CHARLES TOWN – Citizens can share their thoughts next month on a plan that would have West Virginians who arrive at Brunswick, Md., on the late train finish their commute on a PanTran bus.
[cleeng_content id="t1" price="0.15" description="Read it now!"]Officials with Maryland-based MARC will host a public hearing on the latest proposal May 19 in Charles Town. The session is set for 1 to 4 p.m. at the Old Charles Town Library, 200 E. Washington St.
In January, about 60 citizens turned out for MARC’s Town Hall in Charles Town to voice disapproval for a plan to ax the Brunswick Line’s last three evening stops, two in Jefferson County and one in Martinsburg.
Many said the change would entice Panhandle residents to drive to the train station in Brunswick to ensure they could work later and still get home, adding traffic to local roads and further jamming the Brunswick parking lot.
According to MARC spokesman Joe Sviatko, rail officials listened to commuters’ concerns and suggestions and worked with CSX to revise the proposal, which was originally announced in early December. At that time, the changes were slated to take effect at the end of January.
The new draft can be downloaded from MARC’s website,
www.mta.maryland.gov, by searching for “MARC Brunswick Line schedule change proposal.”
For the May 19 public hearing, MARC has invited J. Charles “Chuck” Riecks, a retired minister who advocates for passenger train service from his home in Kanawha County. Riecks “will provide attendees with advice on making their voices heard at the State Capitol,” according to a MARC statement.
In an interview this week, Riecks – who represents West Virginia on the board of the National Association of Railroad Passengers, a nonprofit advocacy group based in D.C. – didn’t have any praise for MARC’s latest proposal.
“In general, it is never a good idea to take an existing service and ‘split it,’” Riecks said. “This is not only a matter of intuition, it was also the subject of study. In the early 1960s the old New York Central did a study on the effect of taking an existing passenger route and splitting it by truncating the rail portion and substituting a bus. They found ridership declined on the average of 25 percent. So I would ask, ‘What is the goal of MARC management? Decrease ridership?’”
An online survey is available for those who cannot attend the public hearing in Charles Town in person. Additional public hearings will be held month in Maryland: May 22 in Rockville and May 23 in Frederick.
Sviatko said MARC staff will be on hand at Brunswick Line stations during the evening rush hour starting this week through May 17 to distribute the proposed schedules.
For a full look at the new plan suggested by MARC, go to
www.mta.maryland.gov and search for “MARC Brunswick Line schedule change proposal.”
As MARC weighs changing its schedule, the MARC Riders Advisory Council is urging West Virginia to make the train system a yearly budget item. Right now, the Mountain State doesn’t contribute to MARC’s operating costs.
In December, the Advisory Council formally suggested that West Virginia provide money to replace or improve the train layover facility in Martinsburg.
Carl Wright, a former MARC rider in Martinsburg, said he is not surprised Maryland would ultimately choose to not want to run the train to West Virginia.
“I would dislike heartily detraining and riding a bus from Brunswick. I’m thinking of the delays from car accidents, snow, etc., that the PanTran bus would have to navigate when it took over the Brunswick to Martinsburg run,” Wright said. “A MARC train does not have those obstacles to overcome – it runs through anything.”
14 point, bold Times, centered:
Want to go?
Eastern Panhandle residents who ride the MARC train
Speak out at a public hearing on the latest schedule plan for West Virginia
1 to 4 p.m. May 19
Old Charles Town Library, 200 E. Washington St.
For those who cannot attend but want to share their opinions, send feedback to MARC@mta.maryland.gov.[/cleeng_content]