New MARC schedule upsets some long-distance riders

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Local,DC,Maryland,Liz Essley,Metro and Traffic

Changes to the MARC commuter train schedule are upsetting some riders with long journeys between D.C. and areas north of Baltimore.

Tweaks in the MARC schedule that start March 25 mean that D.C. workers who get off at the Penn Line's northernmost stops -- Edgewood, Aberdeen or Perryville -- will have to catch a 5:10 p.m. train from Union Station or be forced to wait more than an hour for a 6:23 p.m. train.

"Basically no one's going to be able to catch that 5:10," said rider Anthony Chaffier, who, like many area employees, gets off work at 5 p.m. He then has a 20-minute Metro ride to Union station before catching his MARC train. "It's a big change, to eliminate the convenience of having an acceptable train that leaves right after work for a huge amount of travelers."

The Penn Line has an average of 24,000 daily riders, and about 1,000 riders get off at stations north of Baltimore in the evening.

MARC officials say they tweaked the schedule to increase the number of trains that arrive on time by getting rid of conflicts with Amtrak trains using the same tracks.

Chaffier's normal 5:20 train is on time only about 64 percent of the time, said MARC spokesman Terry Owens, when most trains are on time 90 percent of the time. So transit officials decided to improve that.

"Working with our partners at Amtrak, we agreed to terminate that train in Baltimore addressing the interference issue," said Owens. "We replaced it with a train that leaves 10 minutes earlier, but continues north of Baltimore."

Maryland transit officials faced backlash last year when they tried to change the schedule for the MARC Brunswick Line, which runs from Union Station to Martinsburg, W.Va.

After riders complained, MARC revised its proposed schedule and hosted town hall meetings to talk about the changes.

Problems and complaints with the Penn Line schedule change have been minor compared to last year's outcry, said MARC Riders Advisory Council Chairman Rafael Guroian.

"Everybody seems to be OK with it," he said. "We've had much more trouble with the changes [Maryland] has been making with the Brunswick and Camden lines in the last few years."

lessley@washingtonexaminer.com

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