Friday night’s near-hurricane-force winds (with at least one tornado reported) played havoc with MARC riders, many of whom faced hours-long delays getting home when trees fell across the tracks in several locations, virtually stopping all train movement for safety’s sake. Add in the complete power outage that struck Union Station, and you have a recipe for irritation that no one bargains for on a Friday night.
Those of us responsible for e-alerts and social media responses in times of public transportation emergencies were made acutely aware of the frustration our riders experienced, with one particularly poignant poster asking us “what am I supposed to tell my child when he asks what time I’m coming home?” We’re sorry for any difficulty you may have endured, as are all of us at MTA.
That said, we’re pleased to report that MTA was able to put into practice the valuable lessons we’ve learned over the past few years regarding timely communications with our customers. We responded as quickly as we could to Tweeted inquiries, and while it was impossible to deliver instantaneous answers – as it always is – updates were posted on a continuous basis as soon as they were available.
Of course, the safety of our customers is always the first responsibility of MTA, and we thank and congratulate the MARC Train engineers who had the good sense to slow down when they had a hunch there would be trouble ahead. That prudence paid off big-time near the Barnesville Station when the engineer instinctively throttled way back, enabling him to avoid hitting the tree laying across the tracks just around the bend. While we’re sure the passengers didn’t enjoy the delay, it sure beats the derailment that might have followed if safety consciousness hadn’t been such an integral element of our DNA.
MTA and CSX employees also went the extra mile for stranded passengers by transporting them to their final station destinations (including Martinsburg, Point of Rocks and Brunswick) by van, bus and whatever other vehicles were available.
June 1 was the official start to hurricane season, and we sincerely hope that the storms that day were not a harbinger of more rough weather to come. Even if they are, though, we’ll continue to do our best to keep you informed of the latest developments, and to help make sure you get where you’re going. No matter what obstacles Mother Nature throws in our way.