BERKELEY COUNTY, W.Va. (WDVM) — Regional planners are looking to make it easy for residents to commute to the Washington D.C. area from West Virginia. Why? That’s where the jobs are.
There’s already a MARC commuter railroad in place, but the regional growth calls for even more innovative options.
“You see the growth in jobs that’s happening in Northern Virginia as we see Amazon HQ headquarters moving into Crystal City,” said Matt Mullenax, executive director for the Hagerstown-Eastern Panhandle Metropolitan Planning Organization. “All the increased opportunities for travel from Dulles International Airport, folks from the eastern panhandle are looking more than ever to northern Virginia.”
A bus system is already in place for the region, but planners seek to expand the reach of the route to the bustling Washington, D.C. market.
“With more and more people moving into the area they require transportation to the greater DC area — metro area — a commuter bus is a great example of how we can move forward,” said Elaine Bartoldson, executive director for the Eastern Panhandle Transit Authority.
Bartoldson says beyond the commute to the dynamic job market in suburban northern Virginia, the transit authority can support tourism, for example, as sightseers visit historic sights in Harpers Ferry and Shepherdstown, for instance.
“All those things can be accessed by public transit and I think that’s part of our plan for the eastern panhandle especially Berkeley and Jefferson counties, is to be part of that growth,” said Bartoldson.
Mullenax and Bartoldson are asking commuters to design a system that works best for them
“We’re really interested in understanding preferred departure times, preferred arrival times, where folks are headed to on their work, what would be a reasonable fare and what schedules might work best for them,” said Mullenax.
The eastern panhandle online survey concludes on Wednesday. Service to northern Virginia could begin as early as 18 months. Bartoldson said the expansion of commuter service from the eastern panhandle will include Wi-Fi for passengers with charging portals and “luxury” seats, a step-up from the usual seating on public transit.