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Why Maryland’s Light Rail does not work.

March 6, 2008

My Father flew back home from Florida yesterday afternoon into BWI. I was supposed to drive down and pick him up at the airport but he decided to try something different this time. He thought it would be a good idea (and easier for me) to get on the Light Rail train at the BWI station and take all the way up to its terminus in Hunt Valley (near my office). I would then pick him up at the Light Rail stop and drive him the rest of the way home (my parents live in the same area of Pennsylvania that I do).

Going by the MTA schedule, he would arrive at the Hunt Valley station by about 4pm.

Can you guess where this is going yet?

At 4:30p I get a call that he’s still South of Baltimore and should arrive a little after 5pm.

At 5:15pm he calls and says that the train he’s on stops at the Timonium Fairgrounds then returns South. All passengers going North had to disembark and wait for the next train. Apparently the train changed from a BWI to Hunt Valley service to a Cromwell to Timonium service in mid-transit.

A little while later another Northbound train arrives and the passengers get on. Two stops later, at Gilroy Road, everyone is told to get off. No explanation was given. Once everyone disembarked, the train switched it’s sign to ‘not in service’ and returned Southbound.

I pulled into the Hunt Valley Light Rail parking lot at 5:20p expecting my fathers train to show up in the next 10-15 minutes. At 6pm his train finally rolls into the station. In the forty minutes I was at the Hunt Valley station I saw no other train. Not a single one.

To say my Father was agitated by this experience is an understatement. The bottom line is it took longer for him to travel from BWI to Hunt Valley than it did for him fly from Florida to BWI. Ridiculous. I could have driven to BWI and home again nearly three times over in the time it took the trains to make the trip one way.

I’ve attempted to use the Light Rail system a few times over the years and it has always been a problem. A group of us once met at the Timonium stop to take the train down to Camden Yards to catch a night game. The trains were running so slow that cars where flying past us into the city along I-83. A train is supposed to be faster than traffic isn’t it? We barely made it to our seats by the first pitch and we had planned on getting there an hour earlier to look around. Once the game let out we thought we would hit a few of the local bars before heading back to Timonium. That is until we found out that the trains only ran for 30 minutes after the end of the game. If you didn’t get on, you were SoL.

There was also a brief time that I was the manager of a retail store in the Galleria Mall across from the Inner Harbor. I tried several times to commute in to work using the Light Rail system. These attempts failed for two reasons. First, my commute time nearly doubled when taking the train. It simply took far to long to get in to work (and home). Second, the travel time was never consistent. On any given day I would arrive anywhere from 5 minutes early to 40 minutes late. Unfortunately late was usually the rule and not the exception. Five minutes early? Good. Forty minutes late for work? Big problem (especially when you’re the manager). In short order I gave up and drove in to work. The $8 a day for in parking was a small price to pay to avoid the hassle and wasted time of the Light Rail system.

From → Maryland, Politics

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