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April 01, 2017

"Getting There": How & Where to Complain About Metro-North

You may start your day with a cup of coffee and a hearty breakfast.  I start my day by reading complaints about Metro-North: e-mails, tweets and social media posts by fellow commuters who don’t know where to turn for help.  Such is the life of a “commuter advocate”.

The problem is that every ride on Metro-North is controlled by many different agencies and there’s no way for commuters to know who’s responsible.  For years I offered a simple solution:  a sign at every station explaining who was in charge of parking, the station, the conditions on the trains, etc…. and names and phone numbers of whom to contact. 

Lacking this simple signage, I suggest the following:

HOW TO COMPLAIN:            You must be specific:  date, time, location and names.  Simply saying “my train is always late” gives nobody any actionable information.  But saying “train #634, the 7:31 out of Westport has a standing-room-only condition on dates X and Y because it is operating with six cars and used to have seven” gives folks a chance to analyze a problem and maybe find a solution.

WHERE TO COMPLAIN:       Here’s where it gets tricky.  You must direct your complaint to the proper agency with operating authority.

STATION PARKING:             In most cases, station parking is run by the Town where the station is located, so call Town Hall.  (Stamford and Bridgeport are notable exceptions as the CDOT manages both the stations and the adjacent parking.)

THE TRAIN STATIONS:       Though owned by the CDOT, the stations are operated by the Towns.  If your station waiting-room is locked, leaving you standing on a freezing platform, call City Hall.

TIMETABLES:           The trains operate on a schedule jointly agree to by CDOT and Metro-North.  But don’t waste your time appealing to either because you don’t like the service.  Instead, got to the folks who control their budgets:  your state elected officials.  You’ll find a search engine for those pols on our Commuter Action Group website (see below).

CONDITIONS ON THE TRAIN:         In this case, Metro-North is responsible.  Buried on their website you’ll find an e-complaint template (there’s also a direct link to it on our www.CommuterActionGroup.org website.  Fill it out with specific information every time you see a problem and ask for a follow-up.  Sadly, once acknowledged, we have no way of knowing if the railroad ever does anything to address the issues.

TRAIN PERSONNEL:            Unhappy with a conductor or train engineer?  Complain to Metro-North with specific information, including names or descriptions.  Get the names and contact info for other witnesses.  If a complaint actually escalates to disciplinary action, be prepared to attend a hearing.

GRAND CENTRAL:               Don’t like the fact that your train always arrives on the lower level?  Unhappy that the bar carts are still missing after three months.  Complain to Metro-North and cc your elected officials.

FARES:           Fares in Connecticut are set by CDOT, not Metro-North.  There’s always a public hearing process before new fares go into effect, but it’s all just “political theater”:  cathartic but ineffective.  The people who really control fares are your elected officials in the legislature.

It shouldn’t be so confusing as to where to complain.  Nor should we be so cynical about the lack of response.  But we are dealing here with local and state agencies running a monopoly, not a competitive, for-profit, customer-oriented business.


Still, as Edmund Burke once said:  “all that is necessary for the triumph of evil is that good men do nothing”.  So do something:  complain!

Reposted with permission of Hearst CT Media

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