Planning Effects

Usually we wind up complaining the government isn’t doing enough planning. So I suppose it would be hard to fault them for this kind of planning:

The Maryland Transit Administration is planning a sweeping expansion of its popular but crowded MARC commuter train service, including weekend runs and additional weekday trains by next year and a tripling of the system’s capacity by 2035.

The detailed blueprint, outlined in a briefing by MTA Administrator Paul J. Wiedefeld, envisions a system that eventually would stretch from Virginia to Delaware and have the capacity to carry more than 100,000 riders a day.

The plan, the cost of which would amount to billions of dollars over the next 28 years, would add tracks in areas that are bottlenecks and would increase the frequency of train arrivals. It would bring new interconnections with existing and future transit lines and create a new transportation hub at Johns Hopkins Bayview Medical Center.

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A 28-year plan? Ambitious. How they pull it off is anyone’s guess. The fact of the matter is that the state owns pretty much no rail lines. All of the lines are owned by CSX or Amtrak. Without ownership of any rail lines, the MARC system is automatically at the mercy of external forces. How in the world can you expand service when you don’t own the mechanisms you need to provide the service?

On top of it, how could the state possibly find enough money to pay for this? Such an ambitious, multi-decade expansion plan will probably costs the state several billion dollars in the long-run? Is it an sexy idea to basically be able to go fromFredericksburg , VA to Trenton, NJ? Sure. Is there a demonstrable demand for such a service? Not that I can see. Is there a way to make such a service financially self-sufficient? Not a chance.

Regional rail is a great way to provide an alternative means of transportation when expansion plans are reasonable, have a funding source, and will alleviate traffic on the roads. If regional rail plans do not have all three of those components, then tax dollars are better spent addressing the noted shortcomings of our highway system. And I can think of ten highway projects that should be a higher priority than this kind of MARC uberexpansion.


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