Archive for Metro-North
With Con Ed warning that repairs to the New Haven Line’s power system could take two to three weeks, the MTA has put in a place a stop-gap measure for Metro-North commuters. The agency promises to deliver approximately one-third of the busy commuter line’s normal service and is warning riders that this plan will be in place “until further notice.”
Beginning with the morning rush on Thursday, morning rush hour trains will run from New Haven to Stamford every 20-30 minutes with connections to diesel express service from Stamford to 125th St. and Grand Central; and diesel local service through Rye with bus service to White Plains and the Harlem Line. From Harrison, local trains will run every 20-30 minutes through New Rochelle and then direct to Fordham, 125th St. and Grand Central. Buses will run from Pelham and Mount Vernon East to Mount Vernon West and the Harlem Line. Diesel trains will leave every 30-40 minutes from Grand Central, making all local stops to Stamford with hourly connections to New Haven.
For off-peak service, trains will run very infrequently. Trains will run between New Haven and Stamford leaving every after at 45 past, and local service will run from Stamford to Grand Central every half hour. Heading north, trains will leave Grand Central four and 34 minutes after the hour making all local stops to Stamford.
For the evening rush out of Grand Central, trains will run direct to Stmford with connections to New Haven provided every 20-30 minutes. An express bus will operate from the Harlem Line in White Plains to Rye to provide connections to local trains. Finally, Metor-North will provide limited train service from Grand Central to New Rochelle, Larchmont, Mamaroneck and Harrison Stations, and Harlem Line train service to Mount Vernon West for a bus to Pelham and Mount Vernon East Stations. Sounds fun, doesn’t it?
The MTA is trying to prepare customers for worst. Riders are urged to stay home if possible, and the Harlem Line will cross-honor New Haven Line tickets. Crews, meanwhile, are working “to try to establish alternative power sources to serve the New Haven Line.” It just so happens that the redundancy — a second feeder cable further up the line — is out for maintenance as Metro-North had required some repairs.
Wednesday’s disruption was another in a string of bad luck moments for the New Haven Line. Derailments and rail damage led to delays earlier this year, and each time a problem has arisen, the built-in redundancies were offline due to repairs. At a certain point, you can’t overbuild the guard against every foreseeable problem, but this is some string of ill-timed incidents. Is it a sign of decaying and aging infrastructure? Hard to say as Con Ed and the MTA were prepping for the future by refitting the other feeder cable. But with one offline, when the other goes down, operations go south in a hurry.
While passing through Grand Central this morning shortly before 7 a.m., I noticed crowds larger than usual idling throughout the main hall, and when I glanced up at the video boards, I — or at least anyone who needed the New Haven Line — was in for a rude awakening. All New Haven Line Metro-North service had been suspended to do the failure of a 138kV power feeder that began at approximately 5:22 a.m., and full power could take a few weeks to return.
Twelve hours in, and the news is not looking good. Con Ed issued only a terse statement seemingly taking a passive aggressive swipe at the MTA: “Con Edison is working with Metro-North to try to establish alternative power sources to serve the New Haven line. Company crews are working around the clock to make repairs to a feeder cable that failed earlier today, but repairs of this nature typically take 2-3 weeks. Another feeder normally providing service to the New Haven line was out on scheduled repairs to accommodate Metro-North upgrades on their equipment.”
The MTA, meanwhile, is scrambling. The agency can run only one train per hour in each direction, which amounts to only 10 percent of the regular service on the nation’s busiest commuter rail line. Amtrak is reporting significant delays as well. Thursday’s commute will involve some sort of train/bus shuttle combination, and the MTA will have the plans for this service ready later today. I’ll update as more information comes in.
Late last night, a CSX freight using Metro-North’s Hudson Line to tote away some garbage derailed across both tracks near the Spuyten Duyvil station in the Bronx, and service into Manhattan on the Hudson Line has been suspended since then. As of this afternoon, train service along the line remains suspended “until further notice,” the MTA announced.
As alternate routes go, the Harlem Line will be honoring Hudson Line tickets and LAZ parking permits. Hudson Line train service is operating only between Poughkeepsie and Yonkers with a shuttle bus offering service to the 1 train’s northern terminal at Van Cortlandt Park-242nd Street. For anyone hoping to take a Hudson Line train to tonight’s Jay-Z/Justin Timberlake concert at Yankee Stadium, reconsider those plans. It’s a giant mess.
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.