Home Asides Metro-North’s bar car heading the way of the Dodo

Metro-North’s bar car heading the way of the Dodo

by Benjamin Kabak

Once upon a time, commuter rail lines offered a “bar car” for weary commuters heading home after a long day at work. As seen these days in Mad Men, the bar car would fill up with those who just wanted a beer before returning to their suburban enclaves. Although Amtrak has kept their cafes in order, over the last few decades, Metro-North and the Long Island Rail Road have slowly eliminated the bar cars from their trains. Instead, passengers brown-bag it at Penn Station or Grand Central, and the extra space provides for more seating on crowded trains.

Currently, the final routes that still have a bar car run on Metro-North into Connecticut, but those might be on their last legs. As Michael Grynbaum related earlier this week, when Metro-North introduces the M8s this year, the bar car will probably not be included. Due to monetary concerns, transit officials aren’t sure if these relics will be included in the new train sets. “A decision was made early on that more seats on the trains was our top priority and that bar cars — as popular as they are — could wait,” Judd Everhart, a Connecticut DOT spokesman said. “It was about that simple.”

While bar car nostalgia enthusiasts are dismayed by the news, most passengers Grynbaum spoke with didn’t seem to mind. They’d prefer the extra sitting anyway. Meanwhile, the bar cars turned a profit of $1.5 million last year, but I have to believe more seats would easily cover that deficit if the MTA and Connecticut’s DOT are to do away with them on the new M8s. The beer in the terminals will, after all, continue to flow as smoothly as ever.

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Boris April 22, 2010 - 1:41 pm

The MTA should introduce 11th cars in subway trains that you enter/exit through the 10th car. It should cost extra but have plush seating and snacks/drinks for sale. There are plenty of people out there who are not as rich as those going to Westchester or Connecticut but would nevertheless enjoy a beer or a comfortable nap on their 40-minute ride. These cars would increase capacity as well without the need to extend platforms.

AK April 22, 2010 - 2:46 pm

Moving between subway cars + drunk people…this can’t miss 🙂

Boris April 22, 2010 - 4:01 pm

They’d have to install some flexible “walls” to make it safe enough to warrant an exception to the current no-walking-between-cars rule.

Alon Levy April 22, 2010 - 10:16 pm

There are more important uses for extra cars – for example, relieving overcrowded lines with enough platform room for longer trains.

Quinn Hue April 23, 2010 - 12:17 am

Agreed, for example a large amount of trains are run in permanently connected sets and will be done so for the foreseeable future. If they were articulated, one could move into an extra 9th, 11th, or 12th Car if they intend on taking a longer trip, presenting a slight increase in capacity along with the slight increase in capacity when train cars are articulated.

Railien April 23, 2010 - 12:30 pm

The bar car post based on Grynbaum’s article is not accurate.

Firstly, the M-2 bar cars will continue to roll even after the 300 M-8 car’s 1st option has been completed.
Secondly, bar cars are part of the 2nd of the 2 buy options and no decision has been made on thise cars.
Thirdly, Jim Cameron, the head of the CT rider’s group, was later stated on the NY Times blog the Grynbaum interviewed him and gave Grynbaum the facts which what I paraphrased above.
Fourth, about 150 ‘Cosmopolitan cars’ (M-2/4/6) will continue to roll on even after the M-8 cars have been fully implemeted. Alot of money has been sunk into those cars over the last few years to keep them up to spec. Many of the M-2 cars will be scrapped but that’s a long way away.

The proper avenue was to go to the Metro-North press office and ask them, as did the Stamford Advocate which got the story straight. Metro-North would know because they operate the service on the New Haven line. M-N and CDOT work hand-in-glove to operate the service.

Concerned Connecticutian April 22, 2010 - 3:39 pm

There is a growing mass of support for the Bar Car at facebook.com/SaveTheBarCar

Dave April 22, 2010 - 4:53 pm

I don’t mind the bar car, in fact it’s nice to head in there every once in a while. I say keep it. What I don’t like is when the roudy business dudes get obnoxious on the other train cars. They bring a case of beer with them onto the train and then throw the empties on the floor. The not so empty cans roll around wetting and stinking up everything they just happen to roll into. It makes for a very unpleasant ride home for the tired sober passengers on board. If they got rid of the bar car there would be a lot more of that unwelcome frat activity going on in the regular train cars.

Jim Cameron April 22, 2010 - 10:08 pm

Fellow commuters…

“Never let the facts get in the way of a good story”.

This old newsroom mantra apparently was the rule when the NY Times yesterday ignored the facts and presented the headline… “One for the Road? Bar Cars May Face a Last Call”

Though three members of the CT Rail Commuter Council worked with reporter Michael Grynbaum to get the story right, he ignored the facts in favor of a sexier story.

The reporter implied that when the new M8 cars arrive, the 8 existing bar cars would be replaced. Not so! The 8 bar cars we have all have undergone recent rehab’s and can run for 10 – 15 more years.

He also implied that “the recession” might force a rethinking of plans to order new bar cars.

The Commuter Council, meeting last night, was reassured by both Metro-North and CT DOT that there are no plans to eliminate bar cars on Connecticut trains. CDOT also told the Council they would share design concepts with us for new M8 bar cars, currently under bid from Kawasaki.

The issue of continued if not improved bar car service has been a priority of the Commuter Council for the 25 years of its existence. We will continue that advocacy… and seek a correction from the NY Times for its sloppy reporting.


Jim Cameron, Chairman

CT Metro-North Rail Commuter Council

“Advocates for better rail services in CT”

Web: http://www.trainweb.org/ct

Twitter: CTRailCommuters

SignalWatcher April 23, 2010 - 9:06 am

Yeah, I don’t buy it. I think the bar car will stick around.


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