Friday, October 3, 2008
MARC's availability is another problem. Right now the system is wildly overcrowded. It only runs during the work week, during the day. The trains are overcrowded, and the availability to add more daily service is hampered by the fact that much of the system shares tracks with CSX and AMTRAK.
What really bothers me about the system is the fact that in the DC Metro area, MARC does not appear to influence transit-oriented development. Sure, some stations have good development, or at least plans for such development: Rockville, Silver Spring, Greenbelt, New Carrollton... of course, those stations all have Metro stations as well.
An excellent example of this would be the Kensington station. Kensington is on the Brunswick Line between Silver Spring and Rockville. Kensington is an incorporated town with a business district adjacent to the train station, but this station has done little to influence pedestrianism like in Rockville and Silver Spring, which have Metro stations. Kensington is merely a confluence of three rivers of cars, with a few office buildings and restaurants surrounded by parking.
View Larger Map of Kensington Lots of Parking fronting traffic gutters
I live on the Camden Line, perhaps the most useless fixed rail line in the region. I'm about halfway between the Laurel and Muirkirk stations. Muirkirk is a middle-of-nowhere station useful only to commuters who drive there from Beltsville. It serves no one. The Konterra development will be just across Rt 1, but it has seemingly little connectivity to the MARC station. It has been implied that Konterra's town center location along I-95 would support a new Metro station along I-95. Laurel is in the blossoming downtown of Laurel, a city of 30,000 people, but the station has little impact on development plans in the city. It seems that more of the development (such as Laurel Commons) has been more in anticipation for a future Metro station a mile or so south on an expanded Green Line.
View Larger Map of Muirkirk Station Office parks and no sidewalks
To make MARC a more viable system, it would require additional tracks along pretty much the entire system. Why not, then, build Metro tracks along the DC, PG, and MoCo portions of the system and connect those areas to the rest of the system with seamless transfers? Leave MARC as it is, a REGIONAL system that gets people between Baltimore, Washington, and Frederick. Heck, add another MARC line to Annapolis. We need MARC, but we can't treat it like a system that integrates areas into the greater transit system of the DC Metropolitan area.
MARC is not a suitable compliment to Metro. It may connect DC and Baltimore, but it doesn't connect Laurel, Bowie, Kensington, and other DC suburbs to the urban fabric of the metropolitan area.
My thoughts on replacing the stations on the lower portion of MARC with Metro:
Brunswick Line: Use the Yellow Line, build a spur at Ft. Totten and run along the Red Line to Silver Spring (Or better yet, run it under Georgia Avenue from Petworth Station to Silver Spring) and then along the Brunswick Line to Rockville.
Penn Line: Instead of terminating the Silver Line at Stadium-Armory, run the Silver Line along the Orange Line to New Carrollton and then extend it up to the BWI stop on the Penn Line. The Silver Line would then connect two major regional airports.
Camden Line: Bring the Green Line up to Laurel. Route One can support the TOD.
Of course this doesn't appear feasible, but as I have mentioned before, I believe our rail initiatives ought to be at least as ambitious as the Freeway Plan of the 1960's. Leave MARC. It is a great redundancy system for traveling between Baltimore and Washington. But instead of giving MARC more tracks, build tracks for a system that is going to effectively enhance the region's ability to develop more environmentally friendly transit-oriented suburbs with convenient transit access.