Saturday, August 16, 2008

The MARC...Train

As many of you know I am one of the many thousands of workers who commute to Washington DC from all over Maryland. For me this means a short (20 minute) drive to and from the Odenton MARC Station (suffering only the embarrassing butchery of the English language on local music and talk radio). We can tell it is the Odenton MARC Station because that is one of the two messages displayed on a half-dozen expensive-looking computerized marquees erected along the platform.

The other message, of course, is one that indicates how many tens of minutes your train will be late in arriving. The latter message is one that gets the most work out of the expensive-looking computerized system and this has prompted the most recent arrivals to the MARC commuters paradise to raise hell with the MTA.

After back-to-back weeks of late, over-crowded and cancelled trains the MTA administrator Paul J. Wiedefeld apologized for the shoddy service in a long, heart-rendering e-mail message in which he blamed:

  • Rising summer temperatures put additional stress on equipment and tracks, increasing the likelihood of failure;
  • A severe storm cut power to the track signals and blew down trees along the Brunswick Line, forcing us to cancel service;
  • A fuel tanker overturned on I-95 in Baltimore City, causing fire authorities to close the Camden Line;
  • Our fleet of diesel locomotives is nearly 40 years old, and despite a major overhaul 10 years ago is increasingly unreliable;
  • Electric locomotives used on the Penn Line have been out of service for a scheduled overhaul, requiring us to use the older diesel locomotives instead; and
  • Persistent reliability problems with our newest electric locomotives.

Veteran victims of MARC "service" have learned to expect little or no customer service. I replied nonetheless with my usual tact:

Dear MARC\MTA knuckledraggers,

Speaking as one who has been a victim of MARC-ism going on 20 years now, I can confidently say that if you people ran a train service on the salt flats of Bonneville (this is a place, I should explain for the geographically-challenged of you, which is probably all of you, where there are no trees, no storms, no fuel-tankers and only one temperature) that you would STILL find a way to make us miserable.

I, for one, am tired of hearing about all the problems that are beyond your control. Save it. It's NEVER your fault. It's always this weather, that fire, or it's Amtrak's fault....

Well, you get the idea. Some years ago, before the dawn of blogs, I started an e-mail group dedicated to MARC passengers and especially their stories, complaints, and innovative solutions to the problems plaguing the system. The posts were interesting and controversial sparking lively debates between the MARC passengers and the knuckledraggers charged with running the rolling stock up and down the Penn Line.

So I think I'll start another Blog strictly for the MARC riders out there. Send me an e-mail message if you want to be a contributor. Please be sure to include your name and which MARC station you usually wait for late and cancelled trains.

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