Advocacy panel proposes expanded MARC service

Increasing MARC train service during off-peak hours and initiating it on weekends would help boost the Baltimore-Washington economy, says a regional transportation advocacy group that seeks to make it easier for potential employees to reach job centers.

The Central Maryland Transportation Alliance says transferring $17 million from other state transportation accounts to MARC over five years would permit late-night weekday service between Penn Station in Baltimore and Union Station in Washington.

It would also add three express round trips each weekday between the two stations during off-peak hours, as well as weekend service and weekday peak service between Perryville and Baltimore, the alliance says.

Michele Whelley, alliance president and CEO, said the proposal acknowledges the current economic climate by using an existing mass-transit system more efficiently.

"In Baltimore and Washington, we have two urban centers with a lot of synergy. Increasingly, people live in one and work in the other and have no way to tie them together," Whelley said. "But we could — it's MARC."

The current MARC schedule does not accommodate commuters with nontraditional schedules or those who could use trains to reach school or recreational activities, she noted.

Whelley said the proposal was "very well received" by Beverley K. Swaim-Staley, Maryland's transportation secretary, and advisers to the O'Malley administration.

Swaim-Staley said many of the alliance's recommendations had been ready to go into effect four years ago, before the economy caved in.

"But you still have to find the $17 million," Swaim-Staley said.

Said Whelley: "The question is: What do we do today to move the ball forward and get people where they need to go?

"We've got a system that covers a great deal of territory from Perryville to Baltimore to D.C. We've already got the track. Many job hubs are on the route or could be connected with a short commuter bus."

Concluded Whelley: "This isn't rocket science."

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