Public Hearing on MARC W. Virginia service

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Public Hearing on MARC W. Virginia service
Posted by daveklepper on Friday, August 16, 2019 12:45 AM
If you're having trouble viewing this email, you may see it online

The Maryland Transit Administration will hold a public hearing on September 7, 2019 regarding possible drastic cutbacks in MARC commuter train service into West Virginia!

The proposed cutbacks, which could go into effect November 4th, would eliminate two of the three current weekday rounds which serve Martinsburg, Duffield and Harpers Ferry. The trains would continue to operate as far as Brunswick, MD.

Current West Virginia ridership averages about 250 passengers per day. Cuts in service into West Virginia could have negative effects on the Brunswick and Point of Rocks stations, as well as the already extremely heavy traffic on Interstate 270, if West Virginia passengers decide to drive to those stations to catch the train, or simply drive to their jobs in Montgomery County and Washington. The parking lot at the Brunswick station is already typically quite crowded.

The proposed cutbacks come following a two-year dispute between the two states over funding for the commuter rail system to West Virginia stations. There's been resistance in the West Virginia Legislature to fund the MARC service, which some lawmakers view as serving primarily riders from a small section of the state commuting to relatively high-paying jobs in the greater Washington, DC region.

Maryland DOT/MTA notified the West Virginia State Rail Authority more than two years ago, of a required payment of $3.4 million for Fiscal Year 2020 (FY20), in order to continue current levels of MARC train service to West Virginia. The West Virginia State Legislature has appropriated only $1.1 million for MARC service in FY20, $2.3 million dollars less than Maryland DOT/MTA is requiring.

The public hearing is scheduled for:

Saturday, September 7, 2019 from 10:00 AM – 12:00 PM
Charles Town Public Library
200 E. Washington Street
Charles Town, WV 25414

NOTECharles Town, WV is located approximately 7 miles west of Harpers Ferry, WV and should not be confused with Charleston, WV (the State Capitol)!

MarylandDOT/MTA is also be accepting public comment on the proposed reduction of service through Monday, October 7, 2019.

Comments can be submitted by printing out & submitting a comment form or by emailing HearingComments@mta.maryland.gov

We ask that you share your support for maintaining and enhancing commuter rail to preserve frequencies along this vital economic corridor.

Rail Passengers Maryland is planning to have a presence at the September 7, 2019 public hearing and would invite all who are able to attend to join us.

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Posted by CSSHEGEWISCH on Friday, August 16, 2019 6:52 AM

Such is the problem when the transit agency does not have a dedicated source of funding.  The cutback seems in line with the appropriation made by the West Virginia General Assembly compared to MARC's request.

The daily commute is part of everyday life but I get two rides a day out of it. Paul
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Posted by charlie hebdo on Friday, August 16, 2019 8:43 AM

The problem is a state legislature dominated by more rural areas whose constituents just want low taxes.  Some of those rural residents resent the more affluent ones who work in DC,  even though they spend most of it in West Virginia. This scenario is played out nationally as well,  where less-populated areas are over-represented in Congress,  especially the Senate. 

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Posted by York1 on Friday, August 16, 2019 9:01 AM

charlie hebdo
This scenario is played out nationally as well,  where less-populated areas are over-represented in Congress,  especially the Senate. 

 

As opposed to the House, where higher-population areas are well-represented.

The tyranny of the masses was a concern of the founders.

Saints Fan John

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Posted by charlie hebdo on Friday, August 16, 2019 9:35 AM

Even in the House,  for several reasons,  rural areas are over-represented: gerrymandering by state legislatures and giving at least one republic to states that shouldn't have any.  The framers came up with a bicameral legislature to appease the smaller states,  but it violates our fundamental principles of "no taxation without representation " and "one man, one vote."  The divisions of added territories into too many states was a bad consequence  of the fight over slavery. The mountain west and northern plains should have been divided into about three or four states, not ten or eleven.

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Posted by Flintlock76 on Saturday, August 17, 2019 9:14 AM

Don't over-think this boys, it's always about money.  There's only so much coming in and everyone wants a cut for their own pet projects.  No state is immune, they all have money fights.  It's not always a "rural versus urban" thing, sometimes it "urban versus urban" or "rural versus rural."   

So it has been, so will it always be.

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Posted by daveklepper on Monday, August 19, 2019 2:50 AM

May I respectfully ask that the previous posting be the last specifically political posting on this thread, and that future postings include politics only specific to operation of these passenger trains?

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Posted by Overmod on Monday, August 19, 2019 11:11 AM

With respect, "urban" vs. "rural" politics is importantly at the heart of this specific discussion.  Attempting to pretend it is not a major factor is to devolve the argument into perceived railfan benefits, which I feel reasonably sure are not going to result in the trains into West Virginia being funded.

I grant you that we should have no more gratuitous or doctrinaire political postings; those get tiresome long past any novelty they might introduce into an already hackneyed topic.

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Posted by Flintlock76 on Monday, August 19, 2019 11:16 AM

Amen brother!  Especially since the gratuitous and doctrinare postings seem to take on an elitist and/or nasty cast, uncalled for and unbecoming to the posters.  

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Posted by charlie hebdo on Monday, August 19, 2019 11:46 AM

Frankly,  there were no partisan political posts,  just an analysis of factors that influence the funding of a rail service. Unless this sort of post is allowed,  these forums will be reduced to posts about counting the number of windows on Acela cars or posts of 10 pages of others' writings or materials.

You do realize that transit services and most passenger rail depend on state legislatures and Congress for funding. Doctinaire? Elitist?  Hardly. 

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Posted by daveklepper on Monday, August 19, 2019 1:26 PM

Yes, but discussions about the basic nature of the USA Democracy, the Federal System, direct elections vs. the Electoral College etc. are beyond the purpose of this particular thread.  

Possibly all threads, but definitely this thread.  OK?

Any reader attend the meeting and can give a report?

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Posted by Overmod on Monday, August 19, 2019 2:31 PM

The issue here is succinctly as follows:

MARC, a Maryland agency, wants to cut back its 'unfunded mandate' to provide service into West Virginia because West Virginia is unwilling to pay its 'fair share' of running those trains.

The West Virginia legislature (mirroring to an extent the Indiana legislature earlier this year) disdains the idea of 'wasting' the necessary money to provide these trains.  (The argument about rural vs. urban involves one of the likely reasons this decision was taken; read charlie hebdo's earlier post)

MARC is either looking for sufficient public support or is going through sufficient motions to justify its cutbacks -- I'm not going to speculate which -- and the important thing to do is to fill out feedback forms, e-mail the agency, or submit coherent arguments by mail as to why the service should be preserved.  You can start with the links from this page:

https://www.mta.maryland.gov/public-hearings-meetings-updates

I note with some amusement that there don't appear to be any links requesting the West Virginia legislature to pony up to keep the trains going -- something I'd have taken some pains to list with the precise e-mail and contact addresses of the West Virginians, committee members or otherwise, directly responsible for approving any MARC subsidy.

Let me take a relatively non-polarized but cynical view of how the brinksmanship is going to go: dog-and-pony show followed by unfunded-mandate wailing, a train-off announcement by October, various discussions and editorials down to the wire in November... will the trains come off, and if so, how long will they stay off?  Will WV cave on the funding (the Right Thing to Do) and then look at targeted revenue measures to recoup the cost from the suburban "Washingtonians"?  Will MARC find the funds elsewhere, including from Federal sources as assisted by WV's Federal representatives?  Whether sensible or not, keep the popcorn hot.

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Posted by daveklepper on Tuesday, August 20, 2019 12:55 AM

Great analysis, thanks.   Keep up your comments.  A letter from me, way outside the area, might not do much good, but letters from West Virginia residents would.

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Posted by Overmod on Tuesday, August 20, 2019 6:57 AM

Mr. Klepper, I think a letter from you would carry some weight of wisdom, if it covered why MARC in Maryland should continue effectively subsidizing the service into West Virginia, substantially for the benefit of Virginia and DC.  I myself would be interested in reading your ideas on how the cost should fairly be allocated as well as "who should step up to the plate" to assure the service continues.

Note the implied structural disconnect between even the above-the-rail cost of providing the incremental service extension and even a remote chance of meaningful farebox (or onboard-service) recovery.  That won't be surprising, of course, since as far as I know it's typified commuter rail operations since at least 1957, but it'll be interesting to see how the Maryland taxpayer base responds to supporting this service -- West Virginians don't vote in Maryland, most won't pay Maryland taxes, and are somewhat unsurprisingly likely to support something they get at somewhat less than cost, so the actual 'contributions' from those who live in the extended service areas will carry far less actual weight than an intelligent "outsider" who proposes right analysis and solutions.

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Posted by daveklepper on Tuesday, August 20, 2019 10:49 PM

OK.  I will take the time to writecthe letter.   But to save time, please email me, daveklepper@yahoo.com, th e exact regular mail addresses of who should receive the letter pluys all facts that  you have at hand concerning thr operations and the cost, all the information you akready have.

 

i will figure out a way to prove that the service Benefits the West Virginia Economy.

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