2010 9:27 PM | Report abuse

ridiculous and unworkable. enough with this madness. it does nothing for security and it wastes our time and money.

Posted by: anarcho-liberal-tarian | February 3, 2010 9:03 AM | Report abuse

There may not be a perfect solution or one that will make everyone happy. But, something needs to be done, and at least they are trying. I find it very frustrating as a Brunswick rider, that when the Penn line is delayed and they aren't loading passengers, that the riders block the doors coming from Metro and are not in the least friendly or cooperative in letting those of us who ride the Brunswick line get through to our trains when they are running on time. I understand that there are more Penn line riders than Brunswick, but that is no reason to be rude to us and block our way to get to our train....and staff of either Amtrak, Union Station or MARC has done nothing in the past to assist in this mess. The last time a few weeks ago, the second day of severe delays and therefore blockage of doors, when they had Amtrak police at the doors, the police were not helpful either, they didn't know anything about the Brunswick train being there and gave us a hard time about going out to our train once we got through the hoard of Penn line riders blocking the doors.

Posted by: PrincessPolish | February 3, 2010 10:53 AM | Report abuse

I somewhat agree with Brunswick rider, that the real issue with crowding is when there are delays.
As stated above, I usually take the 5:20 or 5:35 when I can't make that, both are Penn line. However, if Penn is having problems and Camden is fine, I'll jump on 5:16 or 5:51 Camden.
But, when one or more Penn trains breaks down (for you non-MARC riders, this is VERY often), Union Station becomes extremely over crowded, both inside and outside the gates. I can't get close enough to a board to see what track the train is on or get through all the people to get to my train.
I disagree that most people are rude (some are), I think its simply people are frustrated and overwhelmed with the crowd. Once I explain to someone that I am taking Camden, they let me by, the problem is that I have to explain this to over 100 people to get to my track (assuming I know what track that is).
It seems the solution is to post trains without problems sooner (especailly the 5:35, wich seems to cause the biggest back ups, keep in mind that Odenton & Bowie riders have no trains between 4:46 and 5:35, Odenton being the most used station in the system after Union).
Days that there are problems...good luck...but maybe if you know enough a head of time how about holding that 5:20 until 5:25 to help catch some late people and help with station crowding (this wouldn't conflict with Amtrak).

Posted by: GlenBurnie | February 3, 2010 11:32 AM | Report abuse

I think think this is a great idea. It splits the people crowding at Gate A in half and at least now I won't have to push through the idiots who stand outside in the Metro or the track area (despite clearly being told to stay inside) when trying to get to my train.

To those above saying you have to go inside the gate to see which track you're on, that's incorrect (zizzy, Cubsfan, GlenBurnie). There are two large flat panel displays in the hallway, just beyond the Metro escalator with train information.

The only problem I see with this, is that during the midday Amtrak uses Gates B and C for their own Northeast Regional trains to New York and Boston, so that could cause potential conflict with the Penn trains (which run all day) unless Amtrak will use different gates.

I also believe Penn Station, BWI Airport, and Silver Spring are the most used MARC stations after Union Station.

Posted by: TheMarylander | February 3, 2010 12:35 PM | Report abuse

Interestingly, the 11:15 Penn Line train boarded through Gate A today. What happened?

Posted by: pikamander007 | February 3, 2010 2:34 PM | Report abuse

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