Rebuilding Place in the Urban Space

"A community’s physical form, rather than its land uses, is its most intrinsic and enduring characteristic." [Katz, EPA] This blog focuses on place and placemaking and all that makes it work--historic preservation, urban design, transportation, asset-based community development, arts & cultural development, commercial district revitalization, tourism & destination development, and quality of life advocacy--along with doses of civic engagement and good governance watchdogging.

Friday, July 06, 2012

Why don't Maryland and West Virginia think about expanding MARC into a true regional system?

The Examiner ("West Virginia officials discussing subsidizing MARC service") and the Martinsburg (WV) Journal ("W.Va. riders left 'holding the bag'") report on talks between Maryland and West Virginia with regard to railroad service provided to WV by the Maryland Railroad Commuter service. For historical reasons--the way that the "Potomac Valley Service" of the B&O Railroad provided service to DC from WV--the railroad service picked up by Maryland continued to serve WV.

From the article in the Journal:

The supposed final change to MARC's Brunswick Line commuter train schedule was released Wednesday to members of the riders advisory council and "it leaves West Virginia riders holding the bag."

So said Vince Hodge, West Virginia's representative to the council, in a telephone interview Thursday.

"My reaction is negative," the Martinsburg resident said. "They tried to dress it up, but West Virginia riders are the only ones left to make a big change."

The schedule changes distributed Wednesday marked the third - and apparently final - attempt by the Maryland Transit Administration, which operates the MARC commuter trains, to adjust the Brunswick Line schedule.

The Brunswick Line carries between 400 and 500 passengers daily between the Eastern Panhandle and Union Station in Washington, D.C., with stops in Martinsburg, Duffields and Harpers Ferry as well as Frederick and Montgomery counties in Maryland.

19780108 01 Potomac Valley Service timetable
Flickr image of the timetable by David Wilson.

While I understand West Virginians complaining, the reality is that they get the service out of the kindness of Maryland, which is a kind of maintenance of the route's beginnings in the "Potomac Valley Service" of the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad.

It won't happen, but the clamoring of West Virginians to not lose railroad service provides an opportunity for Maryland and West Virginia to engage in higher level discussions about a more direct participation of West Virginia in the MARC railroad system, and beginning the steps to create a truly regional railroad passenger system serving Maryland, Virginia, West Virginia, and DC primarily, with additional service to Pennsylvania and Delaware.

Proposed map of a Washington-Baltimore regional rail system
Image of a proposed regional railroad system by BeyondDC.

I've written about this concept in the past, "Regional transportation planning and fixed rail servicewhich I call the "Railroad Authority of the Chesapeake Region" or RACER, based on some idea-engineering by Dan Malouff of BeyondDC. 

Note that the Orange line in this map shows the current "Brunswick Line" service, but extends the service beyond Martinsburg, first further into West Virginia, but then the continues back into Maryland to serve Hagerstown.

There are many examples of multi-state or regional railroad passenger service systems in other regions, including how SEPTA in Pennsylvania provides some service to locations in Delaware and New Jersey, how the Metro-North Railroad serves not just New York but Connecticut (and a couple of the lines are actually served by New Jersey Transit, and start in NJ), and how various railroad commuting lines in California serve multiple metropolitan areas, for example Metrolink serves San Diego, Orange County, and Los Angeles, and Caltrain serves Sacramento, San Francisco and the Silicon Valley.

Also see the "Potomac Express design concept" which discusses intra-California railroad passenger services as a model for the DC-MD-VA region.

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