Maryland's commuter trains posted an improved on-time performance in August, but state officials say they're still not satisfied with the results.
An estimated 84.5 percent of Maryland Rail Commuter (MARC) trains departed and arrived on time last month. That result is well below the system's 95 percent goal, but a substantial improvement over the 74 percent posted in July.
The abysmal July performance, which included one train returning from a late-night Orioles game getting stuck for nearly two hours along a remote siding in Washington, led to the ouster of the system's director of passenger services.
William R. McCaffrey, MARC's acting director, said he was pleased to see some improvement. He said he expects the performance to get even better when MARC leases 10 more cars and three more locomotives in the next 30 days.
"We're moving in the right direction," Mr. McCaffrey said. "It's going to take longer than I expected, but we're trying."
MARC's worst on-time performance was the 81 percent recorded in August on the Amtrak-operated Penn line, which runs from Perryville in Cecil County to Penn Station downtown and south to Washington's Union Station. Mr. McCaffrey blamed those delays on factors such as equipment problems, interference from Amtrak trains, and track repairs.
The two lines run by CSX Transportation did better. The Camden line, which connects Camden Station (next to the new ballpark) with Union Station, posted an 89 percent on-time performance.
The Brunswick line from Union Station west to Montgomery and Frederick counties and Martinsburg, W. Va., had a 93 percent record.
Officials from CSX said their improved performance was due chiefly to better weather: Thunderstorms in June and July had interfered with the electrically operated track switches.
Service along the Brunswick line is likely to worsen before it gets better, however.
CSX is warning Brunswick customers that they are likely to confront delays for the next three to four weeks, because the company is replacing switches along 13 miles of track west of Union Station.
Officials said that they expect all trains on that line to be delayed at least 10 to 15 minutes in each direction beginning Tuesday.