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Readers Weigh In on Metro-North Issues

Commuter horror stories, defense of the mass transit system and how to get results from the MTA.

An article last weekend about sparked a lively discussion among readers, some of whom shared their own Metro-North horror stories, while others defended the transit system. A few commenters said they were grateful to live in Rockland County, where commuting is less of a hassle.

Ellen Fields was one of the riders who experienced long delays on the New Haven line on March 30. She wrote:

“I was on the 8 a.m. train Wednesday and cannot say that I enjoyed a 2 1/2 hour commute into the city. The New Haven Line commuters have suffered too long with smelly trains that are unreliable, uncomfortable and probably unsafe. Besides the frequent lateness or cancellations of the trains that result in inhumane overcrowding, let's not forget the heat that does not always work in the winter and AC that is inadequate in the summer. And of course, there are the lights that sometimes just don't want to stay on, so even reading becomes challenging. …

The service on New Haven Line is unacceptable and it is a travesty that we have to pay the same fares as the Hudson and Harlem lines for outdated equipment and unreliable service.”

Robbeee J said that all things considered, mass transit riders in the New York Metro area don’t have it all that bad:

“No doubt most commuters have a ‘commuter horror story’ or two, but in the grand scheme of things Metro North has a pretty good on-time record. Consider that two-thirds of the nation's rail riders live in the NY Metro area, as well as one in three of mass transit users. Grand Central Station (Metro North) and Penn Station (LIRR and NJ Transit) are the two busiest stations in the country. Metro North on-time statistics have been above 90% consistently, and almost always are higher than those of the LIRR or NJ Transit...though that is no consolation or comfort for anyone who experiences delays, cancellations, poor service or other commuter difficulties.

I'm only a casual user of mass transit these days, but I can tell you, I'm glad that I live in an area that has a large variety of mass transit options. Glitches? You bet! Delays? Frustrating! Is there room for improvement? Plenty! Do I want to get in the car, fight traffic, avoid construction, find parking, and pay almost 4 dollars for a gallon of gas? Rarely!”

Orrin Getz, who clearly knows a thing or two about the MTA, said that New Jersey Transit service in Orange and Rockland counties is consistently better than the Metro-North system, in part because of its newer, more reliable fleet of trains.

Getz also advised unhappy commuters how to get results from the MTA:

“I have been able to get many improvements from Metro-North by attending the monthly Metro-North Committee Meetings held in the MTA Headquarters at 347 Madison Avenue. One of my best accomplishments was to get Metro-North to provide an express train on the Pascack Valley Line. …

How you say things at these meetings has a profound effect in how effective you will be in getting things done. I have attended enough meetings with transportation officials in both New York and New Jersey to understand that it also takes some time to get them to develop a respect for you and that you are well-informed and that you are an advocate, not just someone who is angry and occasionally shows up to complain.

Another way to become more effective in establishing contacts with Metro-North officials is to attend the monthly meetings of the Metro-North Rail Commuters Council (MNRCC) of the PCAC. From time to time key Metro-North officials are invited to the MNRCC meetings and you, as an attendee, do have an opportunity to have a dialog with them.”

To find out more about MTA Committee Meetings click here.

Great advice, Orinn! Is there anyone else out there who considers themselves a mass transit advocate? Tell us in the comments section your ideas for improving the system.

Dustin N April 10, 2011 at 02:44 PM
Where are the meeting held? Do you have a link?
Jonann Brady April 10, 2011 at 03:07 PM
Hi Dustin... Just added a link to find out more information about the meetings.
Steve Rosenberg April 10, 2011 at 03:47 PM
More people might use metro north if there was more and less expensive parking available. Most people do not live within walking distance of a Metro North station and have no other way to get there besides driving and parking. Investment in better and cheaper parking would improve road traffic and wear and tear,and reduce air pollution from automobiles...a win win for all.
Ellyn Shannon April 29, 2011 at 07:54 PM
The Metro North Commuter Council will be holding a "Meet the Council" event on May 19th, from 4:30 to 6:30 next to the MNR Station Masters office (Near the Transit Museum). Our members would like to hear your comments and concerns!

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