All aboard new MARC proposal

It was just four years ago that West Virginia lawmakers came up with a resolution to a threat by MARC to curtail rail service into West Virginia by settling on a plan that would require riders to pay a surcharge of $2 a day.

Just how permanent that solution was became evident earlier this year with MARC’s unveiling of one new plan and then another, both of which have been soundly rejected by passengers both here in West Virginia and in Maryland; indeed at a recent public hearing and an earlier one in January some attendees were almost lumpen in their behavior toward MARC officials on hand to receive feedback on the service’s proposals.

We reject the boorishness — MARC provides a service for which some profit above cost is anticipated, and owes nobody anything, least of all an explanation for proposed service changes, just as some of these folks for whom possible career changes might no longer necessitate utilizing MARC would owe the train service nothing if they suddenly discontinued riding. These riders are free to find new jobs locally, to begin commuting by car or simply move to Maryland.

But the fact that they have chosen to make West Virginia their home compels us to side with their argument that state lawmakers should do more than require that riders assume the full burden for their commutes. These West Virginians, many longtime state residents, help maintain the Eastern Panhandle’s economy through housing and business growth; they contribute to tax coffers in the form of property and sales tax revenue and they enrich the region by virtue of their contributions to our civic and political life.

But as Sen. Herb Snyder argues, all that is meaningless to Maryland’s MARC service given that West Virginia has no formal say, and is no formal stakeholder in the process so long as it is content to require that area riders pick up the cost of service individually. Snyder’s proposal— to offer $700,000 in tax credits to CSX that it would pass on to MARC — would inject West Virginia into the process in a way that it currently isn’t and help to make the state a partner in its own passenger rail service.

Whether it’s this plan or another one that ultimately gets adopted, we think it’s time this state recognize its own interests in ensuring MARC service remains a viable option for area residents.

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