Trains so crowded, tickets can’t be collected, and passengers worry that safety would be compromised in an emergency. Electronic station signs that declare “Good service” when a train is nowhere to be seen.
These were among the complaints commuters gave to officials from Metro-North Railroad and Connecticut state Transportation Commissioner James Redeker at a sound-off meeting in Soutport, Conn. on Tuesday night.
More than 150 people, generally commuters on the New Haven Line, filled a room of the Pequot Library at the height of the meeting, sponsored by a Connecticut transportation lobbying effort.
Laura Lamorte of Norwalk told of times when the trains were stopped and even the conductors did not know what the problem was until she showed them the e-mail alert that eventually came from Metro-North itself.
“I find that remarkable, and even frightening,” she said.
The officials sought to assure the railroad customers that they were well-aware of the problems – a deterioration in service over the past year or so that includes late trains, and several accidents, including the May derailment of two trains in Bridgeport that injured 76.
(The fatal derailment in the Bronx in December occurred on the Hudson Line.)
“(We’re) well aware of our failure to provide the service you’ve expected over the last thirty years,” said John Kesich, Metro-North’s senior vice president for operations.
That didn’t stop the meeting from growing testy at times. Neal Edelson, an attorney from Westport who takes the train to Manhattan accused the officials of apathy.
“I don’t believe that you guys care enough. I don’t,” he said, his further comments drowned out by applause.
When Kesich insisted they did care, members of the audience began to object.
Earlier in the meeting, Fairfield resident Kevin Downey, who has been commuting to Manhattan since 1987, said the service on the New Haven Line has “never been great.”
“It had hope,” he said. “But it has – no pun intended – gone off the rails.”
Photo shows Fairfield resident Kevin Downey addressing Metro-North and Connecticut transportation officials in the Pequot Library.