As Metro-North struggles to resume service after the blizzard, the CT Rail Commuter Council is supporting a bill before the legislature that would keep the fares “fair” when service is disrupted.
“It’s certainly not the railroad’s fault that Mother Nature has shut down service,” says Commuter Council Chairman Jim Cameron. “It’s happened many times before, especially on the branch lines. But when the trains can’t run and no alternative bus service is offered, commuters deserve credit on unusable tickets.”
In the meantime, Cameron has advice for Darien’s Monday morning commuters to NYC facing a service disruption on the Darien and Noroton Heights line — avoid Stamford.
“Because there will be no train service between New Haven and Stamford all of those usual riders will try to catch the train at Stamford where there is obviously not enough parking,” he said.
“A better solution would be to drive south past Stamford and into Westchester County, even over to White Plains which has a large parking lot,” he said.
“By tariff New Haven line tickets are honored both on the New Haven line in Westchester and on the Harlem line, but not on the Hudson division,” Cameron said.
He added that he hoped the state’s Department of Transportation was working with the City of Stamford on parking issues.
“That parking lot is always full after about 7 AM, and with Malloy’s suggestion Saturday evening that people who need to be in New York City on Monday get there on Sunday, the lot will obviously be full,” he said.
While one-way tickets are valid for 60 days, weekly and monthly tickets are only valid for specific dates. After Tropical Storm Irene, the Danbury branch was shut for 4 days. After Sandy it was closed for 8 days. But people who’d bought weekly tickets were told “no refunds”.
HB 5127, proposed on the Commuter Council’s behalf by State Rep Gail Lavielle of Wilton, would require Metro-North to extend the validity of unusable tickets if service is cancelled for more than 48 hours. The bill comes up for a public hearing before the Transportation Committee on Wednesday, Feb. 13.
“It’s really a matter of fairness,” says Cameron. “When airlines cancel flights, they give you a new ticket. But when Metro-North cancels your train, they keep your money and don’t even offer an apology. That’s wrong and we hope this bill will correct that.”
“I am sure that Metro-North is working as hard as it can to restore service after the blizzard. We commuters owe their workers a debt of gratitude for all they do,” says Cameron. “But we in Connecticut pay the highest rail fares in the US, and if the railroad cannot provide service they shouldn’t keep our money.”
Created by the Connecticut legislature, the CT Rail Commuter Council’s members are Metro-North or Shore Line East commuters who serve, without compensation, as advocates of their fellow riders’ interests. The CT Rail Commuter Council meets monthly with Metro-North and Connecticut Dept of Transportation and testifies before state and regional boards and commissions in favor of affordable, reliable rail service in the state.
More information is available at the Council’s website: www.trainweb.org/ct