How to Use the MARC Train in Washington, DC and Baltimore


Getting from Baltimore to Washington, D.C. can be a hassle even though the two metropolitan areas are so close. Accessing the heart of D.C. can be especially troublesome for those who are unfamiliar with our nation's capital and its chronic traffic congestion. An alternative to sitting in traffic along the capital beltway or on I-95 is to take the MARC commuter train. With two lines connecting Washington, D.C. to Baltimore, this travel method is a comfortable alternative.

Things You'll Need

  • MARC train ticket
  • MARC train map

Visit the MARC website to view the schedules and maps to find the transportation option that best fits your needs.

Review the commuter lines. Two of the three MARC commuter lines connect Baltimore to Washington, D.C. The third connects Washington, D.C. to western Maryland and West Virginia. The two Baltimore-D.C. commuter lines are the Camden line and the Penn line. Both end up at Union Station in Washington, D.C., but there are two stations in Baltimore. Camden Station is on the east side of Camden Yards ballpark. Penn Station is about 15 blocks north of the Inner Harbor in between Charles St. and St. Paul St.

Choose a commuter line. If you live between Baltimore and Washington, D.C., then choosing your commuter line is easy. However, if you are leaving or arriving at Baltimore, the choice is a little trickier. Weigh departure times, proximity of your home/destination to the stations and average lengths of the train ride when deciding which station fits you the best. Both Penn and Camden stations have easy access to Baltimore's light rail system and the MTA bus system.

Understand your options. The Penn line is the more traveled line. The train cars are newer. There are generally more train cars per departure time. Your scheduled travel time will usually be shorter than the Camden line by about 10 to 15 minutes. Additionally, you will be less likely to experience a delay. Freight trains are more common on the Camden line. To compound the issue, there are only two tracks on the Camden line, while there are always at least three tracks on the Penn line between Baltimore and Washington, D.C. Lastly, the Penn line offers trains throughout the day, while the Camden line only offers trains in the early morning until about 9 a.m. and from the late afternoon until the late evening.

Be aware that the ticket office at Camden station closes around noon. If you need to purchase a ticket and there is no ticketing station or ticketing machine, you may purchase a ticket on the train from a conductor. They usually come around after every stop to check tickets. If there was no ticketing station, then there is no additional fee for purchasing a ticket on the train. Otherwise, there will be an extra charge for not using the ticketing booth.

Consider purchasing weekly or monthly tickets. In addition to being priced at a discount, they will also count as weekly or monthly passes for Baltimore's light rail system, MTA bus system and metro. They also count as bus passes on the Washington, D.C. bus system as long as the bus line crosses into Maryland at some point. They do not count as passes on the Washington, D.C. metro system.

Tips & Warnings

  • Purchase a Student Advantage Card if you are a student. This gives you a 15 percent discount on weekly and monthly passes.
  • Each MARC commuter train usually has one quiet car. No cell phone calls or loud conversations are permitted.
  • Each MARC commuter train usually has one quiet car. No cell phone calls or loud conversations are permitted. If you forget, the riders will be quick to remind you.

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