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MARC news could be worse

It was another miserable morning on MARC -- with switch problems and locomotive malfunctions plaguing the morning commute on the Penn Line.

Yet it  could have been worse.

MTA spokeswoman Angela White reports that this morning's woes were the result of a switch problem at  Edgewood, which forced a northbound MARC train to stop there while an Amtrak train carried passengers on to Aberdeen and Perryvile. Switch problems are an Amtrak issue, so  MARC deserves a pass on that one.

The engine problem occurred near BWI when a malfunctioning water level sensor caused one of  MARC's diesel engines to automatically turn off. This is mainly good news because of what wasn't the problem.

White went on to explain that the problem was not a recurrence of the previous day's failure of one of  MARC's four recently repaired AEM-7 electric locomotives, which until recent monthhs had been out of service -- putting the entire  burden on MARC's six less-than-reliable HHP electric engines. 

And she held out  hope that the addition of MARC's new MP 36 diesels would help relieve some problems and speed the retirement of some of MARC's older diesel engines.

At this time, we consider yesterday’s malfunction of the AEM 7 an isolated incident.  The locomotive had not experienced any problems and had been running very well since it returned.  AMTRAK is working with us to resolve the issue.

Fortunately, the MP 36 diesels are coming on line and currently we have 2 of them running in the midst of their 30-day evaluation.  While the old diesels used last summer could fill in when the HHP’s went down, the MP 36 diesels are powerful enough to pull the Penn Line trains with close to the full complement of passenger cars usually attached to the electrics.  

Since the health of MARC's locomotives essentially controls the lives of its commuters, perhaps  the MTA should come up wiith a way for riders to more closely track the health of each of these engines  -- much in the way that followers of the Baltimore Ravens can get reports on the health of players. Why can't MARC put a roster of locomotives on line with updates on which are available to play and which are on the disabled list and why?

It might not improve MARC riders' commuting experience, but  it would give them something new to bet on while stranded on the tracks.

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