Travelers on Maryland Rail Commuter (MARC) trains should be prepared to reach deeper into their pockets starting Oct. 1, when the Mass Transit Administration proposes to raise base fares.
The proposal, announced yesterday, calls for an increase of up to 19 percent. The fare for a one-way ticket would go up 25 cents, and a round-trip ticket would cost an additional 50 cents. For example, a one-way ticket for a trip from the MARC station in Aberdeen to Union Station in Washington would increase from $7.25 to $7.50, while a round-trip ticket would increase from $13.00 to $13.50.
The discount for monthly tickets would be reduced from 50 percent to 43 percent, while the weekly discount would fall from 35 percent to 25 percent. For example, a monthly ticket from Union Station to Baltimore-Washington International Airport would cost $113 instead of $93. A weekly ticket from Washington to Camden Station in Baltimore would cost $39.50, up from $32.50.
James F. Buckley, MTA deputy administrator, said the proposed fare increase is necessary. "Our costs have increased, and there's also been expanded service to meet the commuters' needs," he said.
Mr. Buckley said the number of daily riders on the MARC system has increased from approximately 8,700 in 1988 to 18,500 in 1993 -- an increase of 110 percent.
"It's been a significant growth in that period of time," he said. ". . . It's a big system and it's growing."
The MARC system is comprised of three lines. The Brunswick Line connects Washington to western stations such as Brunswick and Martinsburg, W. Va.; the Penn Line operates between Perryville in Cecil County through downtown Baltimore and on to Washington: and the Camden Line connects Camden Station in downtown Baltimore to Washington.
MARC fares were last raised in April 1988. Since then, Mr. Buckley said, service improvements have included the addition of Perryville to the Penn Line in 1991, expanded midday service along the Penn Line and an increase in the number of daily runs throughout the system from 36 to 70.
Mr. Buckley also said the agency proposed the rate increase to comply with state law that requires MARC to recover at least half of its operating revenue from fares. Without the increase, MARC would recover only 47 percent of its costs from fares.
MTA will hold six public hearings in September to analyze public comment on the proposal. The date of the sixth hearing, which is to be held in Brunswick, has not been set.
State officials considered proposing the rate increase last year but
decided against it because, Mr. Buckley said, "we were not satisfied with our quality of service. . . . We had several comments from customers who were not satisfied."
One key element Mr. Buckley noted was on-time performance. Troubled by an 86 percent performance rate that dipped into the 70s last year, MARC has since upgraded its performance to 92 percent this year as a result of increasing maintenance on the trains and setting up a MARC operations monitoring center.
L Mr. Buckley said the goal is 95 percent on-time performance.
"The service will continue to improve," he said.
Plans include increasing the number of parking spaces within the system from 11,000 to 16,000 and overhauling 19 of the 26 locomotives that pull the coaches.
The MTA has scheduled five public hearings in September to discuss the proposed rate change with the public:
Wednesday, Sept. 8, 7 p.m. to 8:30 p.m., High Point High School auditorium, 3601 Powder Mill Road, Beltsville.
* Thursday, Sept. 9, 7:30 p.m. to 9 p.m., Aberdeen Commissioners' meeting room, 3 W. Bel Air Ave. and Route 40, Aberdeen.
* Monday, Sept. 13, 11:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m., first floor of Metropolitan Washington Council of Governments Training Center, 777 N. Capital St., N.E., Washington.
* Monday, Sept. 13, 7 p.m. to 8:30 p.m., Executive Office Building lobby level auditorium, 101 Monroe St., Rockville.
Tuesday, Sept. 14, 7 p.m. to 8:30 p.m., University of Baltimore Langsdale Auditorium, Oliver Street and Maryland Avenue, Baltimore.