Sunday, November 21, 2010

St. Denis MARC: Huh?

Now I admit that I knew very little about the Relay/St. Denis area before doing research to write this post. I will even admit that I don't know an awful lot about it now as I write it but from a planning prospective I can come to certain conclusions about how a MARC Rail should and should not operate and even how a Neighborhood Rail Line should and should not operate. So, when I began to research the St. Denis MARC Station located in Relay even someone who doesn't know the area that well and saw that the MARC Station in question, I said to myself; Huh?I always thought of Relay as a small neighborly Community that was once very connected to its surroundings which consist of Elkridge, Halethorpe, and Catonsville. This was very true until the area became essentially buried with the construction of Interstates throughout the latter half of the 20th Century. Evidence of this can be found with "stubs" of Rolling Road that were connected in the pre interstate days. Today the Relay/St. Denis Area can only be reached through Clarke Boulevard and South St both from Route 1.
So why put a MARC Station here? This isn't one of those questions that I ask and then I answer myself a sentence or two later, I'm asking you the reader or you the MTA; Why put a MARC Station here? MARC as you know is very regional and doesn't have nearly as many stops as the Metro or Light Rail lines because of this. Its hours are roughly that of rush hour suggesting that its function is solely to serve the needs of the commuter going from Baltimore to DC and all points in between.I'd like to take this opportunity to point out that MARC has two separate lines that serve the Baltimore and Washington area; The Camen Line and the Penn Line. The Camden Line ends Downtown at Camden Yards while the Penn Line goes through the City and points east all the way to Harford County. The St. Denis Station is on the Camden Line. Although both lines serve the Baltimore Washington area they don't meet up. There is a point where the two lines cross paths but contrary to common sense, there's no Transfer Station. Where do they cross paths? Not far from here at all. The two lines run very near each other here in Southwestern Baltimore County, about a mile away from St. Denis on the Penn Line there's a Halethorpe MARC Station that has very high visibility, ridership, and accessibility for Commuters. The lot could be bigger but for a transit advocate like myself I consider that to be one of those "good problems."So why add another line with the Halethorpe Station right there? Well like I said before the two lines only cross paths in this general area and there's no transfer point to speak of. My educated guess is that Commuters in this area who commute to the southern serving points of the Camden Line wanted a stop because the Penn Line won't take them to their ultimate destination. Sounds like a logical argument that would warrant a new Station in Southwestern Baltimore County for the Camden Line, after all, The northern terminus at Camden Yards and the Dorsey Station a the Howard County/Anne Arundel County Line are too far even for a regional Commuter Line like MARC.
So that's what the MTA did, they added a new Station (pictured above)in Southwestern Baltimore County along the Camden Line. Great! Excellent! I'm sure the MTA chose a great visible non residential Commuter friendly site for the new Station along Washington Boulevard in Arbutus, Halethorpe, or Lansdowne where the rider "catch" area is very high. Huh? they put in the Relay/St. Denis area? As you can already tell by the pictures of the area that is hardly the place for a MARC Station or even Neighborhood Rail like that of the Light Rail. You can barely call it a Station, there are probably about 25 parking spaces for cars suggesting a very low rider "catch" number. So why even add it? I think the MTA didn't want to spend the money to put in a proper Station at a proper location but at the same time they didn't want to appear blind to the concerns of their riders, so they put a joke of a Station in an even bigger joke of a location. Now if this MARC Station did take off and obtain a high rider "catch" the MTA would have a lot of explaining to do the residents of the Relay/St. Denis Community, like Commuters have parked their cars in the driveways of private homes and why their kids can't play outside anymore because cars are speeding through their Neighborhood. I say close down the Station and put it somewhere else that's better off for everyone. Otherwise, I will continue to say; Huh?


Sue J said...

"they put a joke of a Station in an even bigger joke of a location"

I respect your ideas for an overall transportation plan, but you should do a little more research about an area before writing something like this statement above. The Camden Line is the oldest passenger rail line in the United States, and St Denis is one of the original stations. That's why it was put there. No joke.

There was originally a actual station building there, which fell into disrepair in the 1970'3. It was similar to those found at other stops along the Penn Line. The history of the neighborhood surrounding the St Denis stop is full of references to the railway.

Chris Z said...

Likewise. It seems you don't understand that "Relay" is where they used to switch the horses on the rail line from Baltimore to Ellicot City. That said, it's an old station, quite nice, and for the riders who pick it up there a much better way to get to DC than dealing with that zoo known as Halethorpe.

Anonymous said...

Your comment shows a great deal of ignorance about the history of Relay. Relay was the first stop on the B&O Railroad at the beginning. The Relay House was the first train hotel. Lincoln stopped there on the way to Antietam. The Relay 'stop' close to the amazingly engineered and beautiful St Thomas Viaduct, the only railroad bridge of its kind in the world. A few years ago there was a suggestion to close the Relay stop but there was an outcry because if for no other reason it violated a sense of history. Look it up...