There will be a public hearing on the future of the MARC commuter train on Saturday, September 7, in Charles Town, 10am until noon. It’s important to have a large crowd at that hearing, in the Jefferson County Commission meeting room (in the basement of the Charles Town Library – 200 E. Washington St., Charles Town). We need support from those who ride the train and those who don’t.
The Maryland Transit Administration (MTA), which operates MARC, has said it will cut service from Martinsburg to Washington, D.C. (now three trains each way) to one train per day. Maryland has said the service to West Virginia costs it over $3 million per year, and West Virginia has not paid anywhere near that amount. The two trains that would be eliminated would still run from Brunswick to D.C.
Cutting the service to one train per day would, in my view, be devastating to Jefferson and Berkeley Counties.
MTA will conduct the hearing. Statements from anyone in attendance who wishes to speak will be permitted, but there will be no “dialogue” with MTA officials. This is standard practice for a “public hearing.”
Not everyone present needs to speak. The more speakers, the less time each speaker will be given. It’s difficult to make a point in 30-45 seconds. If you want to speak, please get there early, so we can organize the presentations.
Comments should be formally addressed to MTA, but the real audience also includes people in West Virginia. Those in our state who need to hear are Governor Jim Justice, State Senator Craig Blair (of Berkeley County, the Chair of the State Senate Finance Committee), Delegate Eric Householder (also of Berkeley County, the Chair of the House of Delegates Finance Committee), the county commissioners/councilpeople of Jefferson and Berkeley Counties (Berkeley has a “council,” not a “commission”), and the mayors and councilpeople of the seven municipalities in Jefferson and Berkeley Counties.
Senator Blair has been strongly opposed to West Virginia state funding of the MARC train, but perhaps his opposition might ease if there were significant financial contributions made by local governments in Jefferson and Berkeley Counties. The city of Martinsburg and the town of Harpers Ferry have officially offered financial support for MARC in the past, and I commend them for it.
I have strongly supported MARC for 35 years. I think it benefits far more than just the approximately 500 riders who live in the two easternmost counties of our state. The first West Virginia state subsidy came in 1984—my first year as a member of the Legislature. We got that subsidy because I and three other democrats (Delegate Tom Steptoe of Jefferson County, Delegate Patrick Murphy of Berkeley County, and State Senator Sondra Lucht of Berkeley County) openly challenged the then-democratic leadership of the Legislature and obtained the appropriation. It was only $200,000, but that was 1984 and there were only 200 riders then.
The West Virginia Department of Transportation says there are only 200 riders now. That’s absurd. I think they’ve done a lousy job of counting the riders who board in West Virginia, and those West Virginians who board in Brunswick. More West Virginians now board in Brunswick than a few years ago, because of the “surcharge” placed on boardings in West Virginia. The parking lot in Brunswick was recently expanded and is still full.
If enough people come to this hearing, I think we might be able to prevent disaster. Governor Justice and those other folks need to see how broad the support is for MARC, even among those who don’t use the service.
— Mr. Doyle represents Jefferson County in the WV House of Delegates—District 67.