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August 19, 2013

Progress Can Be Painful



I am nothing if not an optimist.  After toiling as a rail advocate for almost two decades, nothing surprises me or dissuades me.  A few examples…
This week Metro-North announced a new timetable, one so hastily launched that they won’t even have paper copies available ‘til after Labor Day.  Why the hurry?  Because this summer has been horrendous for on-time service… but with good reason.
Metro-North is justifiably proud of 98+% on-time performance record (give or take their 6 minute margin of error).  But long postponed and badly needed track work, especially in the Bronx, has screwed up everything since July 1st.  Trains, especially at rush hour, have regularly been 10+ minutes late as two of the four tracks are out of service.
The solution?  A new timetable showing longer (more realistic) running times until the work is done.  Your train won’t run any faster, but you won’t be able to complain about being late, at least on paper.
At first this may seem like a self-serving trick, but in this case I think the railroad is right.
The track work is necessary.  If last May’s derailment in Fairfield taught us nothing it certainly showed the need for maintenance.  As I asked one fellow rider grousing about the delays, “what do you want… a fast ride or a safe one?”
The track work and slower running times will be in effect through the fall.  Let’s all be patient and let the railroad finish its work.
A huge plus for commuters is the recent opening of the West Haven station. After more than a decade and $130 million in expenditures, this gorgeous new station with 12 car-length platforms and 658 parking spaces will finally fill the nine-mile service gap between Milford and New Haven stations.  The station will serve 85 trains each weekday, 56 on the weekends.
Artist Rendering:  West Haven station
The new station is proof that things can get better thanks to the actions of even one person.  Local businessman Michael Meruciano petitioned for this station starting in 2000 and single-handedly fought for its creation for more than a decade.  He deserves a medal for his perseverance, though every local, state and a few national politicians will likely take credit.
Speaking of which… we are still waiting for more news on the re-formed CT Rail Commuter Council, successor to the 26-year-old CT Metro-North Rail Commuter Council (on which I served as Chairman).  Governor Malloy’s proposal to revamp the Council became law this spring and called for the naming of the new Council’s members by August 1st.
I’m happy to report that I was the first member appointed (thanks to State Rep and Minority Leader Larry Cafero) and so far five other ‘old’ Council members have also been appointed.
The Commuter Council hasn’t met since last June (when our meeting was boycotted by Metro-North and the CDOT) and we’re anxious to get the new group up and running soon.
Only problem is, Governor Malloy and several other lawmakers have missed the August 1st deadline for appointing new members, leaving us in limbo.  Why the rush to reform the old Commuter Council if they can’t meet their own legislative deadline for appointing members to a new one?

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