Susquehanna Flyer: All Aboard

April 23, 1991

You've heard tales, recounted in The Sun, of hardy souls in Cecil, Harford and eastern Baltimore County who commute by car to metropolitan Washington -- how they have several alternative routes and keep their ears glued to traffic reports. Even with good advance planning, that daily commute is getting harder. "If you want to see the grass grow, be on the southbound John F. Kennedy highway early in the morning," says one motorist.

The Susquehanna Flyer commuter train service that kicks off May 1 is not a panacea. But it will be a welcome help to many living in the vicinity of Perryville, Aberdeen, Edgewood and the Glenn L. Martin Airport who commute to Baltimore or Washington. Three southbound trains in the morning and four northbound trains in the afternoon will be traveling to and from both of those cities. Commuting by train is faster than car, and cheaper, too. A monthly round-trip ticket from Aberdeen to Baltimore is $93 ($159 to Washington).

Two morning trains are non-stop expresses from Perryville to BWI station -- at the state's largest employment center. It takes under one hour. Washington is only 95 minutes away, not bad by commuting standards of the nation's capital. Robert E. Shreeve, the commuter train marketing director, expects 400 riders to use the service initially. If ridership increases to 1,000 people a day, it would cover the line's operating costs.

The new Susquehanna Flyer promises to continue the success state-sponsored MARC commuter trains have achieved. Because of high costs and congestion, more Marylanders have decided to sit back, relax and take the stress-free trains. Increased ridership, in turn, has encouraged the state to develop train service as a people-moving alternative. Some 56 commuter trains now operate between Baltimore and Washington each day.

Further improvements are needed. With the addition of 25 brand-new coaches and 12 used ones by the fall, MARC should be able to provide relief for many of the already overcrowded trains.

By the way, if you see an enthusiastic group of youngsters on the Susquehanna Flyer, it might be Jeane Tilley's third graders from Deerfield Elementary School. That class submitted the winning entry in a "name the train" competition and won a free round trip from Edgewood to Washington.

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