Metro North upgrades are causing longer commutes

Traffic

Repairs, maintenance and upgrades. Those things kept making the trains run late. So instead of speeding up the trains, they slowed down the schedules.

New Metro North schedules went into effect last month and commuters are now finding their rides have suddenly gotten longer.

“In fact, this timetable extended running times 6-10 minutes for certain trains,” said Jim Cameron, founder of the Commuter Action Group. “The further east the train starts, the longer the running time to Grand Central.”

Cameron says decades ago, a trip from New Haven to Grand Central took about an hour and 20 minutes. Now almost every train is a full two hours.

“How could the old railroad run faster than the new one?” Cameron asked, rhetorically. “We have new cars, but we have a very old right of way: The tracks, the signal system, the catenary, the power line overhead.”

Related: Metro-North receives $2.3 million for railroads improvement

Some of those are 100-years-old and are in need of upgrades. At the same time, people need the train to get to work. Doing the upgrades while the system is running is like changing a tire on a moving car.

Trains have to slow down through work zones, which *was* causing trains to fall behind schedule. Metro North really wants all its trains to be on time, so instead of speeding up the trains, last month Metro North essentially slowed down the timetable.

“Well, I wasn’t surprised,” said Cameron. “I know commuters were because they had been kind of promised this thing about 30-30-30, faster running times, maybe 30 minutes from New Haven to Stamford, Stamford to Grand Central.”

New Haven to Grand Central in an hour is one of Governor Ned Lamont’s signature promises.

“It’s just extraordinary that it takes longer to take the train from here to New York than it did 15 years ago and than it did 100 years ago,” Lamont said at a Tuesday press conference on the economy.

Lamont believes faster trains will help grow the economy, but a lot of work needs to be done first. Take, for instance, the Walk Bridge in South Norwalk.

Related: Governor Lamont to discuss CT transportation system problems and congestion in Hartford 

“State of the art victorian technology,” said Cameron. “That swing bridge needs to be replaced, to the tune of about $1 billion.”

That is scheduled to start next year, 124 years after it opened for the first time. That may just slow things down further. Metro North riders are resigned to the fact there is not much they can do about it.

“This happens pretty regularly,” said Amy from New Haven. “They’ll adjust the times and the trains arrive when the timetables say, but it may not necessarily be faster.”

“Sometimes there is some problem, some snag or something like that, but otherwise it’s fine,” said New Haven resident Atri Akella.

Fine and safe, which is good, 6 years after Metro North derailments in Fairfield and in the Bronx.

“I’d rather err on the side of being a few minutes late then pushing for that on-time performance that Metro North used to brag about, and we saw what happened there,” said Cameron.

An MTA spokesperson put out a brief statement about the schedules: 

“We expect the new timetables will result in fewer train delays and more reliable service, while Metro-North crews perform extraordinary work to rebuild and renew our tracks and infrastructure across the system.”

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