Railroads and highways overwhelmed by women's marchers

MARC adds six trains to regular service to move people to D.C. for the Women's March.

Thousands of Marylanders and others mobbed Penn Station in Baltimore on Saturday en route to the Women's March in Washington, overwhelming the regular train service.

They waited in lines that snaked from the tracks out to Charles Street and around to St. Paul Street to catch MARC trains that were packed to capacity and Amtrak lines that had sold out Friday. Some cheered and chanted and waved signs.

They wore pink hats, carried signs and even a blow-up doll wearing a Donald Trump wig. They ranged in age from toddlers to 80-year-olds. Many came for a single purpose: to express solidarity against a Republican president and Congress they view as hostile to women and civil rights.

But most had to wait a while for a train.

The Maryland Transit Administration put six extra MARC trains into service in addition to the one that had been scheduled for a 7:30 a.m. departure, said Suhair Al Khatib, MTA deputy administrator. Most left from Penn Station, but one that departed from Martin State Airport didn't even stop in Baltimore because it was already full.

Each train carried about 1,200 people. So before 10 a.m., nearly 8,000 people had been loaded and moved out of the Baltimore area, far more than had been anticipated, he said.

"It's like six Southwest Airlines planes loading at the same time," Al Khatib said. "There is no schedule."

Amtrak spokeswoman Kimberly Woods said many trains were sold out Saturday and Sunday, and Amtrak added trains and seating capacity on Northeast Regional and Acela Express trains to D.C.

Argentine Craig, a retired social sciences professor from Baltimore, was among the crowd waiting at Penn Station.

"It's more than what I expected," said Craig, 80.

About 11:15 a.m. Saturday, the MTA tweeted that "MARC has cleared all passengers from Penn Station." The administration added that a train heading south had "plenty of room to accommodate passengers at all other stops."

Helene O'Brien, 63, of Cambridge, Mass., and her daughter were among hundreds waiting on the MARC train platform near BWI Thurgood Marshall Airport.

"We were here almost an hour early for the 7:50 [a.m.] train. It flew by and didn't pick anyone up," O'Brien said. "They told us the next train would be here at 8:45. There's no way. They said they added cars."

Many were still on the stairways at the station, O'Brien said. "They can't even get onto the platform," she said.

Similarly long lines were reported for D.C. Metro, and cars, vans and buses jammed Interstate 95, which was stop-and-go starting 17 miles north of the Capital Beltway about 8:30 a.m.

By midday, MARC estimated that it had carried 10,000 people to D.C. Amtrak put its number at 6,000.

Baltimore Sun reporter Eileen Canzian contributed to this article.

ddonovan@baltsun.com

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