Commuters in Perryville protest plan to end 8 a.m. MARC service

MTA says train needed for more crowded route

January 18, 2004|By Ted Shelsby | Ted Shelsby,SUN STAFF

Jim Givans, Commuters from Harford and Cecil counties and Delaware are fighting a plan by the Maryland Transit Administration to take away a train they have depended upon to get to their jobs in Baltimore and Washington.

"We need this train," said North East resident Dawn George as she walked along the platform at the Perryville MARC train station on a bitter cold morning last week looking for passengers to sign a petition asking the MTA to retain train 517, which leaves at 8 a.m.

She had about 150 signatures, but wanted more.

Richard Scher, a spokesman for MTA, said the administration plans to offer a 9 a.m. train out of Perryville. It will use Perryville's 8 a.m. train in the Baltimore-Washington corridor.

The bulk of passengers using the Penn line board in Baltimore, not at the first stop in Perryville, Scher said. He said 6 a.m. and 6:30 a.m. trains leave Baltimore each morning with about 200 standees, which is a safety issue.

By comparison, he said, the 8 a.m. train leaving Perryville picks up 55 to 60 passengers a day. Before arriving in Baltimore, it stops at Aberdeen, Edgewood and Martin State Airport.

"Adding a new 6:20 a.m. train from Baltimore to Washington gives us an additional 700 seats," Scher said. "That allows us to satisfy the standees and gives us the flexibility to add more riders."

However, George, who works for a law firm in Baltimore, said she didn't want to be forced to drive her car to work. "Parking is $12 a day and driving is too much stress. It is 60 miles one way."

If the MTA drops train 517, Karen Ross of Charlestown said she would have no choice but to get up at 4:45 a.m. to get to her job in Baltimore by 9 a.m. She would need to take a 6:20 a.m. train and that would put her in the office by 7:30. "That makes for a very long day," said the nurse paralegal.

Ross said her husband died several weeks ago and she needs to work, even though she leaves her daughter, a student at Perryville High School, for 11 hours. "If I have to ride the 6:20, I have to leave her for 13 hours a day."

"This is not a time to cut back on service," said Jim Givans of Aberdeen, who works as an administrative assistant at the University of Baltimore, across Charles Street from Penn Station.

"There are a lot more people moving into Harford and Cecil counties. They should be advertising the service they have and more people would use the train," he said.

"They are not looking at the impact on people and their personal lives," Givans said.

"I think they want to get rid of this train for some reason," George said. "I don't know why."

"Decisions like these are tough to make," Scher said, "but it comes down to making the best use of our equipment to serve the most riders.

"The budget will not allow us to buy a new train. We need to make a switch. We made a very, very conscious decision to affect the least number of people possible," he said.

Scher said ridership on the Penn line has risen about 50 percent in the past five years.

He said trains on the Penn line carry 16,000 of the MARC trains' approximately 27,000 daily riders.

Del. David D. Rudolph, a Cecil County Democrat who met with riders early Tuesday morning, said he will ask to have the MTA not only retain the 8 a.m. train from Perryville, but expand its service to include Elkton.

During a meeting Thursday with Simela Triandos, the MTA's deputy administrator for planning and policy, Rudolph said he asked that the MTA review its statistics on the number of riders from Perryville. He thinks there is greater demand for the service than the MTA surveys indicate.

He said he has also asked it to consider having an Amtrak train serve the Perryville-to-Baltimore route that would get commuters to Baltimore in time for work.

Rudolph said he understands the concerns of the MTA about the standees on the trains to Washington, but he said those people are on the train, whereas in Perryville, riders will be left on the station platform.

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