President Giulietti Working to Put Metro-North Back on Track

June 2, 2015

Part Two: What’s Next?
By Senator Toni Boucher

Though a significant amount of work has been done to improve safety and reliability of the New Haven Line there are many areas of concern that need to be addressed and on which Mr. Giulietti is focusing his attention. He reported that for safety measures Metro North will be installing video and audio recording devices in railcars, and will install positive train control – beginning as a pilot program this year – on the New Haven and Hudson lines.

For 2015 the railroad also plans to install 8 miles of continuous welded rail, replacing six grade crossings in Connecticut, and installing fiberglass brackets and channels to support new aluminum 3rd rails that will be placed in key locations. Additionally, they would install a new interlocking near Fordham station, a critical section of the Bronx for the New Haven and Harlem lines. Plans are also underway to clean or replace stone ballast. Metro North will create a new crew focused on drainage improvements and create another specialty track crew to replace ties in key areas.

President Giulietti also shared that Metro-North has been in continuous conversations with the Connecticut Department of Transportation regarding future long term capital improvements. The governor’s office has unveiled a 5 year ramp up plan in which Metro-North has said it will be a key player. Yet with so many encouraging developments underway, lingering questions remain about the details those improvements.

For example, will the New Canaan, Waterbury and Danbury branch lines factor in the capital ramp up plans? Branch lines that run diesel powered locomotives often break down and Metro North must resort to busing commuters between stations. Any serious initiative should include improvements to the branch lines. That was made clear to President Giulietti, who is aware of and responsive to the complaints and concerns of commuters that continue to be heard.

Overcrowding on train cars remains an issue as well. With the majority of the new M-8 cars online, commuters should not have to fight for a seat, but many still do. Poor on-time performance also continues to inconvenience commuters. Understandably, extending timetables aids with infrastructure upgrade work. Still, there is a need to strike an optimal balance between safety and timeliness. Most passengers rely on the train to reach work on time but remain frustrated by delays that cause job related difficulties, and even have some commuters questioning their residency in Connecticut.

Though these questions remain the renewed energy, initiative, expertise and focus that President Giulietti has brought to Metro North gives us reason to be cautiously optimistic. Although I have been a vocal critic of Metro-North’s operations on behalf of commuters, I believe that the railroad has begun to move in the right direction, and is finally embracing the changes we have advocated for so long.

Senator Boucher is the Ranking Member of the General Assembly’s Transportation Committee