For years, commuters on the Metro-North rail line from New Haven to New York City have dealt day in and day out with a fleet of outdated, subpar trains. Despite mechanical failures and doors that open at improper times, uncomfortable seats and foul-smelling restrooms, riders have not only endured the often standing-room-only conditions on the rail line, they've come to rely on it.

Over the years, Metro-North ridership has steadily increased -- dipping only slightly in 2009 due to job losses in New York's financial industry -- making it the busiest rail line in the country. In 2010, the New Haven line's ridership reached its second highest level ever, growing 2.8 percent and increasing from 36.3 million in 2009 to 37.2 million.

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Yet, the problems with the now 40-year-old rail cars have continually cast pallor over those successes. In 2005, the General Assembly and then-Gov. Jodi Rell took action to upgrade the fleet, and the decision to order new state-of-the-art rail cars was made.

Since then, commuters have continued to suffer -- this time from glitches, setbacks and rhetoric -- as the rollout of the new Kawasaki M8 cars was met with delay after delay. And this winter with its record snowfall and harsh weather conditions illustrated more than ever just how badly the new cars are needed on the line. At the worst point, 40 percent of the old cars were out of service -- a tremendous strain for daily commuters.

However, this month, those delays finally began to come to an end as the first new train started its service life on the New Haven line. The first, eight-car train took its inaugural run on the line on March 1, followed closely by the second train on March 18. Commuters can now see the new cars, sit in them and ride in them as they commute to and from their destination on the line.

This marks a new generation for Metro-North. Other area lines have new fleets, and the time had more than come for the New Haven line to get on track as well. In total, 380 new cars will make their way onto the line over the next couple of years.

Currently, another 10 cars are being tested and are expected to deploy in May. Once production fully ramps up, cars will be delivered to Connecticut at the rate of 10 a month from a plant in Lincoln, Neb.

While we still have a long way to go before all of the new cars are in active service on the line, this is a great step toward better, more reliable conditions on Metro-North. I plan to continue to monitor the rollout of the new fleet not only as vice chair of the Transportation Committee but also as a representative of the thousands of my constituents who rely on Metro-North to get to work and then get home at the end of each day.

As the rollout continues, I hope to hear from you -- my constituents -- about the new cars, your experience with them and your experiences commuting on Metro-North in general. Please give me a call at 860-240-0414 or email me at bob.duff@cga.ct.gov and let me know what you think.

Also, I'll be personally visiting a rail station near you over the course of several weeks starting on Tuesday, April 5 at the South Norwalk Station. I look forward to meeting you in person and talking about the issues that are important to you as commuters living in Fairfield County.