Archive for Metro-North
While the MTA continues to say that Wednesday service will be normal, some limited Metro-North and Amtrak service will resume today through the track in Connecticut damaged by Friday’s derailment/collision. With one of the two tracks now in service, the 3:07 p.m. from Grand Central will ride through to New Haven, and the 4:23 p.m. from New Haven will operate to Grand Central. The MTA plans to run half of the regular eastbound peak service this evening and hourly westbound service.
“We recognize the critical importance of both Metro-North Railroad and Amtrak to the regional economy,” said Metro-North President Howard Permut. “Although reconstruction and testing of the second track will not be completed until late tonight, enough work has been completed to allow us to operate this limited service in advance of resuming our regular schedule on Wednesday.”
Trains will pass through the area at just 30 miles per hour, and for seven miles around Bridgeport, Connecticut, trains will be single-tracked. Metro-North is warning its customers to expect delays. Amtrak, meanwhile, will run an Acela leaving Boston at 3:15 p.m. and an Acela departing New York at 4 p.m. Service along with the Northeast Corridor will run as scheduled after those two trains.
As repair continues along the 2000-foot section of track damaged by Friday’s derailment and collision, Metro-North officials said today that they anticipate restoring full peak service in time for Wednesday morning’s commute. “We are confident that the reconstruction work, inspection and testing will be completed in time for a normal rush hour on Wednesday,” Metro-North President Howard Permut said in a statement. The shuttle bus/train combination in place on Monday will last through the day on Tuesday.
The MTA, meanwhile, reported that 750 people took the train/bus combo from Bridgeport to Stamford. That figure represents that 20 percent of the usual a.m. peak ridership at New Haven, Milford and Stratford. But overall peak ridership declined by just 20 percent on Monday as Connecticut travelers drove to nearby stations to catch their trains. The Harlem Line saw a bump in ridership by around six percent over a typical Monday.
Despite Metro-North’s good news, Amtrak has yet to announce restoration of service along the Northeast Corridor from Boston to New York. I’ll have more as news breaks.
As Metro-North crews work to repair the twisted rails and investigators continue to probe Friday’s derailment/collision, the MTA is warning that commute woes could continue well into the coming week. The accident has snarled traffic throughout the Northeast Corridor, and it serves to underscore how fragile the region’s transportation is and how disjoined coordination across entities can be.
The MTA and Connecticut’s Department of Transportation have put in place a plan for the 30,000 customers impacted by the 31-mile outage near the east end of the New Haven Line. On Monday morning, a shuttle train will run between New Haven and Bridgeport with express buses providing service to Stamford where trains to the city will be running. Local buses will operate to and from Bridgeport, Fairfield Metro, Fairfield and Westport, but no buses will serve Southport or Greens Farms. All in all, 120 buses from CT Transit, MTA Bus and other local companies will provide service. It won’t be enough.
The MTA has a full list of service changes and advisories posted on its website but offers up some bullet points, a few more obvious than others, as well.
- Travel times will be significantly longer than normal and trains will be significantly crowded.
- New Haven Line Customers east of South Norwalk are encouraged to seek alternative ways to get to and from work or stagger their work schedule.
- If possible, customers are advised to use the Harlem Line as an alternative. New Haven Line rail tickets will be cross-honored.
- ConnDOT will cross-honor New Haven Line pre-paid rail tickets (as a temporary Bus/Rail uniticket) on I-95 Corridor Bus Service.
- Metro-North will cross-honor Amtrak tickets.
Speaking of Amtrak, let’s how the nation’s rail carrier is handling it. On their alert page, they warn that service is suspended between New York and New Haven with limited service from New Haven to Boston. “There is no estimate on service restoration,” Amtrak warns.
Their solution is to foist every alternative planning onto Metro-North’s shoulders. “Starting Monday, Metro-North Railroad will offer alternate transportation for passengers traveling between New Haven, Conn., and Grand Central Terminal via a train-bus-train connection,” Amtrak’s website advises. “Amtrak passengers using this option will need to arrange for transportation between Grand Central and New York Penn Station.”
In Connecticut, the state is offering more free parking for commuters impacted by the service outages. As Chris O’Leary noted, this is likely to lead to more traffic and delays as buses are held up by drivers fighting for parking spots. It’s a transit armageddon, and I can’t even begin to imagine what I-95 will resemble come the morning.
Meanwhile, the alternate routes are a bloody mess. Cap’n Transit has been retweeting choice complaints in his Twitter timeline, and Northeast Corridor riders are finally experiencing the ineptitude of bus companies. There are complaints about routes to Manhattan that go through surface streets in the Bronx and routes to New Haven from Port Authority via New Jersey. Lines are hours long, and the bus companies offering extra service or even acknowledging the problems.
So we’re in a bad situation with no overall coordination. Two tracks are out of service due to scheduled track work while another set were heavily damaged by Friday’s collision, and no one has picked up the slack. Considering how many people are dependent upon this route for work, for life, for anything, this response is an indictment of the way we as a society view transit even in the most transit-accessible parts of the country.
In the first major accident in 25 years, two Metro-North trains collided on the tracks in Connecticut. The two trains crashed at around 6 p.m. on Friday evening, and although 60 people were injured, no deaths have been reported yet. Service on Metro-North has been suspended between South Norwalk and New Haven, and Amtrak trains are not running between New York and Boston.
According to a statement just released by the MTA, the 4:41 p.m. from Grand Central New Haven derailed near the I-95 overpass in Bridgeport, and the 5:30 from New Haven struck the derailed train. As yet, no official cause of the derailment has been ascertained, and investigations are ongoing. A few minutes ago, the National Transportation Safety Board announced via Twitter a Go-Team to head up its investigation, and MTA Police, local police, Connecticut Office of Emergency Management, the Federal Railroad Administration and the FBI are on the scene as well.
To make matters worse, although this is an area with four tracks, two of the tracks are out of service for catenary work, and the remaining two tracks were badly damaged by the collisions. The trains cannot be moved until the on-scene investigation is over, and normal service will not resume until the infrastructure has been repaired. It may yet be a while, and I’ll have more as the story unfolds.
N.B. If you’re looking for the weekend service advisories, scroll down or click here.
With snow sort of pelting the area, Gov. Andrew Cuomo has announced that Metro-North will cease service after 10 p.m. tonight. Here’s what the press release says:
Because of the accelerating severity of the storm as well as projected snowfall accumulations of more than a foot, Metro-North Railroad will begin a suspension of train service on the Hudson, Harlem and New Haven Lines at approximately 10 p.m. This service suspension will continue until further notice.
With the significant increase in snowfall and high winds, the risk of a train becoming disabled with customers on board also increases significantly. Therefore, it is important to stop service at this time to ensure customer safety and to allow Metro-North employees to conduct aggressive snow fighting operations to keep the right of way as clear as possible. Road conditions have also deteriorated, with many road closures in Metro-North’s service territory.
In addition, Grand Central Terminal will close after the last trains arrive, approximately midnight.
The MTA has stressed that there are no plans to suspend service on any of the subway lines that run overnight, but some express routes are operating on local tracks to allow for underground train storage. Whether this Metro-North shutdown is too conservative is open for debate, but the MTA does not want to risk a power outage stranding a train in the snow.
When the MTA raised last year, one of the more outrageous money-grabs involved the validity period for Metro-North and LIRR tickets. The MTA shortened the time period for pre-purchased ticket use down to two weeks, instituted a $10-refund fee and generally angered everyone. As part of the service investments set to roll out over the next year, the authority has rolled back some of these more stringent measures, but a key barrier to any refund remains in place.
Beginning September 4, one-way and round-trip tickets will be valid for a period of two months, and the refund period will last the same amount of time. A ten-trip ticket will remain valid for six month, and its refund will be lengthened to six months as well. The $10 prcoessing fee for all refunds, however, will remain in place to help, as the MTA said, “recoup some of the administrative expenses of issuing and mailing checks.”
MTA Chairman Joe Lhota made this out to be a win for customer relations, and it certainly is. “We’re pleased that the cost containment efforts of our commuter railroads, combined with increased ridership, make it possible to broaden our ticket validity and refund policies to further benefit Long Island Rail Road and Metro North customers,” he said in a statement. “This benefit will cost the railroads $6 million, but combined with the expanded service investments announced last week, shows the MTA’s commitment to customer service.”
The truth remains, however, that many railroad tickets cost less than the $10 processing fee. Thus, customer still will not enjoy the benefits of a longer refund period if the economics don’t make sense. It’s an effort to avoid allowing riders whose tickets aren’t punched from cashing it, but $10 seems like a steep price to pay for processing.
As New York City Transit’s effort to replace the MetroCard with something a bit more modern slowly inches forward, Metro-North will be testing a smartphone-based paperless ticket system this summer. The railroad announced today a project in conjunction with Masabi that will allow its riders to user a smartphone app to buy tickets. Eventually, there will be no need for cash, frustrating lines at ticket machines or steep on-board surcharges for last-minute purchases.
“We are as excited to begin testing the next generation ticket selling technology as we were when we introduced ticket vending machines a quarter of a century ago,” Metro-North President Howard Permut said in a statement. “Our customers adapted quickly to TVMs and the machines became the preferred way to buy tickets. The latest test is intended to ensure that the newest technology will be equally easy to use, as well as secure and reliable.”
The initial pilot, however, is a strange one as Metro-North employees will act as guinea pigs. They’ll have the free app on their phones and will purchase the tickets — any type — for use. The e-tickets will show an image a conductor can then validate with a barcode scanner. The initial pilot will include a time measurement study to compare electronic purchases with on-board transactions and inspection efforts. The MTA will also keep an eye on anti-fraud measures before decided whether or not to expand this program to all riders.
I expect this to be a smooth and quick pilt. Masabi is a leader in the field in the U.K. with smartphone ticketing apps available for 13 rail agencies. The company is also assisted the MBTA in a smartphone ticketing project as well. The only drawback I see here is that the LIRR isn’t involved. Provincial agency turf lines know no bounds, it seems.
Quiet Calmmute, Metro-North’s punny quiet commute program, is coming soon to a peak-hour train near you. Beginning April 2, all inbound AM and outbound PM peak trains on the Hudson, Harlem & New Haven Lines will feature one quiet car. For AM rains inbound to Grand Central, the last car will be a designated quiet car, and for PM trains outbound from Manhattan, the first car will be the serene one. For those violating the rules, conductors will pass out polite “reminder” cars.
According to Metro-North’s own surveys, a whopping 83 percent of passengers said they support the quiet cars. “Quiet cars are a hit,” Metro-North President Howard Permut said to LoHud.com. “With very few exceptions, people have quickly adapted to the new etiquette.”
While the quiet car is a concept that won’t see the light of day in the subway, I am particularly enamored with one aspect of the program. Among the things commuters in the quiet cars must do are: (1) disabling the sound features on electronic devices; and (2) using headphones at a volume that cannot be heard by fellow passengers. These are basic concepts in mass transit etiquette that are, more frequently than not, forgotten by the straphanging public in the subways.
There must be something in the water out on Long Island that makes its politicians put forth some crazy ideas. A few days after one group of Long Island State Senators proposed a further repeal of the MTA payroll tax, another is protesting what is, in essence, better commuter rail service for New Yorkers from both the Island and Westchester.
The story goes a little something like this: On and off for the last decade or so, the MTA has toyed with a Penn Station Access Study that discusses how best to bring Metro-North trains into Penn Station. In November, thanks to a push from Bronx politicians, the authority announced that it is engaged in a Federal Environmental Assessment that is exploring the impact such a routing would have. The assessment will be finished by the end of 2013, and at that point, the MTA will determine how best to proceed with this project.
Meanwhile, a group of Long Island Senators is having what can charitably be described as a freak-out. They are already calling upon the MTA to reject Metro-North service to Penn Station, and their complaints seem utterly short-sighted. “To make room for the new Metro-North Trains, the LIRR could be forced to cut the number of trains it runs into Penn Station,” Kemp Hannon, a Republican from Nassau County, said. “The LIRR is already sharing ingress into Penn Station, and any reduction of service could have a devastating impact on commuters and other travelers. With only seven of Penn Station’s existing 21 tracks being allotted to the LIRR, any reductions would seriously impair LIRR operations and affect all LIRR riders.”
The Senators, as Newsday reports, sent a letter to MTA Chairman Joe Lhota expressing their displeasure with the move. They don’t want to see a reduction in LIRR service to Penn Station, but they seem to be ignoring both common sense and commuting patterns.
Right now, as we know, the MTA is building out the East Side Access project that will, by 2016 or 2018 or some point this decade, bring LIRR service to Grand Central. The MTA studies show that tens of thousands of people from Long Island want and need direct service to the East Side. These folks currently travel via LIRR to Penn Station and then make their ways to the East Side. It’s circuitous and inconvenient.
Based on the current MTA funding proposals and the speed of construction, any Metro-North service into Penn Station is unlikely to see the light of day before the East Side Access project is completed. By then, the LIRR won’t need to run as many trains into Penn Station becomes some of its ridership will choose instead to go to the East Side. The Long Island Senators claim that, even after ESA is in service, LIRR must operate the same service into Penn Station. They want it all at the expense of better commutes for New Yorkers from Westchester. It simply defies transportation reason.
When the Long Island Rail Road’s long-awaiting East Side Access project wraps up sometime later this decade, the MTA will shift numerous trains from Penn Station to Grand Central, and Metro-North riders bound for the West Side could stand to benefit from the move. With space available at Penn Station in a few years, the MTA is exploring a way to bring Metro-North westward, and the Bronx could gain a few more commuter rail stations if all goes according to plan.
“Metro-North is currently performing a Federal Environmental Assessment for the introduction of its rail service from the Hudson and New Haven Lines to Penn Station,” Aaron Donovan, authority spokesman, said to me in an email. “The review includes potential stations along Amtrak’s Hell Gate Line in the vicinity of Co-op City, Morris Park, Parkchester and Hunts Point. We anticipate completing this assessment in 2013.”
Earlier this week, MTA officials met with various stakeholders in the Bronx to discuss progress on the Federal Environmental Assessment. The Bronx Times was on hand to report on the meeting, and all involved spoke highly of the plan. “This is an idea that has been around for decades, and the meeting was just a preliminary step where the MTA wanted to gauge the reaction of elected officials and stakeholders, with the reaction being very positive,” John DeSio, a spokesman out of the Bronx Borough President office, said.
Patrick Rocchio had more:
The final plan could include the creation of new stations along Metro North’s New Haven line that would service Co-op City near Erskine Place, Morris Park near Einstein Medical Center and the Hutchinson Metro Center, Parkchester in the vicinity of Unionport Road and E. Tremont Avenue, and Hunts Point near Southern Boulevard, said Assemblyman Michael Benedetto.
Space for the extra trains coming into Penn Station from the new stations should be available in 2016, after Long Island Rail Road’s East Side Access Plan re-routes many of the trains currently terminating at Penn Station to Grand Central Terminal, Benedetto said. “They do expect this to happen, and therefore they want to start planning now so things are ready when space is freed up in Penn Station,” Benedetto said.
The public should not expect new Metro North stations in the Bronx in the next couple of years, even though construction theoretically could begin on the four new Bronx stations before space becomes available at Penn Station, Benedetto said.
In the Bronx, residents and property owners were thrilled with the idea of a direct line to Penn Station. “A new train station in Co-op City would enable commuters to get to Penn Station within 25 minutes, which is very welcome news to many residents of this great community,” Vernon Cooper, the general manager of Riverbay Corporation, said.
Meanwhile, early reports indicate that costs could be fairly reasonable. The Bronx Times reports that the project would come in at $350 million — $250 million from New York State and $100 million from Connecticut — a figure in line with the $91 million it cost to build one new Metro-North stop near Yankee Stadium.
Long-time MTA watchers may know this project, in vague terms, as the Penn Station Access Study. I’ve been told that the scoping documents and project plans for the early 2000s are now out of date, and the MTA plans to release more information later this year or early next. Still, this could be a relatively low-cost way to improve access from the Bronx and points north to the West Side, and I’ll keep an eye on it.