MARC offers revised Brunswick schedule after backlash

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Local,DC,Maryland,Transportation,Kytja Weir

Maryland transit officials are making a second attempt at revising a MARC commuter train schedule after riders and public officials complained about an earlier version.

The Maryland Transit Administration introduced the new draft schedule for the Brunswick Line on Tuesday. But this time, officials aren't putting a start date on the proposal for the commuter trains that run from Martinsburg, W.Va., to Union Station. Instead, officials first are seeking input from riders with an online survey, three town hall meetings and information passed out at stations along the line.

The MTA had backed off a proposed Jan. 30 start date for its previous proposal in December after riders and local officials complained. The service's riders advisory group argued it was essentially a service cut -- not a minor schedule change -- for many riders.

Want to speak out?
Maryland officials are hosting three town hall meetings to get feedback on the new schedule proposal. Details: tinyurl.com/MARC-Brunswick
May 19, Charles Town: Old Charles Town Public Library, 200 East Washington St., 1-4 p.m.
May 22, Rockville: Council Office Building, Ground Level Auditorium, 100 Maryland Ave., 5:30-8:30 p.m.
May 23, Frederick: Frederick County Government Complex, Winchester Hall, 12 East Church St., 6-9 p.m.

"Certainly the MTA has learned schedule creation needs to be a collaboration," said MARC Riders Advisory Council Chairman Rafael Guroian.

But the new plan still isn't perfect, Guroian said.

The state, which last overhauled the schedules in 2001, has argued that it needs changes to increase reliability and speed.

But the run-time to Frederick would be nearly two hours one way, up from the current hour and a half, Guroian said. The long-standing "Blue Ridge Express" would have 14 stops, slowing down the trip and putting pressure on other trains to carry riders. And West Virginia riders on the last train of the night would need to take a shuttle bus to Martinsburg, W.Va., meaning they could get stranded if bad weather shut down roads.

Montgomery County fared better in the new proposal, though, he said, with better options than riders there currently have.

"Not coincidentally, Montgomery County politicians were the ones who screamed the loudest," Guroian said.

The Brunswick Line is really four lines in one, he said, with service to Montgomery and Frederick counties, the city of Brunswick and West Virginia. "It's very hard to set a schedule that makes everyone happy," Guroian added.

But he said the riders' group has proposed some small changes that would preserve the current evening train departure times, a key concern for riders.

kweir@washingtonexaminer.com

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Kytja Weir

Staff Writer - Transportation
The Washington Examiner