Resisting a city effort to steer train commuters toward a new station, a commuters' lobby is urging Gaithersburg lawmakers not to eliminate service at the city's older, downtown station.
The city, bowing to pressure from merchants and residents around the old station, plans to limit the number of B&O commuter trains stopping there.
City officials want most commuters to use the new Metropolitan Grove Station scheduled to be opened early next year. At first, all train traffic was due to move through the new station off Clopper Road and adjacent to the Department of Motor Vehicles.
But Friends of the Railroad, the lobby group, says the new station is inconvenient for many commuters who either walk to the old station on South Summit Avenue or have just a short drive to it. The stations are about two miles apart.
A study conducted by the train group found that 874 commuters -- almost half the ridership of the route from Brunswick, Md., to Union Station -- board the train in Gaithersburg. Of that number, one in five passengers lives in Gaithersburg.
Although the old train station appears to be popular with commuters, it is not so well liked among downtown merchants and some city residents.
Gaithersburg Mayor Bruce A. Goldenshon said the merchants consider the commuters "a nuisance" as they bypass stores, rushing to and from their trains. The store owners say the commuters generate a lot of traffic but little business.
Those who live near the old station successfully campaigned several months ago for residential parking permits to keep the rail commuters from parking along some neighborhood streets.
For years we've been under pressure to move the trains out of here," said Goldensohn. He said the city lawmakers had not heard the commuters' side of the issue until they were approached by Friends of the Railroad.
Now, he and some council members have promised to go to bat for both groups and reach an amicable solution.
At a council meeting earlier this month, Goldensohn said the city will try to keep four morning and evening stops at the downtown station. Currently there are seven stops there every morning and evening.
"We want to keep as much train service here (downtown) but move out as many commuters as can conveniently use Metropolitan Grove," the mayor said. "Especially commuters from Montgomery Village." That community is closer to the new station.
One problem for both the city and commuters is the loss, effective in December, of the city's lease on the 300-space parking lot near the old station.
And both the city and commuters agree that the 368-space parking lot at the Metropolitan Grove station will be inadequate.
Goldensohn and representatives of the train group have agreed to meet soon to iron out grievances with the downtown merchants and devise a new strategy for parking.