Environmental group on board for MARC train funding
Congress considering two rail money bills
Passengers who commute on MARC trains save more than 7.1 million gallons of gasoline annually and also help cut down on vehicle pollution, an environmental group said Tuesday.
A new report from activist group Environment Maryland, "On the Right Track: MARC Saves Energy and Protects the Environment," analyzed passenger data and average fuel consumption of commuters to calculate the fuel savings.
The group released the report at a news conference at the New Carrollton MARC and Metro stations as part of an effort to urge additional spending on MARC and rail transit by Congress. Two bills are pending in Congress to increase investment in rail travel.
Current demand matches, and in some cases exceeds, MARC's passenger capacity, said Christopher Field, president of the transit support group Transit Riders Action Council of Metropolitan Baltimore.
By increasing train service, adding more seats to the trains and making it easier for people to get to the stations, Maryland will be able to cut fuel use, improve the air quality of the region and ease traffic congestion on the highways, Field said.
U.S. Rep. Donna Edwards (D-Dist. 4) of Fort Washington, who also spoke at the news conference, said investing in MARC and public transit is crucial in linking together the area.
"Our rail transit system plays a really important role not just in our economy but in our environment," she said.
"Each time someone rides MARC, they are voting with their feet to make Maryland more energy independent," said Tommy Landers, an Environment Maryland policy advocate.
MARC ridership has grown from about 21,000 average daily trips in 2000 to about 33,000 in 2009, according to MARC figures. MARC projects that figure will grow to more than 100,000 average daily trips by 2035.
U.S. House committee
approves Metro funds
A key U.S. House committee approved an appropriations bill last week that included $150 million for Metro.
"Today's funding, authorized in the bipartisan Passenger Rail Investment and Improvement Act, will allow WMATA to make vital investments in safety and system maintenance," said U.S. Rep. Christopher Van Hollen (D-Dist. 8) of Kensington in an e-mailed statement about Thursday's vote. "Improving the safety of the Metro system is a top priority, and I look forward to working with my colleagues to ensure that this essential funding is maintained as the appropriations bill continues through the House and Senate."
The funding bill now proceeds to the full Appropriations Committee for approval, and then to the House for a vote.
Cars pulled before holiday rush
Speaking of Metro, riders took 582,286 trips on Metro on the Fourth of July, but they didn't do it on the 100 of the older, series 4000 cars, which were pulled Friday due to a potentially dangerous short circuit that could cause the doors to open while moving.
The statistic paled compared with the record-breaking ridership on July 4, 2009 631,206.
The high volume of traffic over the holiday occurred without 100 of the system's series 4000 cars, which were pulled Friday for inspection and repair. Metro officials said there was no particular incident that led to the cars being pulled from duty, but the issue was discovered by performance tests.
"This is a precautionary and proactive action to ensure the highest level of safety for our riders," said Interim General Manager Richard Sarles.
About 60 to 70 of the series 4000 cars are in service during weekday use.
The work is expected to take about two weeks, resulting in some impact on service when typically 850 cars are in use daily. The 4000 series cars were put into service in 1993.
County tests new
traffic signal for pedestrians
A new traffic signal is being tried out on Gude Drive in Rockville, where eight pedestrians have been struck in the past two years, to see if it improves safety.
The county's Department of Transportation is testing the pedestrian-oriented traffic signal called High-Intensity Activated crossWalk or HAWK. The system is intended for areas where a full signal is not considered appropriate, but other measures such as flashing lights have not been fully successful, county officials said.
The HAWK signal on Gude Drive flashes yellow at all times, but when a pedestrian pushes a button at the signal, it turns yellow and then red, allowing the pedestrian to cross two lanes of traffic. At the median, the pedestrian pushes another button to repeat the process to cross the next two lanes of traffic.
The signal is intended to minimize the impact of a light on traffic, while making it safer for pedestrians to cross, county officials said.
Staff writer Daniel Valentine contributed to this report.
Correction: The original version of this story gave the wrong name for the report. The report is called "On the Right Track: MARC Saves Energy and Protects the Environment."