Making Metro-North a Priority

February 10, 2014

Metro-North is failing. From tragic safety flaws to service outages, the busiest commuter railroad in the nation does not meet the quality Connecticut commuters deserve.

We are all frustrated, but what can we do to fix the railroad’s problems?

First, every commuter can educate themselves about the causes of Metro-North’s shortfalls. Second, commuters can urge their lawmakers to make the right decisions when it comes to transportation funding.

Over the past few years, transportation in Connecticut has not received adequate support, and Metro-North suffers today as a result. Metro-North is plagued by outdated infrastructure and lack of advanced safety features, two problems that Connecticut could fix if we budgeted properly.

For too long, Metro-North was not a priority in Connecticut. Instead, officials moved funding that should have been spent on improvements to other projects.

Rather than seek federal funding for rail projects, the governor spent over $572 million on a dedicated busway from New Britain to Hartford – an unnecessary and extremely expensive project that will end up costing $63 million each mile.

Furthermore, over $187 million of taxpayer money was raided from the special transportation fund and placed in the state’s general fund. Moving these funds took vital resources away from transportation improvement projects, including safety and infrastructure updates Metro-North desperately needed.

In addition to mismanagement of transportation funds, Connecticut leaders have a bad habit of spending money in the wrong places.

For example, the state spent $115 million to move the hedge fund Bridgewater Associates from Westport to Stamford. The funding was meant to create 1,000 jobs – meaning the state invested $115,000 per job, just to help a company relocate a few miles away.

Yet, Governor Malloy has only recently announced a $10 million Metro-North improvement project. For the busiest rail line in the nation that takes 60,000 commuters to work daily, that amounts to little more than $166 per commuter.

Compare $115,000 per employee to $166 per commuter, and it is hard to say that this unbalanced spending is anything but unsettling. We need more to make Metro-North safe, and it is time we all share this message with our governor, congressional delegation and state legislators.

It is so important to correct Metro-North’s failures because transportation downfalls affect quality of life for everyone.

For passengers, failures threaten their safety. For drivers, a failing railroad means more commuters choosing to drive to work, increasing traffic on already over-congested highways.

Long delayed commutes, on a train or in a car, extend work days and cut into precious family time. At the same time, the financial costs of commuting are growing, putting further strain on families. Even though Metro-North continues to fail, fares increased each of the past two years, and are scheduled to increase every year until 2018.

Clearly, we need action at all levels of government to put Metro-North on a path to improvement. We can start by asking our leaders to reassess their priorities, and make Metro-North a primary concern.

To improve our daily quality of life, let’s make Metro-North better and get it back on track.