So often this column is a screed of complaints about Metro-North. This time, the good news, because I really think in the last year we have turned the corner in everyone’s goals and hopes for making Metro-North service better.
More seats — The latest monthly reports reviewed by the CT Rail Commuter Council show that 99% of all trains have enough cars. That’s a major improvement compared to a few years ago when “consist compliance” was in the 85% range (i.e. 15% of all trains didn’t have enough cars for the passenger load they usually carried). Why the improvement? The new M8 cars.
New cars — The new M8 cars continue to arrive at the rate of about ten new cars a month, an aggressive delivery schedule few thought Kawasaki could ever achieve. On average, each car is going 139,000 miles before it has a problem. That’s an MDBF (mean distance between failure) twice as good as the M4 and M6 cars. So far 128 new M8’s are in service, meaning you have about a 30% chance of riding in a new-car train at rush hour and a 50% chance on weekends.
Ridership — Despite the economy, ridership continues to climb about 5% annually. The biggest increase? Weekend day trippers.
On time — This has always been a justifiable point of pride with Metro-North, as 97% of the trains arrive “on time” (within 6 minutes of the timetable).
New signals — The signalization system being installed on the Danbury branch continues apace with one of the first sections to be activated within a month. When it’s completed this will mean more trains, in both directions, on this one-track railroad.
New service — With the new October timetable there will be added service on weekends… eight more trains on Saturdays and 20 more trains on Sundays.
More stops — Thanks to years of persuasion by The CT Rail Commuter Council, that new timetable will also eliminate the old “skip stops” at less used stations like Rowayton, East Norwalk, Greens Farms and Southport. Now, instead of trains every two hours, those stations… in fact, all stations… will have train service every hour. The brief added time for these stops will hardly be noticed but will offer vastly improved service to hundreds of daily riders.
Quiet cars — It took about a decade of lobbying by the CT Rail Commuter Council, but since Metro-North initiated the “Quiet CALMute” cars a few months ago, they’ve been a big success.
Better communications — By cell phone, e-mail, PA system and ‘seat-drops’, the railroad is doing a much better job of communicating with its passengers on the rare occasions when things go wrong.
The passenger pledge — Though not quite the “Passenger Bill of Rights” that the CT Rail Commuter Council had crafted, this first-time-ever written pledge to passengers about the kind of service they deserve and can expect was a major step by Metro-North.
But wait, there’s more! There are further enhancements being considered by the railroad:
Wi-Fi — Testing continues, but we could be seeing on-train Wi-Fi accessibility in a matter of months, not years.
Smartphone tickets — Yes, you’ll soon be able to buy a ticket on your phone, show it to the conductor, and never have to handle paper.
So, for those of you who think that all I do is moan and complain, re-read everything above and let’s both give credit where it is due. Good job Metro-North!
Jim Cameron has been a commuter out of Darien for 21 years. He is Chairman of the CT Metro-North / Shore Line East Rail Commuter Council, and a member of the Coastal Corridor TIA and the Darien RTM. You can reach him at CTRailCommuterCouncil@gmail.com or www.trainweb.org/ct . For a full collection of “Talking Transportation” columns, see www.talkingtransportation.blogspot.com