Hush-hour: Metro-North makes quiet cars permanent
After a two-month tryout, Metro-North Railroad announced Tuesday it will add quiet cars on a permanent basis to all peak-hour trains on the New Haven Line, providing sanctuary from ringing cellphones and limiting conversations to hushed tones.
The program, which was introduced on a total of 18 morning and afternoon rush-hour trains in January, will be spread to 60 trains each in the morning and evening rush-hour periods starting April 2, according to Metro-North. The cars will be added to all Hudson and Harlem peak-hour trains at the same time to coincide with a new spring timetable, according to Metro-North.
Connecticut launched the pilot program called New Haven Line CALMmute, on Jan. 9, after a trial on the Hudson and Harlem lines that began in the fall met with good reviews.
"Wherever we've tried, it has been a wild success and people have learned very quickly which car to go to if they want to take a nap or read a book," railroad spokeswoman MajorieAnders said. "We've had very, very few comments that could remotely be considered a problem."
A survey of New Haven Line riders during the pilot program showed that during the two-month tryout, 83 percent favored a permanent expansion to all peak trains to provide refuge from high volume conversation, and to crack down on loud iPods and cell phone conversations.
The quiet car in each train will be the last car on inbound trains between 6 a.m. and 10 a.m., and the first car on outbound trains between 4 p.m. and 8 p.m.
Jim Cameron, chairman of the Connecticut Rail Commuter Council, a state-appointed watchdog group that represents the interests of commuters, said the pilot program for quiet cars had been a goal of the council for years.
"It's very satisfying to have worked on an issue for over a decade and finally see some improvement," Cameron said. "We'd been talking about it for nearly a decade and suggesting a kind of trial. This will really improve the quality of commuting."
Metro-North has gradually been introducing quiet cars across its entire system during the past year, beginning last June with First In, Last Out, a program for Metro-North trains operated by New Jersey Transit on the Port Jervis Line from the Hoboken Terminal.
A survey of passengers on the Hudson and Harlem lines during the pilot last October showed that 90 percent of 4,300 people surveyed were satisfied.
Connecticut Transportation Commissioner Jim Redeker said that the survey results show that riders are embracing the concnept of a zone free of disruptions.
"It is clear from the survey that our customers not only like the quiet car program, but want it expanded," Redeker said. "If we are going to entice more people to use public transportation, we need to make it as attractive as possible. This is one small step we can take to improve the overall customer experience."
Anders said that Metro-North had tabled previous discussions on the idea because an ongoing shortage of seats on New Haven Line trains.
However, with 86 of the state's new fleet of 425 M-8 cars being available for service now, Anders said, the railroad feels it has the flexibility to establish the amenity permanently, Anders said.
"This has been a long time coming," Anders said.