Is Westminster Ready for the MARC Train?

Karla Holland

Staff Reporter

The MARC train is Maryland’s primary commuter train system consisting of three branches. The Brunswick Line reaches west to Frederick Maryland and Martinsburg, West Virginia. The Penn Line travels east to Perryville in Cecil County, Maryland. The Camden Line connects Baltimore to Washington DC. Carroll County is the only county in Central Maryland with no physical connections to the state mass transit system.

If anything, the Marc train would prove essential to one of Westminster’s relative life sources–McDaniel College. Every year, students embark on a journey from hitching a ride from a friend, to train hopping from the Metro to the light rail before reaching the Amtrak itself. Since the Marc train already travels through the same stations as Amtrak, its inclusion would reduce a lot of these obstacles for out-of-state students without cars. Unfortunately, many graduations may come and go before McDaniel Students can enjoy the realization of a Westminster MARC train station.

The issue regarding Mass Transit in the County has less to do with basic necessity and more with the values of the local residents. For instance, there is currently a struggle between those who seek to preserve the county’s untouched rural character and those who believe it should adapt to the growing urbanization. At this year’s annual State of the County Luncheon, Commissioner Michael Zimmer explained that one side prefers national businesses to locate branches (and attract workers) into the county while others prefer to accommodate commuters. He added that with the onslaught of the recent recession is causing many residents to seek work outside the county. One side appears to be winning this long-time debate once and for all.

If Mr. Zimmer is right, and the county needs to meet these needs soon, there are alternatives to MARC. For example, as of February 2, 2009, York, Pennsylvania’s Rabbit Transit announced the launch of a commuter bus service which takes people across the state line to Timonium, Maryland in order to relieve traffic on I-83. Carroll has the CATS bus, which is efficient if a student needs to get around town, but there are still limits even to this long time county service. The CATS bus, along with the local gypsy cab services in the County (two so far) do not cross the county line, even for a fee. This fact becomes more frustrating knowing that cab services from neighboring Baltimore, Howard, and Frederick counties are willing to cross into Carroll if necessary.

For now, cars rule the county, but not all people drive, especially students and workers. Businesses will only go where the environment accommodates them and their workers’ welfare. Many students at McDaniel don’t even have cars, so what are they to do? If Carroll County wants to preserve their businesses, and their prime institution, they will have to give in order to get.