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.