On Monday, riders of the MARC Penn Line experienced long delays and disruptions after an Amtrak train struck and killed a person on tracks between Washington and New Carrollton. MARC issued a statement on Wednesday outlining what happened and responding to passenger concerns.
Here is the statement in full:
We apologize for the major delays that our customers experienced on the Penn Line Monday evening. We know that this disruption caused significant inconvenience and that while the incident itself was out of our control, there were things that we could have done better to respond to the incident. MARC Train management met with Amtrak and Bombardier management today to review how the situation was handled and ways we can do things better in the next major disruption.
At 4:00pm, an Amtrak Acela Express train struck and killed a person trespassing on the railroad tracks near the Anacostia River Bridge, between Washington and New Carrollton. When an incident like this occurs [in] the area, including tracks not occupied by the train involved in the incident, is treated as a crime scene and all rail traffic is stopped. There were two Penn Line trains north of the incident and all other rush hour Penn Line trains and operating crews were, like our passengers, stuck at Union Station. The scene was cleared for trains to depart Washington around 6:50pm, but with all Amtrak and MARC trains in both directions sharing one track, it took a long time to get passengers moving. One takeaway that we identified in our discussions today is that our messages to customers should have been clearer that this would be a lengthy multi-hour delay with no clear estimate for when service would be restored. That will be incorporated into future messaging.
We have received feedback from customers on four main issues: lack of capacity on Camden Line trains, why passengers were told to go to New Carrollton, MARC Tracker not working, and that they did not receive email or text alert updates.
Camden Line capacity – As many passengers as possible were accommodated on the Camden Line, but Camden Line ridership is much lower than Penn Line ridership and, accordingly, trains are smaller. There is limited excess capacity on these trains. We agree that the Camden Line crews could have done a better job communicating to Amtrak ushers about the status of capacity on the trains. Bombardier agreed and will instruct their Conductors accordingly. MARC Train is exploring options to use larger trainsets for Camden Line trains, in the event of a future major Penn Line service disruption.
Sending passengers to New Carrollton – In an effort to get passengers to their destination as soon as possible, Amtrak turned the two trainsets that were north of the incident at New Carrollton and operated them north to Baltimore and Perryville. However, there was not enough time budgeted for customers to ride Metrorail from Washington to New Carrollton to board these trains. When a similar incident occurs in the future, we will allow at least one hour for passengers to ride Metro to New Carrollton. There were also significant crowd control issues at New Carrollton and MARC Train and Amtrak agree that every effort needs to be made to get managers, Customer Service staff, or police to New Carrollton for crowd management. This can be difficult during a service disruption and with lengthy highway driving times in the middle of rush hour. Finally, MARC Train continues to express our concerns about the condition of the escalators at New Carrollton station and will work with Amtrak, who owns and maintains the station, on solutions to the escalator failures at New Carrolton.
MARC Tracker – During a service disruption significantly more users than normal log on to MARC Tracker at the same time, requiring additional bandwidth to handle the demand. We recognize that the current MARC Tracker system cannot handle the bandwidth load of a service disruption. Our vendor recently moved MARC Tracker to a new server with improved diagnostic capabilities and the data generated during Monday’s disruption identified a configuration problem within the MARC Tracker code. This problem has been corrected, and additional bandwidth added to MARC Tracker, so passengers should see better reliability. Going forward, we are working with our vendor to update MARC Tracker to current technology standards – including providing a GTFS feed that can be used by app designers.
Lack of Emails/texts – Passengers were updated by E-alerts, website postings, and Twitter. A total of 21 alerts were sent from when the incident began until Train 452 (last train) departed Washington. The system is working and sending messages. If you are signed up for alerts but are not receiving alerts, you should:
—Log into your account at www.mtamarylandalerts.com and ensure that your email addresses and/or text-cell numbers are correct.
—Ensure that the address the alerts are sent from is setup in your email system is in their “safe” list/anti-spam/ok or approved email address list. Note that the first “alert” is singular while the second is plural.
—We strongly encourage passengers to set up their accounts to send MARC Train alerts to your personal email addresses as opposed to a work address. If it is necessary to send the alerts to your work address, passengers should contact their IT department to ensure that is not flagged as spam, junk, or blocked. Again, note that the first “alert” is singular while the second is plural.
Once again, we thank you for your patience yesterday evening, especially given the difficult and tragic nature of this incident. Thank you for riding MARC Train.