Quitting time - And the daily commute home is a tedious task for most. Unless, you happen to ride the Maryland Transit Administration’s MARC train. FOX 5 first showed you what many dubbed the “party train.” Back in 2006, our cameras caught commuters headed home, in full party mode.
On the Penn Line, we found some double fisting, a beer in one hand, tequila in the other. One passenger told us at the time, “I have seen this woman strip down, start trying to perform lap dances on people.”
On the Brunswick Line, margaritas were the drink of choice in one car. Gin and tonics flowed in another, with no one to cut drinkers off before some of them got off the train and into their cars.
The drinking is totally legal because of a loophole in state law allowing food and beverages, even alcohol, on MARC. At the time, MTA vowed to increase police presence.
But Richard Raione, who has been riding MARC the last year and a half, says some passengers are still turning rush hour into happy hour.
“Sometimes, you just cringe at the things that they’re saying with no regard for their colleagues,” says Raione. “I’ve seen beer get splashed onto the lower area of that double decker rail car.”
FOX 5 obtained complaints from other passengers to MTA in just the last year.
“Dropped bottles from the upper level of the train car.”
“I had my sister’s kids with me and the three were using foul language.”
“After drinking, they get in their cars and drive on our highways.”
“Shoving, swearing, vulgar comments.”
Richard Raione thinks the drinking should be banned, but worries it might take something more drastic.
“It would have to be a drunk driving-related incident. And hopefully at that point, there would be some action,” says Raione.
To find out what’s really going on, FOX 5 hopped back on the MARC over the last few weeks. We didn’t spot much hard liquor, but beer was definitely flowing. One Marc passenger told us, “They just drink beer man. Just going home, having a good time.”
It included one group downing 40-ounce beers in less than an hour. The conductor even stopped to chat before they passed around one more 12-ounce beer. One passenger even kept his drink inside his coat pocket.
“The overwhelming majority of our customers behave responsibly,” says Terry Owens with MTA.
Owens says after our original stories, the Secretary of Transportation did order an internal review.
“A committee was formed. They took a look at the policy and did not find enough widespread issues to warrant any changes in the policy,” says Owens.
MARC admits there has been an increase in complaints involving drinking, profanity and physical altercations. One recent incident prompted MARC to send an email to passengers reminding them drinking is “a privilege, not a right.”
“We don’t see this as a widespread problem,” says Owens.
Owens explains that MARC can send out undercover officers on trains if needed, and conductors can remove abusive passengers.
Raione sympathizes with the agency.
“MARC seems to be stuck between a rock and a hard place and the conductors definitely don’t have time to sit there and babysit these folks,” says Raione.
We showed the complaints to Maryland Delegate Kathleen Dumais.
“It’s unfortunate that there may be a few bad apples,” she says.
Dumais sat on the state’s DUI task force.
“If they misbehave on the train, there’s a little bit of who cares. But if these same people are then going to get out and get in their car and drive home, that’s a whole other public safety issue that has to be addressed,” says Dumais.
She plans to investigate whether it is finally time to change the law and shut down the party train for good.
Email sent to MARC Passengers by the Maryland Transit Administration:
A message to MARC passengers regarding alcohol consumption onboard MARC Trains
While consumption of alcoholic beverages is permitted on MARC trains, passengers are reminded that this must be done responsibly. We have seen an increase in the number of complaints about alcohol consumption on trains and disruptive behavior that has included loud talking, profanity, and in some cases, physical altercations that has been associated with drinking.
Consumption of alcohol on MARC trains is a privilege, not a right. The MARC Train Service reserves the right to restrict alcohol consumption if passenger behavior is not appropriate and remove from the train those individuals that fail to abide by MARC rules and guidelines. This includes the use of profanity, refusal to follow instructions from conductors, and intimidation or threats to other passengers.
Passengers are also reminded that drinking and driving do not mix--MTA, State and local law enforcement will enforce drunken driving laws.
We value you as customers and thank you for helping us maintain a safe and pleasant atmosphere on board our trains.
Director, MARC Train Service