Nearly one year after the Halethorpe MARC train station was rebuilt, ridership has increased slightly, but parking continues to plague commuters.
Dozens of commuters waited to catch a southbound train to work in Washington, D.C. during the extended rush hour, which begins at 4:42 a.m. and ends at 8:22 a.m.
Field Blauveld, 55, a recent Los Angeles, Ca. transplant who lives in Reisterstown, said he's been using the train for the past two months to commute to his job in D.C.
"I think it's great — there's plenty of parking," said Blauveld, as he waited for the 7:12 a.m. train. "It's much easier to commute to D.C. this way."
While those who caught trains before 7:28 a.m. said there was plenty of parking, those who travel after 7:30 a.m. have difficulty finding a spot.
Owings Mills resident Jamonne Driver, 41, said it's a regular problem for him, so his wife drops him off at the station.
"After 7:30 [a.m.] you can't find parking," Driver said.
The grand opening of the new train station on Aug. 12, 2013, brought a number of upgrades including: two new 700-foot-long, high-level platforms, a pedestrian bridge, new elevators, handicap accessible sidewalks and ramps and a Kiss-and-Ride drop-off area.
Since the improvements, the MTA has seen a slight bump in ridership, but it hasn't grown significantly, said Paul Shepard, a spokesman for the Maryland Transit Authority (MTA).
"The issue is a lack of parking," Shepard said.
According to a 2013 MTA press release, the station is one of the five busiest stops on the Penn Line and is used by 1,300 passengers each day. The average weekday ridership increased by 24 percent between fiscal year 2007 and fiscal year 2013, the release said.
Shepard said it's possible riders could see future improvements made.
"Nothing is off the table as far as improvements to the station," Shepard said.
Those hoping that the renovated station would be bring train riders into the business district of Arbutus have been disappointed with commuters, who seldom spend money in the area.
Blauveld said he never stops to shop in downtown Arbutus, preferring to head straight home.
"There's nothing that would make me want to go there, besides the train," he said.
Bryan Rixford, 35, who resides in Canton, was trying to catch the 7:28 a.m. train to D.C. He works at nearby University of Maryland, Baltimore County, and was using the train for the second day.
"It's more convenient than I thought it would be," Rixford said.
Rixford said he appreciates the "small town" charm the business district of Arbutus has to offer, but prefers spending time in his Baltimore City neighborhood.
"I can't see myself leaving the coziness of my corner to spend much time here in Arbutus," Rixford said, adding that many of the businesses seem geared toward an older crowd.
The station has also been convenient for local residents of Arbutus, like Nicole Gray, 37, who waited for the 7:28 southbound train to Washington, D.C. where she works.
She said the ADA (Americans with Disabilities Act) compliant ramps and elevators make it much easier to access the station.
"It wasn't handicap accessible before, and I had issues getting on the train," Gray said, explaining that she had temporarily injured her foot. "Now it's a lot better."
And for recent college graduate Kelsey Holden, 22, of Catonsville, the MARC provides a way to get to her first job in D.C.
"It sure beats traffic," Holden said.Copyright © 2014, The Baltimore Sun