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Letter: New MARC Train Schedule Punishes Riverdale

'This is not a timetable. This is a forecast,' writes Riverdale Park resident Dwight Holmes.

Note: Effective April 2, MARC trains on the Camden Line will operate under a new schedule. Among the key changes: southbound/westbound times at the Riverdale station have been designated "L," meaning they may depart up to five minutes before the listed time. Below is a letter sent by Riverdale Park resident Dwight Holmes to the MTA regarding the changes.

To MARC Management:

I can be very succinct in my response to the newly announced Camden Line timetable. For anyone who uses Riverdale or Dorsey stations, this is not a timetable. This is a forecast—as in, “There’s an indeterminate possibility of the train departing on time at 7:29 a.m., and one must be prepared that it might depart as early as 7:24 a.m."

I appreciate that there must be pressure to improve your official on-time performance record. But don’t take it out on the residents of Riverdale and Dorsey. I assume the new “L” on the timetable is for “loser”—as in, “Your town is such a loser we can’t promise you we won’t leave you at the station by departing early. Our priorities lie elsewhere.”

This really is unacceptable. I hope you will reconsider and return to the standard type of train timetable that trains have been using for 150 years, with a time certain for each and every station. Thank you.

Dwight Holmes

4716 Riverdale Rd.

Southbound/westbound trains

Train Old schedule New schedule 841 5:56 a.m. L5:51 a.m. 845 7:06 a.m. L7:04 a.m. 847 7:36 a.m. L7:29 a.m. 851 9:04 a.m. L9:01 a.m. 855 6:05 p.m. L6:14 p.m. 857 7:00 p.m. L7:09 p.m.

Northbound/eastbound trains

Train Old schedule New schedule 840 6:52 a.m. 6:42 a.m. 842 7:17 a.m. 7:10 a.m. 848 4:49 p.m. 4:53 p.m. 850 5:26 p.m. 5:38 p.m. 854 6:53 p.m. 7:03 p.m. 856 7:35 p.m. 7:55 p.m.

For more information, consult the MTA's FAQs on the changes.

john mullins March 20, 2012 at 07:10 PM
Dwight is absolutely correct. Has MARC offerred an explanaton for why they are doing this? I lived in DC for several years and commuted by Metrobus. So, believe me, I do appreciate everything good about MARC. But the schedule is extremely limited, so it doesn't make for the most flexible commuting options. While doing nothing to remedy that situation, MARC demands that their passengers be more flexible, and dedicate nearly an extra half hour a week (5 minutes per day, 5 days a week) to commuting.
DWIGHT HOLMES March 21, 2012 at 06:33 PM
John Mullins, in answer to your question, what MARC said in their explanation was this: "While we are glad to see more people using MARC, it requires more time at each station to load and unload passengers. End point on time performance has been in the 90% range for a while, but we recognize that trains are not on time at many intermediate stops. By adjusting times to reflect both current operational conditions and ridership levels, we will be able to provide a more reliable service to all of our passengers. Simply put, most trains, especially afternoon northbound trains, need more time to board and detrain passengers at stations since ridership has increased." But as you can see, that says nothing about, nor does it indicate any justification for the new "L" designation allowing trains to leave 5 minutes ahead of schedule. In fact, the whole idea makes no sense. The scedule is already padded to allow 10 extra minutes between Riverdale, the last stop, and Union Station. So leaving Riverdale 5 minutes early is never going to be the difference between being on time or being late. The only explanation is they want to have an excuse for not holding at College Park even on days when there are not dozens of students getting off the train there. But that is certainly no justification for creating such uncertainty about the time of train departures from the next station. They really must reconsider and revoke this decision.
Pachacutec April 06, 2012 at 02:14 PM
Maybe it's because I've used public transportation for most of my life, and we're talking back to the days of DC transit buses, but I honestly can't see the big deal over a 5 minute differential. If people are taking ANY form of public transport, whether it be the bus, a train, etc., doesn't it make good sense to make it a habit every day to show up 10 minutes or so earlier than the scheduled time of arrival/departure? I could possibly see concern if the change were to, say, 1/2 hour or more; but for 5 minutes, if it were me, I'd just get out of bed and out to the train station a bit earlier. JMO, of course.

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