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Dr. Gridlock

Rider says Metrorail is more reliable and a better deal than MARC

(Susan Biddle/the Washington Post)
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By Robert Thomson
Thursday, July 15, 2010

The July 4 Dr. Gridlock column juxtaposed letters from MARC and Metrorail riders who were on the bubble about whether their choice of transit was better than driving. Here's one transit rider who has experienced both railroads and prefers Metro -- for the moment.

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Dear Dr. Gridlock:

I commute to the District, and when I began working nights, I took MARC from the Baltimore-Washington International Marshall Airport rail station into Union Station. MARC was closer to home (14 miles one way vs. 20 miles one way to the Greenbelt Metro station), and the BWI station has a covered parking garage. With a monthly MARC pass, the parking was free.

In those days, MARC riders were permitted to ride certain Amtrak trains on a MARC ticket, giving us a train that usually got us to work on time.

In February 2008, MARC and the Maryland governor's office made a big to-do over expanded Penn Line service in the evenings, adding a later MARC train. This was undercut somewhat by their simultaneous cutting of access to the Amtrak train we'd been taking, forcing most of us to leave our homes up to 30 minutes earlier to take advantage of this "new enhancement."

Then the recession hit. By June, MARC made two huge cuts in service. When MARC announced yet more shifting of train schedules to start in January 2009, I could read the writing on the wall: MARC had no interest in serving the evening/night commuters, and I jumped ship for Metro.

That was just in time for the June 2009 Red Line accident and the problems that Metro has had since. For all of that, however, Metro still has it all over MARC. For one thing, Metro seems to understand that it does have a regular, if reduced, ridership in the evening. Although there was talk of reducing late-night trips, Metro eventually chose to increase fares rather than cut service.

This isn't to say Metro doesn't have its problems. But it's still a better deal, hands down, than MARC. And it's more reliable.

Driving is looking more and more attractive with each passing month. But Metro is still the better deal, mostly. As long as it doesn't kill me.

Karen Hammond


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