It’s been easy to spot MARC riders lately: They’re the ones bouncing around wearing goofy smiles. Ever since last week’s news that the commuter trains will start running between D.C. and Baltimore on Saturdays and Sundays by the end of the year, every regular I know has been fantasizing about what they’ll be able to do with the new service.
Orioles games, Smithsonian exhibits, BWI flights, whatever it is that’s in Odenton — it’s all going to be just a few bucks away. The change is sure to be a boon for tourists and folks with unconventional work schedules, but I predict the biggest winner of all will be weekends.
In theory, no one is particularly fond of Mondays, Tuesdays, Wednesdays or Thursdays. The constant station closings and single tracking that make Metro an unpredictable mess most weekends, however, have persuaded Washingtonians to embrace the school night. Sure, you have to get up early the next morning, but you’ll be dealing with a functioning transit system. (Usually.)
Countless friends and co-workers have told me they’ve practically given up going to parties, concerts and other stuff they can’t walk to on Saturdays and Sundays. And having spent hours in sluggish shuttle buses and on platforms with no trains in sight, I can’t say I blame them.
This MARC announcement is a reminder that weekends don’t have to be so, well, weak. Metro service will be mucked up for years to come, but that doesn’t mean we have to sit at home or buy a car. It means we need alternative, reliable ways of getting out.
For starters, we can take a closer look at what else is available. Capital Bikeshare, for instance, released a survey Wednesday showing that 40 percent of respondents used the service “to make a trip they would not have otherwise made, mostly for entertainment, social purposes, errands, and dining.” Sounds like some spontaneous fun, and maybe CaBi could do more to encourage this behavior by giving riders a bit of extra time on Saturdays and Sundays before additional fees kick in.
One pal told me the only way she would consider getting out more on weekends is if Uber became free. Fat chance of that, but the next step in the taxi-app revolution should be the ability to find people going to the same place so you can split the cost of rides. (Hello, tech people!)
The District Department of Transportation is also working for the weekend with some of its projects, including the D.C. Streetcar, which should be in testing mode by the fall. The 2-mile route along H Street won’t save the day for most Metro riders, but it will take passengers to Union Station.
And that connects to the MARC train to Baltimore. And that should make more people smile.