By Lisa Rein
Washington Post Staff Writer
Thursday, December 13, 2007
MARC will boost rush-hour and late-evening service between Washington and Baltimore starting in February, officials announced yesterday, the first step in an ambitious expansion of the commuter train system.
The Penn Line, MARC's most heavily traveled, will add a 5:14 p.m. express train from Union Station to Baltimore's Penn Station to reduce crowding on the Baltimore-bound 5:20 train.
Weekday Baltimore-to-Washington service will be extended by an hour with a final train at 10:30 p.m. that stops at Baltimore-Washington International Thurgood Marshall Airport. And the last Baltimore-bound train out of Washington will now leave Union Station at 11:45 p.m.
MARC is attempting to accommodate job growth in the Baltimore-Washington corridor. By adding night trains, Maryland officials hope to begin transforming a rail system used almost exclusively by District-bound commuters to a mass transit service.
"This enables people to work later or catch dinner or a show and still ride the train," Transportation Secretary John D. Porcari said. The Penn Line runs between Perryville, northeast of Aberdeen, and Union Station through Baltimore's Penn Station.
Porcari said rush-hour trains from Union Station are routinely so crowded that 300 riders must stand. Each train seats 700 passengers.
The new service will cost the state-subsidized service $6 million, largely for track improvements.
MARC trains run on tracks owned by Amtrak and the freight carrier CSX, which operate the commuter trains under contract with the state.
MARC's expansion plan, released by the administration of Gov. Martin O'Malley (D) early this fall, calls for extending service across the Potomac River into Northern Virginia and more than tripling the system's capacity by 2035.
New stations, more peak-time departures, weekend service and more connections to Metro stations are on the table.
The full plan, which could cost several billion dollars, is one of the governor's top priorities, Porcari said.