Spurred by recent service disruptions on MARC trains, the Maryland Transit Administration has extended the hours of its customer call center and put other measures in place to respond to customer concerns.
Starting immediately, call center hours will roughly match the hours the commuter rail service operates. The center will remain open from 6 a.m. to 11 p.m. Monday through Friday "until further notice." The center had closed at 7 p.m. — long before the last MARC trains of the day left their stations.
MTA Administrator Ralign T. Wells said one of the messages he had received in talking with customers is that they want to be able to reach a knowledgeable agency representative during service hours. The MTA said it has also designated some of its agents to deal specifically with MARC-related issues and to stay in touch with the commuter line's operations staff. The number for MARC-related calls is 800-325-7245.
The MTA also extended call center hours for its other rail and bus systems from 6 a.m. to 11 p.m. Monday through Friday. That number is 410-539-5000.
The MTA said it will put bus operators on standby when temperatures are expected to exceed 90 degrees to provide shuttle service in the event of long service disruptions or the closing of a rail line. The "contingency fleet" buses will be located at MTA garages around Baltimore.
The agency said it would station an MTA employee at Washington's Union Station until 11 p.m. weekdays to oversee MARC operations and provide information to passengers. The MTA said it has stepped up its observations of MARC service provided by Amtrak and CSX by assigning employees to ride the rails daily at peak hours.
The MTA moves follow a series of actions announced by Amtrak in reaction to a June 21 incident in which a train was stranded for two hours outside Washington in sweltering heat and with little explanation to passengers.
Amtrak has said it will now store an emergency water supply on trains, provide better information to riders, retrain crews to better deal with emergencies and send rescue locomotives when MARC engines break down.