When was the last time a state agency apologized for poor service and offered compensation?
MARC, the Maryland commuter rail service, is taking the unprecedented step of granting its customers a $5 discount as a way of thanking them for their patience. The offer is contained in a written apology that MARC officials distributed Tuesday evening to travelers.
"The past few weeks have been one of the worst, if not the worst, performance periods for MARC service," says the flier. "Train delays have been numerous and system-wide. Scheduling conflicts, mechanical failures and track/signal work have all contributed to the problem."
"In an effort to show our appreciation for your patience and sticking with us through these days, we have arranged for a $5 discount on all MARC weekly tickets sold for the first week of July and all MARC Julymonthly tickets."
Joseph C. Nessell 3rd, director of passenger services, was among the officials handing out the fliers at Washington's Union Station to Maryland-bound commuters. He says there were a series of unrelated problems that contributed to delays and other lapses in May and early June.
"Generally, when things go bad, they really go bad," he said yesterday.
About two weeks ago a Washington-bound train ran out of diesel fuel around Bowie, necessitating a push the rest of the way. MARC employees miscalculated the train's fuel supply, Nessell says.
He said "a considerable amount of track work and construction in and around the stadium complex in Baltimore" severely
affected service out of Camden Station for about eight days in May.
A third problem, still not resolved, involves the train that leaves Perryville at 6:15 a.m. and is supposed to reach Pennsylvania Station in Baltimore at 7:05 a.m. and Washington at 7:50 a.m. There have been delays, which MARC officials thought they could avoid when they began service to Perryville May 1.
Weekly and monthly ticket customers on all three MARC lines, Pennsylvania, Camden and Brunswick, will receive the discount, the first of this kind given by the rail service. The cost to MARC will be about $25,000 to $30,000.
Daily ridership is about 17,000; many passengers buy weekly or monthly tickets at a discount. A monthly ticket for Baltimore-Washington service costs $110.