WEST BALTIMORE, Md. - Gov. Martin O'Malley made a big announcement during an event Wednesday that's aimed to give commuters and visitors more public transit options.
Weekend MARC service on the Penn Line will begin on Dec. 7.
"It's important to have a link between Baltimore and Washington, D.C.," O'Malley said. "Weekend service is not only about people who want to go on a day trip to see the sites. It's also about the people who have jobs. That weekend service is not just about tourism, it's also getting people from home to work."
Nine round trips will run between Union Station, New Carrollton, Bowie, Odenton, BWI Airport, Halethorpe, West Baltimore, Baltimore Penn Station and Martin State Airport. Southbound trains will run from 7:35 a.m. to 9:15 p.m. on Saturday and 9:15 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. Sunday. Northbound trains will run from 9:02 a.m. to 10:35 p.m. on Saturday and 10:40 a.m. to 7:00 p.m. on Sunday.
"The more we can get people accustomed to using MARC and other forms of mass transit, not only will they use it Monday through Friday, they will also use it as a means of transportation for non-work related choices on the weekend," said Lt. Gov. Anthony Brown, who is running for governor next year.
"I think people will use the Penn Line on the weekend. And as more Marylanders look at MARC as an option, we will see ridership go up," he said.
A one-way ticket will cost $7. It'll cost about $46 million to run the new service, money that's coming from Maryland's new gas tax.
Howard County Executive Ken Ulman has been pushing for the weekend service for several years. Most Howard County residents commute north to Baltimore or south toward the District during the week and often want to go into the city on the weekend.
"Weekend service is a big deal," Ulman said. "If you're in D.C. and want to get to Baltimore on a weekend and go to the Aquarium or vice versa and want to get to the monuments and the Smithsonian, you ought to be able to do it with mass transit. Whether you're in Baltimore, Howard County or Anne Arundel County, there will be more opportunities."
Ulman said a lot of people will use the Penn Line on the weekend and he hopes one day that weekend MARC service will be also available on the Camden Line.
"In Howard County, a lot of people drive to Greenbelt or the Silver Spring Metro station to go into D.C. If you're able to go to the Dorsey, Savage or Laurel MARC station and hop on a train on the weekend and go to the National Zoo, Washington Monument or even a sporting event, then it's a good thing," he said.
Ulman poked fun at the fact that weekend MARC service will allow Ravens fans from the suburbs to come see the Superbowl champions without driving. Someone in the crowd yelled, "Redskins!" to which Ulman said, "you can go see them too."
Part of the new upgrades to make weekend MARC service happen, along with additional service on the Camden line, is the purchase of 10 new locomotives and several dozen new rail cars to increase capacity. The Maryland Transit Administration has new double-decker cars already in service and expects 54 new cars to arrive during 2014.
Maryland Transportation Secretary Jim Smith also points out that weekend MARC service will also help passengers traveling to and from BWI Airport.
"About 45 percent of our BWI-Marshall travelers come from the DC area. Having weekend service is going to be very helpful for their scheduling of flights when they go away for a weekend and come back on a Sunday. So I think it'll have a lot of value for people throughout the D.C. and Baltimore area," he said.
About 25,000 passengers use the Penn Line in an average month, which comprises about 70 percent of the overall MARC ridership.
Gov. O'Malley has pledged to double transit usage by 2020. Lt. Gov. Anthony Brown said he'll continue that work if he were elected next year.
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