A Metro-North conductor beckons to riders. MTA photo

Things have been going in the right direction recently with the New Haven Line. I see it every day as a conductor on the train. But real problems could be coming soon.

More and more people are riding the train, with ridership now more than 70 percent of what it was before the pandemic. The number of trains each day (called “service levels”) is also nearly the same as when the pandemic kicked in three years ago.

Ed Valente

Our customers like the fact that life is returning to normal and that the train is there to take them to their work, school and fun outings like seeing a ballgame at Yankee Stadium.

All of this progress is threatened, however, by significant cuts that are about to be imposed on the most important commuter rail line in the Northeast. These will hit hardest on minority communities and low-income people.

The proposed budget that Connecticut legislators are reviewing right now would cut service on the New Haven Line to 86 percent starting July 1, going from 309 trains daily to 260. There will be longer delays between trains and those that remain will be packed with customers standing in the aisle.

Many lower-income workers and minority customers have work schedules that require them to be on the train very early in the morning or very late at night, including weekends. These “off peak” runs will probably be the first to go.

Research by Pew has shown that in urban areas, 14 percent of white residents take public transportation on a daily or regular basis, compared to 34 percent of Black residents and 27 percent of Hispanic residents.

Less service will fall squarely on minority communities when more and more people are depending on commuter rail to get them to their destinations.

I can tell you that there is some hope.

The recent consensus revenues from the legislative and executive branch budget offices have found an extra $200 million in available funds. Maintaining service on the New Haven Line at 100 percent in the next fiscal year would cost $38 million, or 19 percent of that windfall.

That is a small price to pay to avoid the social inequity that will result from these cuts.

The New Haven Line is a lifeline for many people. Let’s not go backwards.

Ed Valente is General Chairman (Local 1) for the Association of Commuter Rail Employees (ACRE).