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marcMARC is one of the few commuter rail operations in the US that still does not permit any on-board bike access. Not even the off-peak and reverse-commute runs. By comparison, some heavily used systems like BART Caltrain offer considerable bike accommodation — even during peak hours.

One of the excuses heard from MARC staff is that bikes could become a lethal “projectile” in the event of a collision. This is one of those myths that just won’t die. There has been decades of operational experience all over the world, and I have yet to find a single instance of a passenger being impaled by a flying bicycle. And that isn’t to say it isn’t theoretically possible, but then again it is theoretically possible for anything onboard a train to become a projectile — strollers, luggage, iPads, or other passengers.

Even if one accepts the bike-projectile-of-death theory, there always the option of installing bike racks. And what better opportunity than a $153 million order for new Bombardier bi-levels:

Governor Martin O’Malley announced today that the Maryland Transit Administration (MTA) is investing $153 million to acquire fifty-four (54) new “multi-level” passenger rail cars for the MARC commuter rail system. The cars, manufactured by Bombardier Transport, will replace older cars that have reached the end of their service life, allowing MARC to provide additional seating capacity while expanding its existing fleet. The Board of Public Works approved the purchase today.

Seating capacity on board is greater than those of the cars that they will replace. They will come in three variations. Fifteen (15) new “cab cars” that contain an engineer’s compartment for operation will seat 127 passengers. Thirty-four (34) “trailer cars” will hold 142 passengers, and five (5) cars containing bathroom facilities will hold 132 passengers. The new cars will have a useful life of up to 40 years. When they come online, MTA will retire twenty-six (26) single-level passenger cars and twelve (12) Gallery style cars. Overall, the MARC fleet will expand by sixteen (16) cars.

Oh, and the new cars will have zero bike racks. Nor any other kind of on-board bike access.

80% of the funding came from the Federal government. Federal transit grants come with a long checklist of requirements, including ADA, Buy-America, and Civil Rights. Bike accommodation really needs to become part of the Federal grant approval process. No Federal transit dollars should pay for this kind of crap.

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