State is all aboard with MARC bill
The average daily ridership of the Maryland Area Regional Commuter train’s Brunswick rail line was about 7,784 passengers in 2012, of which about 270 embark and disembark at the two train stations in Jefferson County (another 186 passengers board in Martinsburg).
It’s for these riders that state Sen. Herb Snyder shepherded through legislation a few years’ running that asks West Virginia to do more than require the Panhandle’s roughly 450 MARC passengers to pay a daily surcharge to ride to their jobs in the suburbs of Washington D.C., and back. In his bill, Snyder sought to grant CSX Transportation the opportunity to apply for a tax credit for the amount it billed MARC for the use of its railroad tracks in West Virginia.
But this year, the House of Delegates, by a vote of 98-1, did Snyder’s bill one better and helped to ensure its passage by substituting the tax credit provision with the establishment of a fund that would directly pay for fees for accessing the track. And that appears to have made all the difference.
This allocation helps give the state some negotiating power in future dealings with Maryland’s Transit Administration, something notably lacking last year when commuters complained bitterly over changes to the service that eliminated one of the line’s evening trains and roughed up the schedule enough to disrupt the workdays of the Brunswick line’s West Virginia passengers.
At meetings MARC hosted last year in Charles Town, area riders said changing the schedule meant more of them would have to board and de-board at the Brunswick stop, resulting in even more traffic across the already busy U.S. 340 into Maryland. But, MARC officials, noting reduced ridership as well as complications in its agreement with CSX, wouldn’t budge.
As both Senate Majority Leader John Unger and Berkeley County Delegate Larry Kump note, the change to a formalized agreement between West Virginia and Maryland will help prevent the kinds of shocks to passengers that MARC’s proposals brought last year, better ensuring that passenger rail service will continue for Jefferson and Berkeley counties’ residents whose livelihoods depend on it.
‘You will always find people who are helping’
It’s tempting, upon hearing the kind of devastating news that emerged Monday afternoon in Boston, to feel despair.
Though no one yet has any idea what person or group might be responsible for the finish-line attack at the Boston Marathon that killed three and injured more than 170, many of us are asking, What kind of madness has overtaken our country? How could anyone stage such a vicious attack on celebrating runners and their loved ones?
In the wake of Monday’s attack, many parents — who only just months ago were faced with helping their children understand how something like December’s shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School could have happened — are again struggling to explain such a tragedy to their young ones.
We found a comforting answer on the Facebook page of Jefferson Journeys, which posted a page from The Mister Rogers Parenting Book. It reads: “When I was a boy and I would see scary things in the news, my mother would say to me, ‘Look for the helpers. You will always find people who are helping.”
Monday in Boston, there were many people who rushed to aid those who were suffering, those like Carlos Arredondo, who had gone to Boston to watch National Guardsmen race in honor of his son who died in Iraq. One of the first to the scene of the carnage, Arrendondo became a symbol of the help offered the suffering in a photograph that appeared in newspapers across the country.
We live in uncertain times. As Pastor Brian Hotaling reminds us in his column on Page A8, strife, there has always been violence, there has always been suffering. As Arredondo and others showed, however, in the midst of these things, there will always be helpers.
Be not afraid. Look for the helpers.