Commuters cope with delays and shortage of seats
Published 4:09 pm, Tuesday, February 1, 2011
Architect Ben Compton said he has stood during many trips to New York over the past few weeks.
"It makes you wonder, because they are short of cars, what is happening with the new train cars they keep talking about?" said Compton, a Stamford resident.
Many riders on the 7:03 a.m. Monday express from Stamford to Grand Central Terminal seemed resigned to schedule delays and a shortage of seats.
Connecticut's fleet of more than 30-year-old rail cars, and their electronic circuitry and wiring, are sensitive to snow and cold weather.
The new M-8 rail cars that were to come online more than a year ago have been delayed by computer and electrical problems.
Clutches of riders standing in the vestibules of the five-car train said they were unhappy with service they have been receiving this winter.
A conductor said the 7:03 usually has eight cars, but repairs reduced the train to five.
"I'm a little disappointed these days," said Heidi Braun, a legal administrator from Stamford.
Braun, who pays $265 per month to ride the train, said she understands that cars are out of service and Metro-North Railroad has had its hands full with a cold and extremely snowy winter.
"I still think we should be able to get a seat," she said.
Maureen Fahy of Stamford said she is late more often than she is on time, though Monday's train was on schedule.
"It is just awful," said Fahy, who stood in an aisle. "It is not reliable anymore."
Standing in a scrum of commuters in a vestibule near the rear of the train, Cihan Barluca, a fraud investigator from Waterbury, said he hears the same excuse every day that cars are being repaired.
"This is an ongoing problem. What are they doing to fix it?" said Barluca, who said sometimes the trains are so crowded that he has to ride between cars.
"Shouldn't they be preparing for the snow?" he asked.
Apex Technical School student Bobby Johnson of Stamford said he never gets a seat on the morning train.
Sitting on a bag in the vestibule he said, "I'm not getting my money's worth. I have to stand. They should add more cars going into the city."
There has been no shortage of delays, combined trains and missed stops. Ralph Pracilio's 7:38 a.m. train from Greenwich Monday morning was about five minutes late.
"As soon as the snow hit, it went nuts," Pracilio said as fellow New Haven Line commuters chugging coffee and checking cell phones rushed by him at Grand Central Terminal.
Greenwich resident John Filippelli, who says he has been commuting via Metro-North for more than 25 years, said the last couple of weeks have been inconvenient, but he felt that under the circumstances, the railroad has "weathered the storms pretty well."
"Yeah, there have been occasional breakdowns and occasional hiccups, but what doesn't in this day and age?" said Filippelli, who is president of production and programming for the YES Network, which broadcasts New York Yankees games. "It's not a perfect system, but it's a system that gets the job done."