Later this afternoon, the MTA Board will host an emergency meeting to consider the question of refunds for New Haven Line Metro-North riders. The move comes after Connecticut Gov. Dannel Malloy called upon the MTA to expedite a refund process for riders facing slower and less frequent service as Con Ed continues to repair the damaged feeder cable. With repairs unlikely to wrap before next week, regular riders will have suffered through nearly two weeks of delays.
“Approving a refund to commuters isn’t just the right thing to do,” Mallooy said in a statement yesterday, “it’s what they need to do. It’s incumbent on the MTA and ConEd to deal with this problem and get it fixed, and it’s critical that Connecticut residents get reimbursed as quickly as possible.”
So here’s my question: Is it the right thing to do? Is it that important? I keep thinking back to similar calls in the aftermath of Sandy when subway service was not just slightly worse but shut down completely for days. Metrocard users received no such refund or time extension. Why is Metro-North any different?
On the one hand, it’s far easier to process Metro-North refunds. Cards run for full calendar months or weeks, and the MTA can easily add more time. Plus, this was not an act of nature; in fact, it sounds as though Con Ed will carry the blame for the incident. The MTA should get reimbursed for any unplanned expenses incurred during the outage, making a refund as easy as spending someone else’s money.
That said, New Haven Line service hasn’t been non-existent in the intervening week and a half. Trains have run; the Harlem Line has cross-honored fares. The MTA is doing what it can to ease travel woes, and if Metrocard users couldn’t get refunds during Sandy when insurance would have covered some of the costs, why should suburban riders now?
We’ll know more at around 4 p.m. when MTA officials address the media, but I’m curious to see the results of this poll.