Low Ridership May Shut 4 MARC Stations

By Nancy Trejos
Washington Post Staff Writer
Saturday, December 3, 2005

The Maryland Transit Administration is considering eliminating MARC train service to two stations in Montgomery County, one in Howard County and one in Baltimore County.

Officials said there are not enough riders to justify keeping the stations open. Combined, the four stations -- Boyds and Dickerson on the Brunswick Line in Montgomery, Jessup on the Camden Line in Howard and St. Denis on the Camden Line in Baltimore County -- have an average total daily ridership of 36, calculated by the number of people boarding trains there, said Holly Ellison, a spokeswoman for the MTA.

"There [are] extremely low ridership numbers at those four stations, and it's not cost-effective to maintain the stations," Ellison said.

The MTA spends $31,600 a year to run all four stations. It spends another $1.4 million annually on equipment, maintenance and services such as snow removal for the stations, Ellison said. If the stops are eliminated, she said, the MTA will avoid having to upgrade them and could use the money toward improvements at other stations.

MTA officials will hold a public hearing Dec. 14 in Dorsey and one Dec. 15 in Barnesville before deciding on the proposal, Ellison said.

Commuters would not have to travel far to get to alternate stations, she said. Those who use the Dickerson and Boyds stations, which serve much of northern Montgomery, would have to travel to the Barnesville or Germantown stations, also on the Brunswick Line. The Boyds stop is four miles from Barnesville and 2.5 miles from Germantown. The Dickerson station is three miles from Barnesville.

Commuters who rely on the St. Denis and Jessup stations could go instead to the Dorsey and Savage stops in Howard, also on the Camden Line. "It's not a huge interruption," Ellison said.

But some residents who rely on MARC said their commutes will lengthen if the proposal is approved. The building of housing in Montgomery and Howard has clogged streets and made public transportation even more essential, they argue.

"They encourage . . . taking public transportation so there are less cars on the road, but here they are talking about stopping transportation service for Boyds," said Janice Rice, who takes the train from Boyds to get to her job at a doctor's office in Bethesda.

Miriam Schoenbaum walks to the Boyds stop every weekday morning to take the 8:09 train to Washington's Union Station for her job as a statistician at the Occupational Safety and Health Administration. She takes the 5:10 or 6 o'clock train home each evening.

She said she moved to Boyds from Baltimore five years ago so she could have an easier commute. If the Boyds stop is closed, she will have to drive to the Germantown station, adding time to her commute. With houses continuing to be built in nearby Clarksburg, she worries that traffic will worsen in northern Montgomery.

Schoenbaum also said the loss of the Boyds station would force her to buy a second car. Her husband, who stays home to take care of their daughter, needs the car the family owns.

"I think this is not the time to be reducing mass transit," she said. "Boyds has a long history as a railroad stop, and we moved here so that I could take the train to work."


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