Commentary on transportation in Connecticut and the Northeast by JIM CAMERON, for 19 years a member of the CT Rail Commuter Council.
Jim is also the founder of a new advocacy effort: www.CommuterActionGroup.org
Disclaimer: his comments are only his own. All contents of this blog are (c) Cameron Communications Inc
once said: “Judge me by my actions, not
my words.” So let’s do just that
comparing recent rhetoric to reality when it comes to Metro-North.
EXPANDED SERVICE: During
the election campaign much was made of a promised expansion of off-peak train service,
growing from one train an hour to two.
But when the new timetable came out November 9th riders found
that the 14 newly added weekday trains don’t stop at five stations: Southport, Greens Farms, East Norwalk,
Rowayton and Noroton Heights.
pleas from the CT Commuter Rail
Council, CDOT chose to skip those stations to save ten minutes’ running
time between New Haven and GCT. There
was never an expectation that the new trains would be semi-express, just a
promise of expanded service. What
ADEQUATE SEATING: Though
we now have more rail cars than ever before, thanks to delivery of the new M8s,
many trains still don’t have seats for every passenger. The
Rush hour standees
railroad’s own “Passenger Pledge” promises
every effort to provide adequate seating, and Metro-North’s statistics claim
that 99.6% of all trains have enough cars.
So why the standees?
ON TIME PERFORMANCE: Yes,
should always come first. But
October saw only 86.7% of trains arrive “on time” (defined as up to 6 minutes
late). In the morning rush hour OTP was
only 82%. And this is despite three
timetable changes since the spring, lengthening scheduled running times to
reflect new Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) speed restrictions. They keep moving the ‘target’ and still can’t
get a bulls-eye.
RELIABLE SERVICE: The
new M8 cars are performing well. But
diesel push-pull service on the Danbury and Waterbury branch lines has been
unreliable. September saw several locomotive
fires and break-downs, stranding passengers or forcing “bustitutions” (bus
COURTEOUS EMPLOYEES: Most
Metro-North staff does a great job under often-times difficult
circumstances. But there are clearly
some employees who either hate their jobs, their customers or both. Hardly a week goes by without The Commuter Action Group
hearing complaints about surly conductors snapping at passengers. Yet it’s hard to complain because these
staffers violate railroad rules to always wear their name badges.
been a year since a sleepy engineer drove a train off the tracks in the Bronx,
killing four and injuring 70. As
Metro-North President Joe Giulietti himself acknowledged, the railroad has lost
the trust of its customers. Rebuilding
goodwill, like the infrastructure, will take years.
recent elections have shown Hartford an important fact: the 120,000 daily riders of Metro-North have
Commuter Action Group,
of which I am founder, endorsed only five candidates for election and they were
all winners. (Trust me, there were many
others seeking our endorsement, but they didn’t have the track-records (pun
intended) to warrant our support.)
we backed have long supported mass transit. They have fought for more funding
and understand their commuting constituents’ frustrations. All we
did was remind voting commuters who were their real friends in Hartford versus
those who were just paying lip-service to the issue during a campaign.
I have disagreed with him in the past (and will probably do so again), Governor
Malloy was an easy choice. His opponent
was just the latest dilettante billionaire to be chosen by the GOP (remember
Linda McMahon’s two runs for office costing $97 million?), by-passing
experience political veterans. Tom Foley
was just clueless, saying such things as “we spend too much on mass transit” and surrounding himself with “yes-men” advisors.
Even his fellow Republicans on the ballot couldn’t talk sense into him.
would give Foley or McMahon, neither of whom have ever been elected to
anything, the idea that their track records as CEO’s would qualify them for the
job of Governor? A CEO can snap his
fingers and say “do this or you’re fired”, but a Governor has to deal with a
legislature, and in Foley’s case, it would have been of the opposing
party. Good luck with that.
me… I am not a fan of one-party rule. With
their huge majority and deep pockets I think the Democrats in this state have
become abusive bullies.
why does the GOP keep choosing these kinds of candidates, aside from the fact
that they can bankroll their own campaigns?
What a shame that veteran State Senator John McKinney didn’t get a chance to run against
Malloy. McKinney was
very strong on transportation issues. That would have been an interesting
race. Maybe in 2018?
we are non-partisan, the Commuter Action Group also endorsed three Republicans…
State Senator Toni Boucher and State Rep’s Gail Lavielle and Tony Hwang, as
well as Democrat Jonathan Steinberg.
They were all winners, not because of our endorsement but because we helped
remind commuters they have been strong allies in Hartford.
did we ask for our endorsement? Only a
single pledge: that, if elected, they
would promise to do something never done before… to caucus, Republicans and
Democrats together, with fellow lawmakers from electoral districts representing
was amazing for me to learn that doesn’t happen… that R’s and D’s from
Fairfield County never get together to present a united front against up-state
lawmakers’ attempts to cut funding for our trains. Well, it will happen now!
in the dark days of February when the Commuter Action Group was formed, I
reminded Hartford lawmakers that if they didn’t come to the rescue of our
trains, that commuters would “remember in November” who their friends
were. And clearly they did.