METRO NORTH NEW HAVEN RAIL COMMUTER COUNCIL
(Established in 1985 under Connecticut Public Act 85-239, now Sections 13b-212b and
13b -212c of the Connecticut General Statutes)
JANUARY 17, 2007 MEETING
BUSINESS COUNCIL OF FAIRFIELD COUNTY
(SACIA) Offices, Stamford, CT
Present were: Present were: Jim Cameron (Chairman), Bob Jelley, Stan Trybulski, Joe McGee, Ed Zimmerman, Jeff Steele, Rodney Chabot, Steve DiSalvo, Sue Prosi and Jeff Maron, Members; CDOT Commissioner Ralph Carpenter, Gene Colonese, Jim Boice and Peter Richter, DOT; Joe Kanell, Jeff Watson, Ed Lydecker, and Don Staska, Metro North; Larry Uydess, member of the Public; Mark Ginocchio, Stamford Advocate; Jerry Carney, Concessions; Zaa Chaves, Richard Stowe, and David Bedell, members of the public, interested in transporting bikes on trains.
The meeting began at 7:00 p.m.
Jim Cameron introduced Connecticut’s new Commissioner of Transportation, Ralph Carpenter. Mr. Carpenter began by saying that he was already familiar with the Rail Council and appreciates the things the Council does. He went on to say that he likes to hear from everybody who is interested in public transportation. He said that his objective is to make all public transportation systems comfortable, convenient and reliable.
He noted that he likes to get decisions made and things done quickly.
Mr. Carpenter said that he recognized that, for rail commuters who take the train everyday, little things are important, and that it is important to correct problems quickly. He said that his observation was that the DOT rail people are also interested in getting things done correctly. He said that Governor Rell was passionately committed to getting the rail system right.
Rodney Chabot asked two questions: (1) He said that the CSR program for rehabilitating the
M-2 cars was falling behind and that one or two cars a month were being rehabilitated rather than the four that were planned. He went on to say that some State people had talked of discontinuing the CSR program and using the money for new cars instead. His question was “is the CSR program going to continue?” (2) Mr. Chabot spoke of the stations, particularly on the branch lines that are never open. He stated that particularly with new stations, this was a waste of money, and he asked what could be done to get closed stations open.
In response, the Commissioner said that it was his view that it was important to keep the CSR program going.
Jeff Steele asked about getting a voting member from Connecticut on to either the Metro North or the MTA Board of Directors. Commissioner Carpenter said that the State of CT had had no success in getting a voting member on either of the Boards. Gene Colonese said that it was his view that the Metro North Board understands the Connecticut issues, even thought there is no CT voting member. Jim Boice said that CT has a good deal of input on the committee level.
Mr. Cameron asked how the M-8 program was going. He wondered whether they would be delivered on time. The Commissioner said that program seems to be going fine and there is no slippage as of yet with respect to delivery time. Joe McGee raised the question of how many operating cars there will be and how many seats there will be after the new M-8s are delivered. Mr. Colonese said that the State was replacing the 242 M-2s with M-8s, and that the entire fleet will go from 400 to 500 cars.
Mr. Cameron asked about the national search for Deputy Commissioner for Mass Transit. The Commissioner said that the search is going well.
Mr. Cameron asked about the need for additional staffing at the Dept. of Transportation. Commissioner Carpenter said that he was looking at staffing and that the Governor had authorized the hiring of more engineers.
Sue Prosi said that the State’s Office of Policy and Management is also looking at transportation in connection with the issue of responsible growth. The Commissioner said that the DOT has a good relationship with other State agencies. Mr. Prosi mentioned the January 29th meeting at Central CT State Unv. about transportation- related development.
Mr. McGee asked about the planned $1.00 ticket surcharge after the M-8s are delivered. He wondered what the DOT‘s thinking was about the surcharge. The Commissioner said that the surcharge was a State fiscal issue and that it was up to the Governor and the Legislature.
Mr. Cameron asked about the future of bar cars on the New Haven line. The Commissioner said that bar cars have a real following and the State has no intention of removing the bar cars.
Mr. Steele asked about the issue of value pricing and possible reintroduction of tolls on I-95. Commissioner Carpenter said that the FHA had given the State money to study that question. He said that everyone remembers the terrible crash at the Milford toll station and that there are now better ways to collect tolls, but he re-emphasized the need to study the issues.
Steve DiSalvo said that he thought that the quality of announcements at stations had gone down, and the Commissioner said that he would like to hear details about that.
Mr. Cameron asked about the DOT’s report to the Legislature about expansion of Shore Line East service. The Commissioner said that he was in favor of expanding Shore Line East service. Mr. Boice mentioned the obstacles to expansion: (1) Working out a new user fee with Amtrak; (2) designing and building north side platforms for Branford, Madison, Clinton and Westbrook; and (3) the problem of boaters’ objection to more frequent closings of the CT River and Niantic River bridges. He said that phase I of the State’s proposals was for weekend service, plus one weekday midday train; Phase II was service beyond Old Saybrook to New London; and Phase III, which requires north side platforms, was having service in both directions on weekdays.
Richard Stowe raised the question of bicycles on trains and also suggested that the drawbridges on the Connecticut River and the Niantic River ought to be replaced with high level bridges rather than existing low level bridges. The Commissioner said that he agreed that bicycle-friendly transit was important.
Larry Uydess asked how the DOT will monitor contract compliance in connection with the new M-8’s. The Commissioner said that was part of his review of DOT staffing. He said that perhaps the DOT needs more engineers.
Mr. Cameron asked what the status was of the audit of station repairs ordered by the Governor in July. Commissioner Carpenter said the audit was completed, that he was reviewing it, but that he had not made a finding as of yet.
Another biker stressed the importance of bicycles on trains. He said he lives in Manhattan and works in Wilton. He takes the train from Manhattan to Stamford and bikes to Wilton.
Anther biker, who lives in Stamford and works in New Canaan, complained that off peak trains take bikes but peak trains do not, making it difficult to bike to work.
Mr. Prosi complained about ticket collection and said that a lot of tickets are not collected. She also stressed the need for a new interlocking south of Greenwich.
A commuter from New Haven also stressed the need for being
able to take bicycles on trains. He stressed the fact that many people are
moving back to the cities and therefore could ride their bikes to the stations.
Bob Jelley raised the question of DOT studies seeming to take forever. Commissioner Carpenter said he was also frustrated by the length of time studies took. He said that complete studies seemed to be necessary in order to demonstrate justification for things the DOT wanted to do. Mr. Cameron also spoke of the length of time the studies take and the Commissioner said he hoped he could find ways to move the study process along.
Mr. Cameron thanked the Commissioner for coming to the meeting and being so forthright in answering questions.
MONTHLY OPERATIONS REPORT
Ed Lydecker presented the Monthly Operations Report. He said that ridership was up in December because of a great deal of weekend and Christmas ridership to NYC due to the very good weather. Joe Kanell said that the 97.1% on-time performance on the New Haven line for 2006 was an annual on-time performance record since Metro North took over operation of the New Haven line. Mr. Colonese said that the report of 22 annulments and terminations included the three bus substitutions. He also said that only 10% of the rehabilitated cars are completely finished. He went on to say that in December 2006, the mean distance between failures for the M-2s that had been through the CSR program was 82,000 miles, whereas it was only 39,000 miles for cars that had not been through the program. Ms. Prosi asked what components had been overhauled in the first round of CSR work. Mr. Colonese said that all trucks had been rehabilitated, interiors had been redone, cab signal controls had been rehabilitated and all electrical work had been done. Mr. Cameron said that in future reports, Council would like to know how many cars were really completed as opposed to being partly completed.
TRANSPORTATION STRATEGY BOARD REPORT
Mr. Cameron addressed the Transportation Strategy Board’s updated report. The Commissioner said that the report was very comprehensive but properly did not include recommendations as to funding. Mr. Jelley asked why the Transportation Strategy Board proposed 24 M-8s for Shore Line East. Mr. Boice responded that it was proposed to use the Virginia cars presently in use on Shore Line East for New Haven, Hartford, and Springfield service and to use M-8s on Shore Line East so as to make it an entirely integrated service.
Mr. Stowe asked about the possible construction of high level railroad bridges on the Amtrak tracks between Old Saybrook and the Rhode Island line. Mr. Boice said that that is physically impossible to do for the Thames River Bridge from New London to Groton.
Mr. DiSalvo expressed the view that it was important to buy more M-8s as quickly as possible and also to do grade separation work on the New Haven, Hartford, and Springfield line.
Mr. Cameron said that he liked the recommendation in the Transportation Strategy Board Report for uniform rail governance for parking garages, stations, etc.
MAIN LINE ISSUES
Mr. DiSalvo raised the question of the rail/truck collision at 10:05 a.m. on December 14, 2006 in Southport. He asked why there were no e-mail alerts about this accident and the subsequent train delays. He also wondered why there were no first aid kits on the train. In response to this point, Joe Kanell said that there never were first aid kits on trains and it was better to let technical people handle first aid. Mr. DiSalvo also asked why the Emergency Medical Service took so long to get to the train. Mr. Kanell said that it was a remote area and it only took 12 minutes. He also said that there was a doctor and two nurses on the train.
BRANCH LINE ISSUES
Rodney Chabot said that a train on the New Canaan line was annulled the morning of the meeting. He said that there was another train coming up from New York and he was wondering why it was not continuing on to New Canaan. Mr. Kanell said there was no place to put the train in New Canaan. Mr. Chabot also raised the question of train 1775 from New Canaan to Stamford, which misses Shore Line East train 1640 by four minutes. Mr. Colonese said that they were looking at a possible connection for the April timetable change.
Mr. Steele asked who was responsible for replacing light bulbs on the Fairfield station platform. Mr. Colonese said it was the Town of Fairfield but went on to say that he and Peter Richter would look at the problem.
Mr. Uydess said that the electric signs at Westport Station give the date but not the time, and he expressed the view that the time was more important than the date.
Mr. DiSalvo once again suggested that in discussing on-time performance, Metro North should make it clear that a train that is no more than 6 minutes late is considered on time. Ms. Prosi commented that on time includes trains out of Grand Central to Stamford or New Haven.
Mr. Stowe proposed that there ought to be off peak express trains from New Canaan to Grand Central Terminal.
Mr. Chabot asked about the missing telephone at Talmadge Hill Station.
Jeff Maron said that train 1509, the 6:05 a.m. out of Stamford to Grand Central Terminal, was frequently late. He said it was due at 6:45 a.m.
Mr. Colonese said that the State was continuing to talk with everybody concerned about replacing the garage. Mr. McGee said that road traffic around the station was increasing.
Commissioner Carpenter said that the DOT will do everything possible to correct the garage problem. Mr. Stowe suggested that the State work with a developer for the new garage. Mr. Maron asked what was being done about maintenance on the old garage before it is torn down. Mr. Colonese reported that there were 450 people on the waiting list in July and there are 650 now. He did not know how long a wait that meant.
The meeting adjourned at 9:15 p.m.
The next meeting will be in New Haven on February 28, 2007 at 6:00 p.m.