June 27, 2010

The Bar Car Debate - Your Turn

Much has been written about Metro-North’s fabled bar cars, the only such rolling pubs on a commuter railroad in North America. Reports of their demise are wrong, as CDOT is considering adding bar cars to the next M8 car order.

The CT Rail Commuter Council has been given a preliminary design which CDOT is using to seek bids from Kawasaki, so we thought it wise to seek rider input. We’re running an online survey for another few weeks.

As of this writing almost 450 people have chimed in, many of them adding interesting comments, which I share with you this week.

On the “pro” side…

“They (bar cars) give people a real chance to connect after a long day. We all hope they continue.” “…they’re a nice place to unwind and chit chat with other commuters. It makes the commute a bit easier to swallow”. “I have met some of my best friends on these bar cars, as it is a great social environment as well as an opportunity to network with others.”

But on the “con” side…

“I don't see a need for a bar car. The trains are noisy as it is and adding a bar car only makes the commute more stressful for those many commuters that do not use a bar car.” “We need seats on the NH not bar cars. People get out of these bar cars and into their personal vehicles and become hazards to others on the road.” “I prefer to have more seating. Last night's commute home felt like I was in India. We need more seats not bars.” “The bar car is an incredibly stupid idea. They are inefficient and wasteful. A taxpayer-supported railroad should not be running around with bar cars onboard.”

Many respondents commented on the proposed shorter bar, moving the bathroom to the center of the car and new seating patterns.

“This was obviously designed by someone with limited exposure to the practical / functional aspects of the current setup. I would suggest having the designer ride the bar car a few dozen times at peak hour to better define and frame the task at hand.” “We are saying no to bikes for space reasons and we shouldn't give a benefit for drinkers just because it's fun.”

Others suggested power outlets and space for laptops… fold-down or removable seats… and several felt a drawing isn’t enough: “put a mockup at Grand Central so we can better evaluate and give ideas.”

Another idea… “If possible, raise windows so that a standing person can look out the window at a 90 degree angle. As currently configured, an average sized person who is standing only has a view of the ground.”

A branch-line rider asked… “Have there been any considerations to adding a bar car to the Danbury Line?” Sorry, only when (and if) the line is re-electrified. Until then bar cars will only be used on the main line.

Finally, one wishful respondent summed up the thoughts of many with “free beer please.”

To see the proposed bar car design and add your comments to the online survey, visit the CT Rail Commuter Council’s website at www.trainweb.org/ct

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