New Metro-North rail schedule riles some commuters
Hartford - For some Connecticut commuters on the Metro-North Railroad, a schedule overhaul intended to improve reliability has increased commuting time _ and complaints.
A morning express train on the Waterbury branch line to Stamford, a key hub on the New Haven line, has been eliminated. It's a headache to scores of commuters and is the latest blow to a branch line that Jim Gildea of the Connecticut Rail Commuter Council says is undervalued by Metro-North and the Connecticut Department of Transportation.
For Metro-North, changing the schedule in response to a clamor for improved reliability has not produced a perfect timetable. The rail line that links Connecticut suburbs to downtown New York must shift rail cars and equipment around its system, forcing it to make compromises that fail to satisfy all 84 million commuters.
"If this was just one inconvenience, it would not be so bad," Gildea said in an email. "However, it is just one more poor service issue in a long series of insufficient service issues that Waterbury branch commuters must deal with simply because we commute from urban areas that no one pays much attention to."
For commuters on the Waterbury branch, the new schedule increases the commute to Stamford by 13 minutes and to Grand Central Terminal by five minutes, he said.
Metro-North introduced the schedule last Sunday as part of a plan to improve service following several accidents last year, including a derailment in Connecticut that injured scores of passengers, another in the Bronx that killed four passengers and the death of a track worker in Connecticut who was struck by a train.
The rail line says its goal is to re-establish reliable service with arrivals and departures according to schedule. It doesn't necessarily mean all passengers will have a quicker commute, Metro-North said. About 83 percent of morning peak New Haven line commuters from Connecticut will have a faster trip into New York while 12 percent of riders can expect a slower trip. Commuting times will not change for 5 percent of riders.
Marjorie Anders, a spokeswoman for the commuter railroad, said Thursday that trains are being shifted to move equipment and rail cars to improve reliability. The first morning train out of Waterbury no longer goes to Stamford and is instead a shuttle to Bridgeport.
Statistics show that 140 riders use that train and 100 disembark in Stamford while 40 exit the train in Bridgeport. "Forty people are not going to be inconvenienced at all," Anders said.
She said the state Department of Transportation determines Connecticut rail schedules. An agency spokesman did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Ridership has doubled on the Waterbury line, according to Gildea and Anders.
"Successful business models invest in their product first, realizing customers will follow," Gildea said.
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