MARC riders group calls on O'Malley, MTA to plan special service for Orioles World Series run

An advisory group that advocates for MARC riders in Maryland has called on state officials and local transit operators to plan for special rail service between Baltimore and Washington in the event the Orioles make it to the World Series.

The MARC Riders Advisory Council wrote a letter Thursday to Gov. Martin O'Malley — and sent copies to the Maryland Transit Administration, railroad CSX Transportation and several Maryland legislators — calling the lack of such planning unacceptable.

"If the O's make it to a World Series, the world will be watching, and our state's transportation infrastructure needs to be ready," the council wrote. "Normal train service isn't going to cut muster when a World Series comes to town."

Paul Shepard, an MTA spokesman, said the agency plans to put the request to CSX, which owns the tracks.

"We intend to make a request with the owners of the tracks, which is CSX, to see what steps are necessary to make the special train a reality," Shepard said. "We want to make that happen. We're going to see what we need to do."

CSX and O'Malley's office referred questions to the MTA.

Greg Bader, an Orioles spokesman, said the team supports the idea. The Orioles swept the Detroit Tigers in the American League Division Series and are headed into the American League Championship Series for the first time since 1997 on Friday night in Baltimore, against the Kansas City Royals.

Demand for tickets is "exceedingly high." Capacity at Camden Yards is about 48,000.

"The Orioles would welcome this and other efforts to increase public transportation to and from Orioles games, not just for the postseason, but for the entire baseball season," Bader said. "We have a significant portion of our fan base that could be assisted by an increase in MARC train service to Oriole Park, as was the case when the ballpark opened up until the mid-2000s."

But adding trains to the congested rail corridor is easier said than done. The MTA operates the MARC passenger rail service on tracks it shares with CSX, and any added service would cost money and disrupt carefully choreographed freight operations.

"My understanding is that CSX is the entity that needs to be convinced," said Rafi Guroian, the council's chair emeritus.

Guroian said the MTA could provide "larger-capacity trains and a few extra trains" for northbound World Series service, augmenting existing weekday service and minimizing the impact to regular operations. Postgame southbound service would be special for the games but could function similarly to special service that was provided during President Barack Obama's inaugurations in 2008 and 2012.

Guroian said the council hopes MARC would maintain normal fares — from $4 to $7, depending on distance traveled — but is not opposed to a special ticket that might carry a surcharge to cover the additional service.

In 2012, MARC ran reserved trains for inauguration riders, with $25 fares.

The World Series could run to seven games and is scheduled between Oct. 21 and Oct. 29. Home games for the Orioles would fall on weekdays, on the front and back ends of that time frame.

The riders council said it decided it "had to speak up" about the lack of planning because of the benefits special service would provide. The service would ease parking congestion at the stadium and hotel crowding in the city, limit the number of cars on the road and their emissions, reduce drunken driving on area roads after games, and increase tourism in Baltimore and in other towns with stations along the Camden Line to Washington, the council said.

Shepard said special baseball-related transportation options have been "a subject of discussion" at the MTA ever since the Orioles and the Nationals made the playoffs and the prospect of a Baltimore-Washington World Series arose.

Whether states or cities offer special public transit service during major sporting events — and who will pay for it — is not an issue unique to Baltimore or Maryland. In Washington in recent years, the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority has clashed with Nationals ownership over who would pay for extended Metro service during big games.

On more than one occasion, private partners other than the team have stepped in to provide service.

In September, WMATA announced a partnership with American University to provide special late-night Metro service for baseball fans. In 2012, the online daily deals company Living Social backed the service in a similar partnership.

Guroian said private support for the Orioles service "hasn't come up" in council discussions.

"That said, I know the council would welcome any sort of discussion of that nature," he said.

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