MARC once again proves they don't give 2 you know whats...

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MARC once again proves they don't give 2 you know whats...

Postby dt_rt40 » Fri Sep 12, 2014 5:09 am

about Penn line riders north of Baltimore/Martin State.
I thought of buying a weekly to go down to the Star Spangled celebration this weekend. I'd already gone down yesterday to see some of the tall ships. Well, lo and behold, the former Saturday/Sunday amtrak cross-honoring has been completely abolished. With the start of weekend service, I can certainly see why the Baltimore-to-DC amtrak privileges were revoked. However, that leaves people in Edgewood, Aberdeen & Perryville no option other than driving to Baltimore or Martin State. Here's their statement: Will select Amtrak trains still honor MARC weekly and monthly tickets on the weekend? No. MARC tickets will no longer be honored on Amtrak weekend trains. Funds used to pay Amtrak for this privilege have been shifted to pay to operate the weekend service. Well in the 3 or so years I was a regular MARC rider, I took the weekend amtrak trains only once or twice a year. (one time I remember specifically was to go to national train day!) I never saw more than about 5 MARC passengers boarding at Aberdeen...but a couple of those I recognized as regulars, African-American gentlemen who had blue-collar jobs at BWI. I can accept just saying these people aren't worth the transit administration's time, but not the duplicitous explanation that "funds were shifted". A reminder...the trains already stop at Aberdeen. Not every train that stopped at Aberdeen on the weekends was accepted for cross-honoring. Only about half of them. I have a hard, hard, time believing MARC would actually be paying much for a continued "privilege" of letting us ride on to Baltimore. Forcing those few riders to pay Amtrak fares was clearly just Amtrak's "pound of flesh" in return for the new weekend service and its added operational complexity. I think Baltimore-to-DC weekend service is enough of a net positive for the area that screwing a handful of Aberdeen riders is probably an acceptable tradeoff...but let's call it what it is.
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Re: MARC once again proves they don't give 2 you know whats.

Postby ThirdRail7 » Fri Sep 12, 2014 9:04 am

dt_rt40 wrote: I think Baltimore-to-DC weekend service is enough of a net positive for the area that screwing a handful of Aberdeen riders is probably an acceptable tradeoff...but let's call it what it is.


So, if you think it is an acceptable trade, why complain? Would you pay higher fares to subsidize weekend Perryville service? PVL, EDG and MAR had zero weekend service to begin with. In their case, you can't really get screwed out of something you never really had. ABE had limited availability on weekends and Amtrak would probably charge them an arm and a leg to holdout seats for ABE travel, especially with weekend trains being full.

In this case, it is quite clear that the needs of the many outweigh the needs or the few...or the one.

To that end, let us give a round of applause to the 14 people that would likely ride a MARC train from ABE on a weekend. Thank you ABE passengers:

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Re: MARC once again proves they don't give 2 you know whats.

Postby dt_rt40 » Fri Sep 12, 2014 11:32 am

Ok, I though I might hear from you so I'll take the bait. Nothing I posted is untrue. They don't really care about riders north of Martin...and as the Hatem bridge fiasco proved, the whole MD administative power structure doesn't care about people north of the Susquehanna. It tooks crowds of thousands filling the high schools of Cecil County to come to a compromise on that.
"PVL, EDG and MAR had zero weekend service to begin with."
Yes, we did. As I thought I quite clearly said, there were several Amtrak trains that cross-honored MARC weekly and monthlys. I think it was two in the morning inbound and two outbound. Sunday might have only had one train inbound, I can't remember exactly cause I don't think I ever rode on a Sunday. Point is this is a reduction of service; that the service was very lightly frequented makes it no less a sign that they no longer saw those few riders as a priority. Look at the furore when they tried to close the least busy Camden line station...had something like 6 riders a day - during the week!? Can't remember which it was...but it didn't happen.
So, yeah, the fact it was a trade off doesn't mean it doesn't represent a segment on the ridership getting a benefit taken away, unreasonably in my opinion. My point in saying that was...yes...I can see the big picture. The big picture is that weekend service between Balto-DC was long overdue. It's just a shame they had to screw us to make it happen.
Last edited by dt_rt40 on Fri Sep 12, 2014 11:45 am, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: MARC once again proves they don't give 2 you know whats.

Postby dt_rt40 » Fri Sep 12, 2014 11:44 am

And as for Amtrak weekend regional being full...yes, Amtrak ridership is up. I think that's great. However, in all my time of riding the cross-honored weekday trains, only once was it standing room only. I think when there was a Phillys vs. Nats game in DC. The notion that they couldn't go on accepting a handful of Aberdeen weekend riders just doesn't seem reasonable to me. Again, this is about Amtrak saying, "well, we have to have all this hassle of running Balto-DC trains, at least let us shakedown those 10 weekend Aberdeen riders for a full fare." It would be different if it had been a case, like the current 6:50 weekday, of the train making additional stops.
The other shoe dropping, of course, will be slowly eliminating the weekday cross honoring as well. It's hard not to wonder if that poison pill is already in the works.
And, one more big picture observation here. MARC was always what I'd characterize as a limited, high-quality commuter rail service. At least on the Penn line. You didn't have many trains, and you didn't have a true weekend service...but what you did have was top-quality. I'm well aware, for example, no other commuter rail system in the country gets free cross-honoring of Amtrak trains, but it obviously made sense for riders north of Martin because it had gone on for what...over 20 years? If you had to ride a MARC consist, it was in the very comfortable Kawasaki cars. You got an electric locomotive that got your there on time. Well, now their priorities seem to be shifting. I have no doubt that whatever the next series of cars are like, they won't be as nice as the original Kawasakis. They've given up on electric locomotives, which are of more of a benefit to people who have very long trips than those who just go between Balto & DC. Yes, 9 minutes on a schedule over the week adds up to a lot of your life. It is what it is. It doesn't mean I have to like it.
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Re: MARC once again proves they don't give 2 you know whats.

Postby ThirdRail7 » Fri Sep 12, 2014 12:13 pm

dt_rt40 wrote:Ok, I though I might hear from you so I'll take the bait. Nothing I posted is untrue. They don't really care about riders north of Martin...and as the Hatem bridge fiasco proved, the whole MD administative power structure doesn't care about people north of the Susquehanna. It tooks crowds of thousands filling the high schools of Cecil County to come to a compromise on that.
"PVL, EDG and MAR had zero weekend service to begin with."
Yes, we did. As I thought I quite clearly said, there were several Amtrak trains that cross-honored MARC weekly and monthlys. I think it was two in the morning inbound and two outbound. Sunday might have only had one train inbound, I can't remember exactly cause I don't think I ever rode on a Sunday. Point is this is a reduction of service; that the service was very lightly frequented makes it no less a sign that they no longer saw those few riders as a priority. Look at the furore when they tried to close the least busy Camden line station...had something like 6 riders a day? Can't remember which it was...but it didn't happen.
So, yeah, the fact it was a trade off doesn't mean it doesn't represent a segment on the ridership getting a benefit taken away, unreasonably in my opinion. My point in saying that was...yes...I can see the big picture. The big picture is that weekend service between Balto-DC was long overdue. It's just a shame they had to screw us to make it happen.


Allow me to rephrase my thoughts. I don't remember PVL, EDG, or MAR having weekend service. Potential passengers had to drive to either BAL or ABE since no trains stopped at these stations (to my knowledge.) I can't imagine an EDG or MAR passenger backtracking to ABE, so dropping down to BAL for commuter service does not seem like it is a big deal since that is what they would have to do anyway. The options haven't really changed. As for PVL and ABE, again it is a bigger picture. Is it worth it? Even you said no.

As such, I'm not following your complaint. EGE and MAR passengers are most likely still driving to same place they rode from before weekend MARC service. ABE and PVL passengers took it on the chin, but as we indicated, it was for the greater good.

If your intent is to say MARC doesn't care because there is a cut in service, this is hardly conclusive since Amtrak operates more trains than MARC. However, there is a gain in service for West Baltimore, Halethorpe, Odenton and Seabrook passengers. Should BWI, BAL and NCR cry because there are more Amtrak trains than MARC trains, which eliminates the amount of trains for them? Should they complain about a service cut? Should the BWI and BAL riders complain about longer trips in addition to a service cut?

So, lets throw it back to you. MARC indicated they can't afford weekend service and buying off Amtrak. That leaves two immediate options. Would you prefer a return to the past and the elimination of weekend service? This way, the PVL can drive to ABE, the ABE passengers will still be able to ride from ABE and the EDG and MAR passengers would still have to drive to either ABE or BAL. Additionally, the NCR, BWI and BAL have a shorter trip since they are no longer making intermediate stops and will have access to more trains (particularly on SUN.)

The other choice is to hope for more funding and sacrifice PVL (who are driving anyway) and ABE passengers for cheaper service that adds markets (SEA,BWE,ODN and WBE) while we wait.
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Re: MARC once again proves they don't give 2 you know whats.

Postby dt_rt40 » Fri Sep 12, 2014 12:25 pm

" I can't imagine an EDG or MAR passenger backtracking to ABE,"

well, you obviously aren't aware of what I-95 can be like on the day preceding or following any national holiday. But, ok, I'm beginning to see it from your perspective. An EDG passenger might have been driving to Baltimore anyhow to get the _previous_ Amtrak cross-honored weekend trains...now they only have to drive to Martin. And yes, everyone else between Baltimore & DC is getting better service. These calculations are all very interesting...but the fact remains it doesn't cost Amtrak an arm and a leg to let the few people who still want to go from ABE to BAL, on a Saturday morning...that massive privilege for having bought their monthly or weekly. My frustration is it just seems like a symbolic bit of tit-for-tat, and totally unnecessary at the end of the day.

I try to keep debates fair - I'd be the first to admit that maybe I'm not operating on all/best available evidence. Maybe in 2011 & 2012 when I stopped riding, suddenly a bunch of ABE & PVL monthly pax realized, "hey we can go to Baltimore & DC on the weekends, too", and suddenly were slowing down boarding at ABE. Well, I wouldn't want Amtrak's full fares to get to DC late. But, I highly highly doubt that was the case.

"Would you prefer a return to the past and the elimination of weekend service? " Again this relates to my whole point of seeing it as a trade-off. If I ONLY cared about myself, yes, I sure as heck would like a return to what it had been. Damned the DC hipsters who want to go to B'more's honfest! I'm not only thinking about myself, but I still think it's a shame they can't still allow some ABE-BAL trips for passholders on weekends.
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Re: MARC once again proves they don't give 2 you know whats.

Postby dt_rt40 » Fri Sep 12, 2014 12:39 pm

And, sorry for confusing things by not clarifying what I meant earlier. I tended to see the ABE Amtrak weekend trains as serving PVL, ABE, AND EDG. A number of the Edgewood passengers are from Bel Air, buy a ticket at ABE, and go to either station depending on circumstances. (if they want to take the late Amtrak back during the week, they go to ABE, because it's a lot better than waiting for the 9pm last MARC) That being said, I don't know if they ever used it on weekends. If I lived in Bel Air and 95 was backed up, I'd much rather drive to ABE than even Martin.
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