MARC

We Need All-Day Two-Way MARC Trains

High-Cost Toll Lanes Don't Help the Average Commuter

The Maryland Dept. of Transportation wants private companies to build and operate four new toll lanes down the center of I-270. Toll lanes of this kind are known as “Lexus Lanes” because average commuters can't afford to use them regularly. The Virginia Beltway toll lanes, which are the model for the Maryland proposal, charge an average toll of over $1.50 per mile at the peak of rush hour — meaning the round-trip toll from Route 118 in Germantown to the Beltway would be over $41 — and they are still losing money.

For this scheme to work, the state must guarantee that drivers who don't pay the tolls will be stuck in traffic jams. Otherwise, even those commuters who do have $200 a week to spare will have no reason to pay, and Wall Street won't invest.

There's a much better solution for commuters in northern Montgomery County and Frederick County. Run trains all day both ways on the MARC railroad tracks from Frederick and Urbana into Rockville, Silver Spring, and Washington.

If you live near a MARC station on the train line from Washington D.C to Frederick and Brunswick, Maryland, it's already a great way to commute, but only if your schedule fits the MARC schedule. Right now the trains only go one way for a few hours in the morning, and the other way for a few hours in the afternoon. Trains should run seven days a week all day in both directions.

A plan drawn up in 2007 by Maryland transportation planners, called the MARC Growth and Investment Plan, would vastly improve service on the commuter train line from Washington to Frederick and Brunswick. Trains would run all day 7 days a week in both directions, and in rush hour trains would run every 15 minutes from Union Station through Rockville and Germantown to Point of Rocks. Rush-hour trains would go to Frederick and Brunswick every half hour. Mid-day, evening, and weekend trains would run every hour, alternating between Frederick and Brunswick termini.

The key to all-day MARC service is adding a third track along as much as possible of the CSX rail line between Silver Spring and Point of Rocks, to make room for both passenger and freight trains. Also needed are a new platform at Point of Rocks so that trains to Frederick City can pick up passengers there, and a second track between Point of Rocks and Frederick.

More recently, the Maryland Dept. of Transportation has suggested that any third track additions would be delayed until after 2030. At ACT's urging, the 2015 “priorities letter” from Montgomery County asked MDOT to develop a plan for all-day MARC service. This year, Frederick County joined in this request.

Total cost of the planned improvements on the train line to Frederick and Brunswick was estimated in 2007 at $560 million, but the plan can be carried out in stages as money is available. Each stage would add more trains.

If you want to do more to make all-day seven-day service on MARC a reality, join the Action Committee for Transit, the citizen advocates for better transit in Montgomery County.

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