CHARLES TOWN – West Virginia’s top transportation exec has written to his counterpart in Maryland saying Panhandle commuters are “almost unanimously opposed” to altering the MARC train schedule.
Going ahead with the changes will hurt the quality of life commuters enjoy here, state Secretary of Transportation Paul A. Mattox Jr. wrote in a letter dated June 12.
“I ask that you thoroughly consider all impacts these proposed changes will have on West Virginians,” Mattox wrote in the letter to Beverly K. Swaim-Staley, the Maryland Department of Transportation secretary.
It’s unclear whether Mattox’s pleas will have any effect. Staley, a native of Hagerstown, Md., is in her final days in the post.
Appointed by Gov. Martin O’Malley as Maryland’s first female transportation secretary in 2009, Staley will leave the job Sunday. In April, O’Malley’s office announced Staley’s resignation but gave no reason for her exit.
It seems the changes remain on track – despite their unpopularity with Eastern Panhandle riders. According to the MARC Riders Advisory Council, which met last week for the first time since the changes to the Brunswick Line schedule were made public, the changes are set to take effect July 16.
In mid-June, the Maryland Transportation Authority released what it described as its final version of a new schedule. Two previous drafts were the subject of town hall meetings in Charles Town where dozens of riders and public officials pleaded with Maryland officials to scrub plans to swap out the final evening train to West Virginia with a commuter bus.
The Brunswick Line now includes three stops in West Virginia: at Harpers Ferry and Duffields in Jefferson County and at Caperton Train Station in Martinsburg. Every weekday, hundreds of commuters in the Panhandle take the MARC to one of the D.C. suburbs or all the way to Union Station.
State Sen. Herb Snyder, D-Jefferson, had pushed for Mattox to write the letter. Mattox sent along to Staley a letter written by Snyder that lists several alternative solutions more pleasing to West Virginia commuters. Others have urged West Virginia’s governor to speak directly to O’Malley about the conundrum.
Mattox’s letter does not mention funding for MARC. West Virginia now pays for the upkeep involved with the three Eastern Panhandle stops, but doesn’t contribute to MARC’s operating budget.
Since 2008 when MARC last floated the idea of major changes to the Brunswick Line in the Panhandle, West Virginia riders have paid higher ticket prices than commuters in Maryland. The West Virginia surcharge is $2 per day, adding $80 per month to a rider’s monthly pass.