Want more weekend trains? Are you willing to get more rush hour trips if it means fewer trains at other times of day? The Maryland Transit Administration wants to know.

Building on its MARC Growth and Transformation Plan, the agency is seeking input from the public to better tailor its regional commuter rail service to the needs of area residents. The public survey, available here, closes Monday.

The survey asks the public to select possible improvements most important to them from a list that includes more frequent service, lower ticket prices and more transit-oriented development. It also prompts users to rate a series of possible service trade-offs — such as more rush hour service vs. all-day service.

The public input will help state officials update and expand the 2019 MARC Cornerstone Plan, a long-range vision for maintaining and improving MARC service. The 25-year plan lists short- and long-term capital projects that will replace vehicles, upgrade stations and train amenities, and maintain its roughly $2 billion worth of assets.

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MARC service encompasses three distinct lines: the Brunswick Line, which connects Martinsburg, West Virginia, with Washington, D.C., via Montgomery and Frederick counties; the Camden Line, which links Camden Yards to Washington, D.C., by way of Howard, Anne Arundel and Prince George’s counties; and the Penn Line, the most widely used of the three, which connects Union Station in Washington to Baltimore’s Penn Station before continuing north to Perryville.

Amtrak owns the railway utilized by the Penn Line, whereas freight train company CSX Transportation owns the vast majority of the right of way on the other two. This use of “host railroads,” where MTA pays for use of its track, limits MTA’s discretion for service based on the other companies’ schedules.

The growth plan calls for safety improvements such as the elimination of at-grade pedestrian crossings, which require riders to cross active rails on foot to access a train, and promotes several stations as possible future sites for transit-oriented development. It floats a possible extension of MARC service beyond Union Station into Northern Virginia, as well as construction that would better connect the two lines that service Baltimore.

Maryland’s six-year transportation spending plan, which is to be voted on in the spring, faces a shortfall of more than $2 billion. It calls for more than $500 million — mostly federal dollars — to replace MARC vehicles and make improvements along all three lines.

Daniel Zawodny covers transportation for The Baltimore Banner as a corps member with Report For America, a national service organization that places emerging journalists with local newsrooms that cover underreported issues.

daniel.zawodny@thebaltimorebanner.com

Daniel Zawodny covers transportation for the The Baltimore Banner as a corps member with Report For America. He is a Baltimore area native and graduated with his master's degree in journalism from American University in 2021. He is bilingual in English and Spanish and previously covered immigration issues. 

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