• MARC's small trains/lack of cars?

  • Discussion related to DC area passenger rail services from Northern Virginia to Baltimore, MD. Includes Light Rail and Baltimore Subway.
Discussion related to DC area passenger rail services from Northern Virginia to Baltimore, MD. Includes Light Rail and Baltimore Subway.

Moderators: mtuandrew, therock, Robert Paniagua

  by train2
 
Commuter rail seems to be going full-throttle in most major cities.

However, I have noticed that MARC runs the shortest trains of any commuter operation. I noticed this on the Brunswick line first and now I saw a rush-hour on the Camden line. The consists are short by comparison to other commuter operations. (Now yes the Penn line has some long consists and one or two trains on the Brunswick line are long.) But my concern is you see a lot of 3 car single level trains on MARC. Even a 5 car consist might have one bi-level and the rest single level.

Does MARC not have the cars to run bigger consists or is it lack of ridership?
  by realtype
 
train2 wrote:Commuter rail seems to be going full-throttle in most major cities.

However, I have noticed that MARC runs the shortest trains of any commuter operation. I noticed this on the Brunswick line first and now I saw a rush-hour on the Camden line. The consists are short by comparison to other commuter operations. (Now yes the Penn line has some long consists and one or two trains on the Brunswick line are long.) But my concern is you see a lot of 3 car single level trains on MARC. Even a 5 car consist might have one bi-level and the rest single level.

Does MARC not have the cars to run bigger consists or is it lack of ridership?
MARC has one of the strongest and fastest growing ridership bases in the country. I don't think MARC ridership has declined for any year in the past decade. Why should MARC run longer trains? It's current system of shorter but frequent trains works very well, IMO.

As far as I know nearly all commuter systems in the Northeast operate shorter trains (3 cars) along with longer ones (MARC, LIRR, NJT, Metro-North, SLE, and MBTA). I've seen Metro-North and LIRR trains 2 cars long. The NJT Princeton "dinky" is a single car! It's the smaller systems in the South and West that operate shorter trains (VRE, South Florida RTA, Tri-Rail, Coaster, ACE, Caltrain, Rail Runner, FrontRunner). Of course exceptions to this would be Metra, Go in Toronto, and Metrolink. Part of the reason for this would be that the smaller systems don't run as frequently and don't have the flexibility to run different sized consists, and even more importantly, smaller systems are mostly rush hour only.

For example, VRE has barely half the ridership that MARC does (~16,000 compared to 33,000) yet every one of their trains are 6-8 cars long, except for a single 3-car consist that is used on their only off-peak train. MARC operates trains all day long and well into the night on the Penn Line, plus off-peak service on the Brunswick Line, so it wouldn't make sense to lenghten every consist.

On the Brunswick Line most trains are 4 cars+. With the addition another peak express on the Penn line earlier this year another Brunswick set (872/883) was converted to 4 cars. Here's the morning sets:

Brunswick/Martinsburg:
870: 4 cars
872: 4 cars (used to be 3)
874: 6 cars (uses gallery cars :( )
876: 4 cars (uses gallery cars :( )
878: 5 cars
880: 3 cars

Frederick Branch:
890: 3 cars
892: 4 cars
894: 3 cars

Only 3 out of 9 Brunswick sets use 3 cars, and often they have a bilevel Quiet Car or cab car. MARC 892 (4 cars) almost always has 2 bilevels.
  by Kaback9
 
Using the Dinky makes no sense when using NJT as an example, the dinky has only two stops. The example to use is the 3 to 5 car Bayhead shuttles if you want to use NJT as one of your examples.

Edit. I do agree with you on MARC however on how it is booming. Just add some weekend service! :-)
Last edited by Kaback9 on Wed Dec 10, 2008 11:33 am, edited 1 time in total.
  by Tommy Meehan
 
realtype wrote: I've seen Metro-North and LIRR trains 2 cars long.
In general I agree with realtype, figures show MARC and VRE rideship is booming. The rush hour trains I've ridden (on all three MARC lines plus VRE) are usually crowded. The off-peak trains on the Penn Line seem fairly well patronized. You know what would be a fairer comparision? Percentage of CBD trips by rail. Something like that. Because how can you compare a metropolitan area like New York's (with about 15 million people) with DC-Balto that doesn't even have half that? What yardstick do you use?

I also want to add-

In my experience I think of Septa when I think of short trains, NJ Transit when I think of longest. I live in Metro-North territory, ride frequently and I have never seen a 2-car Metro-North train or LIRR. Never. Not even a train with only two open cars, for that matter. One exception might be the New Canaan Branch trains. But they're usually four cars I believe.
  by realtype
 
Tommy Meehan wrote: I also want to add-

In my experience I think of Septa when I think of short trains, NJ Transit when I think of longest. I live in Metro-North territory, ride frequently and I have never seen a 2-car Metro-North train or LIRR. Never. Not even a train with only two open cars, for that matter. One exception might be the New Canaan Branch trains. But they're usually four cars I believe.
How could I have forgotten SEPTA? SEPTA very frequently runs trains with 2-3 cars, and its a significantly busier system than MARC. I recently rode a midday R2 train from Trenton to 30th St and it only had three Silverliners, and we passed an identical Nbound set. This just stresses my point. It tends to be the larger systems that run more frequently and serve a larger market often including less populated areas (upstate NY, eastern LI, Western MD), that run shorter trains in addition to the longer ones. Smaller systems such as VRE only run in the rush hour and to immediate suburbs, and so only need/use longer sets.

btw http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=y5elGxSNVs4

LIRR bilevel consists to eastern LI routinely have 2-3 bilevels, from my experience.
  by octr202
 
Type of equipment is also a factor. SEPTA is a virtually all-MU railroad, and that equipment makes it easy to drop/add cars throughout the day. If you're at a SEPTA outlying terminal at the shoulders of the peak, you'll see 2-3 car trains dropping/adding additional cars to make up rush hour consists. With push pulls, most railroads (if not all) typically leave the sets together). Here on MBTA/MBCR, a consist's length is determined by its most heavily traveled trip of its daily rotation, and thus you'll often see 6 and 7 car sets on off-peak or short turn train, as most sets eventually have to do a busy run at some point in the day.

With a combination of fewer lines to interline trainsets between, less off-peak service (less complex equipment cycles) and newer routes (i.e., Frederick), its easy for MARC to operate shorter sets where needed even with push pulls. Even though its a "big road", the MBTA commuter rail has its share of even peak hour trains that don't need to be more than a couple cars, its just that often the next trip for that equipment is often much heavier.
  by Tommy Meehan
 
I enjoyed the vid but that's an LIRR shuttle train from (or to) Ronkonkoma, a very light service line. Like four trains a day. Plus it never gets any closer to New York City than about thirty miles. Not exactly the same thing. You won't see too many 2-car LIRR trains leaving Penn Station, trust me!

(Btw, the R2 operates between Wilmington and Warminister but I know what you meant.)

To stay on-topic, the other comment I wish I'd made was this-

People who don't ride the Brunswick Line would not know, but Silver Spring and Rockville are commuter destinations in their own right. I was surprised to discover about 40-50 people getting off at Rockville the first time I rode Metrorail out to catch MARC. Another large group got off at Silver Spring. As they're getting off another group is waiting to get on for Union Station. It's almost like another two cars worth of riders. They do a good job.
  by realtype
 
Tommy Meehan wrote:I enjoyed the vid but that's an LIRR shuttle train from (or to) Ronkonkoma, a very light service line. Like four trains a day. Plus it never gets any closer to New York City than about thirty miles. Not exactly the same thing. You won't see too many 2-car LIRR trains leaving Penn Station, trust me!

(Btw, the R2 operates between Wilmington and Warminister but I know what you meant.)

To stay on-topic, the other comment I wish I'd made was this-

People who don't ride the Brunswick Line would not know, but Silver Spring and Rockville are commuter destinations in their own right. I was surprised to discover about 40-50 people getting off at Rockville the first time I rode Metrorail out to catch MARC. Anot her large group got off at Silver Spring. As they're getting off another group is waiting to get on for Union Station. It's almost like another two cars worth of riders. They do a good job.
Yeah, it was actually the R7.

I definitely agree with you about Rockville and Silver Spring being secondary commuter destinations. Apart from BWI, those two are the only stations in the entire system, that aren't terminals, that are really destination stations. Nobody boards inbound MARC trains at Silver Spring, but at least 1/3 of the trains empty out there. Most SS DC commuters take adjacent Metro instead. Rockville is about half boarding/half exiting, depending on which train it is.

Regarding the LIRR (and MNR), as was mentioned earlier, New York is much bigger than DC and Balt, so MARC is on a slightly smaller scale.
  by Tommy Meehan
 
realtype wrote:Nobody boards inbound MARC trains at Silver Spring, but at least 1/3 of the trains empty out there. Most SS DC commuters take adjacent Metro instead.
I'm sure you're right, it's been almost a year since the last time I rode MARC. I know a crowd gets on at Rockville since that's where I boarded (after taking Metrorail from DC for that purpose). Maybe next time I will ride from Silver Spring. I like to get on at different stations.
  by train2
 
You guys seem to have taken this off course.

I know business is booming and that is why I watch these small consists and scratch my head. I looks as if the passengers would benefit from longer trains. And that is where my question came from, is MARC at the limits of its car fleet? Or do they have undamaged cars sitting around that could be in service?

Perhaps the answer is the Penn line is the only wall to wall busy line of the 3????? Yet, I have seen the one or two long rushour trains unload at B-wick and a ton of people got off.

I to have noticed upstart VRE runs every train with large consists. It is my experience the people in MD are more difficult to effect change: "is this simply a matter of that is the they way we have always done it?"
  by Kaback9
 
If MARC wanted to I'm sure they could add more cars to trains, they recently were able to acquire from VRE all of their Kawasaki cars. I'm not sure what the status of these cars are though as last I saw and heard they were still at the shops along the NEC.
  by Tommy Meehan
 
train2 wrote:I have noticed that MARC runs the shortest trains of any commuter operation.
train2 wrote:You guys seem to have taken this off course.
First I think your assertion that MARC operates the shortest trains of any commuter operation is wrong. I think your question was answered though. realtype even broke down the consists on the Brunswick/Fredrickburg routes train-by-train. The point about Rockville-Silver Spring being a commuter work destination was that some of the seats get used twice on one trip.

And no, as MARC stated when they bought the Kawasaki cars from VRE, they don't have any extra equipment. The ridership is currently at an all-time high.

Here's a link to an extensive discussion about MARC, the Kawasaki's and equipment issues:

http://www.railroad.net/forums/viewtopi ... 64&t=52336
  by realtype
 
Kaback9 wrote:If MARC wanted to I'm sure they could add more cars to trains, they recently were able to acquire from VRE all of their Kawasaki cars. I'm not sure what the status of these cars are though as last I saw and heard they were still at the shops along the NEC.
I sent an e-mail to the MTA earlier and they said that the 13 VRE Kawasakis will be put into service starting Jan. or Feb. They also said that most of themm will be used to lenghthen Penn Line trains. Riight now they're still at the Middle River facility being upgraded to MARC'S safety standards, being repainted, etc. I suspect when MARC receivees the other AEM-7'S from Amtrak at around the same time,they could be used to make an additional trainset.
Last edited by realtype on Thu Dec 11, 2008 12:32 pm, edited 1 time in total.
  by davinp
 
VRE removed & sold all the single level cars from service and now has only double deckers (Gallery) due to higher ridership. Yet, MARC still uses them? Why? The single level cars don't have as many seats.

VRE runs only one 4 car set - Train #310/313 because this set has the lowest ridership. It is the last morning train and the last evening train. The rest are 6 cars, with two 8 car sets.