This commuter’s diary reveals Metro-North’s poor on-time performance
How bad has service gotten on Metro-North? Ask Chris Golier, a 40-something family-man from Fairfield who rides the train daily from Southport to Grand Central.
“Commuting is a soul-sucking exercise,” he says. What used to be a 60-minute ride to and from NYC, now takes 75 minutes. And though slower than in years past, his trains are rarely on time… not the 88 percent on-time performance claimed by the railroad, but more like 37 percent.”
How does he know? He kept a log.
“People take it for granted that the train is going to be late. Most of us just deal with it or take an earlier train. But after riding Metro-North for 10 years I knew trains were running late, so I kept a record for three months. I used my iPhone to record the exact time my train’s doors opened at Southport and when I got off in GCT.”
Golier’s log covers three months, from July through September 2018. Though he usually takes the same morning train (scheduled for 7:12 am from Southport), he takes a variety of evening trains home, so his data reflects systemic delays.
Even taking into account the railroad’s grace period of 5 minutes and 59 seconds in determining if a train is on time, only once in three months did the train meet the published timetable. Just once.
“These are new cars. They should be quicker,” he says. “I know the MTA needs to do maintenance, but I pay $391 a month and fares are rising faster than the inflation rate while service keeps getting worse.”
Armed with real, tangible data… not just the usual commuter complaints of “my train is always late”… Golier sent his findings to area politicians. His local selectman responded immediately and asked to meet with him. But his town’s two state reps and state senators didn’t even reply, aside from robo-emails acknowledging receipt.
“I tried sending my spreadsheet to Senator [Richard] Blumenthal but his website wasn’t working. Senator [Chris] Murphy gave me a boilerplate reply that wasn’t worth my time reading,” he lamented.
Yes, the elections are over and one wonders if the pols even care.
What he had hoped would get the officials’ attention wasn’t just the train data but its effect on the local tax base. “Real estate values are going down as commuting time goes up, especially for bedroom communities farther east” (where slower trains mean longer and longer trips).
He also sent his data to Metro-North which responded with an explanation about needed maintenance. “It’s frustrating because neither MTA nor the politicians have a long-term plan they can articulate which suggests the problem will be solved in the coming years. Commuters are stuck and have no recourse except to move,” which Grolier says he doesn’t want to do.
Who else should commuters turn to in frustration? Golier admits the conductors, being the face of the railroad, are caught in the middle. “We know they’re not driving the train, and many of them apologize and admit the railroad isn’t delivering the kind of service they should.”
Golier doesn’t know what his next step will be… or when he will get an answer from the folks he sent to Hartford and Washington to represent him.
But at least he did the right thing.
Posted with permission of Hearst CT Media. Jim Cameron is founder of The Commuter Action Group, and a member of the Darien Representative Town Meeting.
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