MARC service to WV Eastern Panhandle Imperiled

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MARC service to WV Eastern Panhandle Imperiled

Post by Jeff Smith » Sat Jul 13, 2019 5:11 pm

www.railpassengers.org:
The Charelston (WV) Gazette-Mail reported this week that West Virginia Transportation Secretary Byrd White has confirmed that negotiations with Maryland over MARC commuter rail service into WV’s Eastern Panhandle to Martinsburg are focused primarily on which trains will be eliminated.

"I have not talked to Secretary Rahn in a month. It's on my to-do list," White said, referring to Maryland Transportation Secretary Pete Rahn, who is chairman of the Maryland Transportation Authority, which operates the MARC trains. "The last time I talked to him, he indicated that for the money the Legislature afforded for the MARC trains, he would allow one train in the morning, and one train in the evening," White said. Currently 3 weekday MARC round trips connect Martinsburg, Duffields and Harper's Ferry with Washington, DC.

Over the past two years, Maryland has requested $3.2 million of funding from West Virginia to help offset costs of operating commuter rail service into the panhandle. Last year, the Legislature appropriated $1.5 million for MARC service and this regular session, appropriated just $1.1 million for the 2019-20 budget year. A memorandum of understanding between the two states regarding operation of MARC service into the panhandle expired on Sunday, July 7th although it is not clear when the MTA plans to reduce service to West Virginia. Federal regulations require passenger rail services to provide public notice and hold public hearings prior to reductions in service, making it unlikely that elimination of MARC trains to the panhandle would take place earlier than this fall.
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Re: MARC service to WV Eastern Panhandle Imperiled

Post by STrRedWolf » Sat Jul 13, 2019 7:04 pm

Wanna bet that all the trains get pulled back to Brunswick and substituted by buses? How many actually take the trains up each day and back?
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Re: MARC service to WV Eastern Panhandle Imperiled

Post by mmi16 » Tue Jul 16, 2019 9:36 pm

How little $$$$$$$$ is WV contributing to the operation of MARC to Martinsburg?
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Re: MARC service to WV Eastern Panhandle Imperiled

Post by STrRedWolf » Wed Jul 17, 2019 6:41 pm

$1.5M last year. $1.1M this year. $3.2M needed per year.

As a reminder to folk, MARC is part of MTA Maryland, and is also tasked with running the commuter buses out of DC and Baltimore. The department name is technically "MARC and Commuter Bus".

With that in mind, if WV is going to underfund it again, it'll be cheaper to have commuter buses do the Brunswick-Martinsburg run. The only thing that will be an issue is any contracts with CSX and Bombardier that state they'll run to WV.
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Re: MARC service to WV Eastern Panhandle Imperiled

Post by mtuandrew » Wed Jul 17, 2019 7:57 pm

MARC could simply terminate all the trains in Brunswick and Frederick, and neither CSX or BBD would have a word to say as long as they got the same-sized checks. I bet Harpers Ferry will keep service though - the station is actually on the state line with Maryland, the road access isn’t the best (no interstates), and there’s some tourist traffic along with the commuters.

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Re: MARC service to WV Eastern Panhandle Imperiled

Post by STrRedWolf » Thu Jul 18, 2019 12:21 am

CSX and BBD probably already have been paid, but I don't know what's in those contracts, and if they require service all the way up. I'd be surprised if the don't have that range stipulation... although given how MTA Maryland wrote some contracts...

There's already existing "Meet the MARC" bus service from WV the covers the entire route. They'll probably make it daily for all trains that are currently going to WV.
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Re: MARC service to WV Eastern Panhandle Imperiled

Post by njt/mnrrbuff » Thu Jul 18, 2019 11:39 am

If MARC service is cut to the Eastern Panhandle of WVA, the trains will likely not venture beyond Brunswick and passengers will probably board a bus for the stations in WV. I’m sure that people who live in the Eastern Panhandle of WV and need to go to DC during the week will drive to Brunswick. When the Metro Silver Line opens up, there will probably be many people who live in the Eastern Panhandle of WV who will drive to Ashburn. FYI, the Red Line just started running end to end service so that may help passengers who live along the Brunswick Line after crossing into MD from WV. Once you are in WV, it’s a big schlep to get to Shady Grove from Harpers Ferry, Martinsburg, and Duffields.

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Re: MARC service to WV Eastern Panhandle Imperiled

Post by nomis » Thu Jul 18, 2019 12:32 pm

Is there any other available capacity in Brunswick, or at other maintenance facilities; or will a 19 mile deadhead move to Harper's Ferry have to happen (if service is curtailed west of there)?
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Re: MARC service to WV Eastern Panhandle Imperiled

Post by STrRedWolf » Thu Jul 18, 2019 7:45 pm

nomis wrote:
Thu Jul 18, 2019 12:32 pm
Is there any other available capacity in Brunswick, or at other maintenance facilities; or will a 19 mile deadhead move to Harper's Ferry have to happen (if service is curtailed west of there)?
There's capacity in Brunswick. I think most of the Martinsburg trains are there -- one or two are up in Martinsburg because they're too early in the morning.

Also, I really doubt it'll stretch to Harper's Ferry, even though it's "right over the border." Existing plans for the end-of-week buses will just get extended to all the days, all the runs.
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Re: MARC service to WV Eastern Panhandle Imperiled

Post by num1hendrickfan » Thu Jul 18, 2019 9:49 pm

mtuandrew wrote:
Wed Jul 17, 2019 7:57 pm
MARC could simply terminate all the trains in Brunswick and Frederick, and neither CSX or BBD would have a word to say as long as they got the same-sized checks. I bet Harpers Ferry will keep service though - the station is actually on the state line with Maryland, the road access isn’t the best (no interstates), and there’s some tourist traffic along with the commuters.
There's tourist traffic, via automobile. MARC scheduling does not make that line an appeal to tourists visiting Harpers Ferry at all. In fact the inbound to DC only morning service, and evening outbound service from DC negate the possibility of tourists even using MARC for that destination.

If the folks at MARC were smart they'd offer bi-directional frequent service on that line, as it has high tourist appeal and it would remove cars from the road quite efficiently. They're flushing away untold thousands of additional tourist dollars, and don't say CSX is at capacity as there's plenty of space to fit at least 6-8 additional commuter runs alongside the 25-35 freight trains and 2 daily Amtrak trains the line sees.

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Re: MARC service to WV Eastern Panhandle Imperiled

Post by njt/mnrrbuff » Fri Jul 19, 2019 6:18 am

No, the MARC schedule to and from WV isn’t tourist friendly at all to those who might live in and around the District who want to take daytrips to WV. It’s a shame because there’s a lot of activities for tourists-Harpers Ferry being a great town. Martinsburg probably is too. The DC area commuter railroads, in general, don’t cater to tourists who want to make daytrips from DC to the distant suburbs and rural areas. Even the weekend MARC service from DC to BAL is enough to let a daytripper get by.

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Re: MARC service to WV Eastern Panhandle Imperiled

Post by mtuandrew » Fri Jul 19, 2019 6:47 am

“Flushing away” is a big statement, but there would definitely be a market for a tourist train outbound to Harpers Ferry on Saturday & Sunday morning, inbound in the evening.

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Re: MARC service to WV Eastern Panhandle Imperiled

Post by daybeers » Sun Jul 21, 2019 12:33 am

Well this is too bad!

CSX will probably ask for a bunch more money for an increase in service, though, and it will probably be a large enough amount for MD and WV to say no way. The flipside of that is if service to WV is curtailed, it will probably be very expensive to get started again, as a contract would have to be written with likely higher charges from CSX.

Believe me, I have always thought the DMV area commuter railroads need to at least try to capture the tourist market, but who's going to pay for it?

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Re: MARC service to WV Eastern Panhandle Imperiled

Post by STrRedWolf » Sun Jul 21, 2019 9:16 am

num1hendrickfan wrote:
Thu Jul 18, 2019 9:49 pm
If the folks at MARC were smart they'd offer bi-directional frequent service on that line, as it has high tourist appeal and it would remove cars from the road quite efficiently. They're flushing away untold thousands of additional tourist dollars, and don't say CSX is at capacity as there's plenty of space to fit at least 6-8 additional commuter runs alongside the 25-35 freight trains and 2 daily Amtrak trains the line sees.
I say it, namely because I had access to the MARC operations logs. CSX and MARC constantly have trouble running even rush hour/rush direction service on the Brunswick line. The problem is... rather structural. There's the bare number of interlocks and signaling on this line to allow more trains to run through it and avoid traffic.

You want more trains? Add more track, signaling, and interlocking... and pay for it. CSX isn't going to. Amtrak isn't going to. MARC isn't going to. MD/WV isn't going to.

Catch 22, eh?
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Re: MARC service to WV Eastern Panhandle Imperiled

Post by mmi16 » Sun Jul 21, 2019 3:52 pm

You can rest assured that if rail service terminates at Brunswick - any bus service will be supplied by WV. MARC won't fund it.
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