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)
MAY 17, 2006 MEETING
Present were: Rodney Chabot, Chairman, Jim Cameron, Vice Chairman, Bob Jelley, Jeff Steele, Stan Trybulski, Terri Cronin, Joe McGee, Steve DiSalvo, Carl Lehman, Jeff Maron, Members; Gene Colonese, DOT; Peter Cannito, Joe Kanell, Jeff Watson, Ed Lydecker, Metro North; Sue Prosi, SWERPA; Fran Schido, CBS 880 News; Mark Ginocchio, Advocate; Patrick Lindsey, Norwalk Hour; Lt. James McKenna, MTA Police; Tory Ann Marko, Ben Heckscher, Barry Adler, Larry Uydess, and Dick Stowe, Members of the Public.
Minutes of the April 19, 2006 were approved with corrections.
Chairman Rodney Chabot welcomed Peter Cannito, President of Metro North Railroad. Mr. Cannito began by saying that the preceding twelve months had been good from the point of view of operations. Ridership on the New Haven line was up 2%. He said that the increase in gasoline prices had played some part in the increase in ridership. He commented about the addition of early morning and late night trains to the timetable and more convenient weekend service. He noted that the early morning trains serve a different market from the normal morning rush hour trains. He also said that on-time performance had been good.
He described the railroad’s principle problem as the shortage of cars. But he said that the procurement process of new cars was underway. He also said that the early morning trains were causing some shift of ridership, and that took some pressure off the normal rush hour trains.
He said that the 2006 winter had been good from a weather point of view. He said that successful winter operation of the M-7s on the Hudson and Harlem lines had permitted all diesels from those lines to be used in snowy weather on the New Haven line. He remarked that the rehabilitated M-2s on the New Haven line were going longer between failures.
With respect to procurement of M-8s, Mr. Cannito said that technical bids and financial proposals had been received. He said that Siemens had dropped out, leaving only Bombardier and Kawasaki as bidders. He said that he would not comment on the two proposals and that he expected approval of one at the end of July, with the awarding of a contract this summer.
Jim Cameron asked what the M-8 car interior will be like. Mr. Cannito said that it will be wider than the M-7. He said that there would be additional focus groups after the design had become clearer. He mentioned that focus groups dealing with bar cars had made it very clear that people liked the bar cars in their present configuration. He also went on to say that in spite of the general dislike of the seats for three people, there had to be three seats on one side of the aisle and two on the other to get the necessary seating capacity.
Mr. Chabot asked if all of the seats would have windows. Mr. Cannito said that that aspect of the design was not yet complete. Mr. Chabot emphasized the need for windows for all seats.
Mr. Cameron asked about Wi-fi service on the M-8s. Mr. Cannito said that Wi-fi on the New Haven line was out for proposals now, and the M-8 will have the same Wi-Fi service as the M-7s.
Carl Lehman said that Hudson line ridership was predicted to increase by 50%. Mr. Cannito said that actually it was the number of trains on the Hudson line that was predicted to increase 50% and that included both Amtrak service into Penn Station and freight service. Mr. Lehman went on to inquire about the Long Island Railroad’s eastside access into Grand Central Terminal and asked whether that was going to interfere with Metro North’s use of Grand Central Terminal. Mr. Cannito said that there would be no direct tie between the LIRR’s tracks and platforms and those of Metro North. He said that the terminal’s capacity to handle people would be increased by 100,000 square feet so as to handle the additional Long Island passengers. He went on to say that the capacity problem at GCT was the four tracks in the Park Avenue tunnel.
In response to a question about Shore Line East by Mr. Cameron, Mr. Cannito said that Metro North would like to operate both the Shore Line East and the proposed new New Haven – Hartford – Springfield service.
In response to another question, Mr. Cannito said that he was in favor of stations at Co-op City and other places in the Bronx along the Hell Gate route. He talked of New Jersey wanting to increase the capacity of Pennsylvania Station by adding a lower level of tracks. He said that it was his view that Pennsylvania Station should be a run-through station, with trains going from New Jersey to Long Island or Connecticut, rather than a terminal as it is now. In response to a question from Joe McGee, Mr. Cannito said that cannot happen for at least ten years. He also said that the new M-8s will be designed to go into Penn Station and to go beyond New Haven.
Mr. Cannito said that it was important for New Jersey, New York and Connecticut to do much more coordinated planning. He spoke of the planning for a new Tappan Zee Bridge and the need to consider railroad service over the bridge from Rockland and Orange Counties to Stamford and White Plains. He said that there were more projects to be considered in the tri-state area than in the entire rest of the United States.
Steve DiSalvo asked about the proposed new station for Yankee Stadium. Mr. Cannito said that work was already underway for building such a station and that it would be open by 2009, when the new stadium is completed. He said that inbound service to Yankee Stadium will be easier than outbound service after the games, and mentioned that the train pattern will be different after a night game than after a day game. The High Bridge Yard will be the staging area for Yankee Stadium service.
In response to a question about European rail equipment, Mr. Cannito said that European cars are not built to the same safety standards as the United States.
In response to another question, Mr. Cannito said that grade crossings are the biggest problem for railroads, and should be eliminated.
In response to another question, Mr. Cannito said that the M-8 cars would be entirely different from the M-2s, M-4s and M-6s, and that trains could not combine M-8s with the older cars. He said that on the Harlem and Hudson lines, the railroad was using the older M-1s and M-3s for ten and twelve car trains, and using the new M-7s for six and eight car trains. He suggested that the M-8s would probably be used in the same way.
In response to a question about electric power supply in Connecticut, he said that there were no power problems in Connecticut.
In response to another question, he said that the present cab cars permit four “aspects” or speeds, and that the railroad was looking into adding additional higher aspects or speeds. He went on to say that the ability to bunch trains closer together depends on the braking ability of the trains.
Terri Cronin asked about New Haven line fares. Mr. Cannito said that Metro North does not set the fares; they are set by New York and Connecticut. He said that the average fare on commuter railroads nationwide is about 35% of cost, whereas for the Long Island Railroad, it is 48%, for Metro North in New York, it is about 60%, for Metro North in Connecticut, including the branch lines, it is about 70%, and the main line of Metro North in Connecticut is over 80%.
Richard Stowe asked a question about whether it wasn’t possible for westbound LIRR trains to switch on to the Hell Gate route between Jamaica and Woodside through use of a disused freight connection. Mr. Cannito said that there was no such connection.
Mr. Cannito, in connection with a question about New Haven line trains stopping at Woodlawn in the Bronx, said that there was a ban on New Haven line trains making local stops in the Bronx other than at Fordham. He also said that Metro North was studying the difficult problem of trying to find a way for the two center tracks to platform at Fordham in order to make the Fordham station a more useful transportation center.
Mr. Chabot thanked Mr. Cannito for attending the Council’s meeting and for giving such an informative talk.
Mr. DiSalvo said that the construction conditions are Milford station were still unacceptable. There are two issues, one, crossing from the parking lot to the station and two, arriving on the New Haven bound side, a very narrow walkway to the parking lot. Gene Colonese said that the problem was that there is a lot of construction activity in a small area. There had been much rain. He said that there was very little more that could be done to improve the situation, but the work should be completed in July or August.
Mr. Colonese said that the Legislature had done lots of good things for the railroad. He said that DOT was still sorting out the results.
Mr. Colonese said that electrification of the Danbury branch is still being studied. He said if it was decided to do the electrification, there was money in the budget for various branch line improvements.
Mr. Colonese reported that six new dual-mode locomotives were out for bid. They are to be diesel and third-rail with an over-under shoe and would be able to go into Penn Station.
MEET THE COMMUTERS DAY
Mr. Cameron raised the question of having a Meet the Commuters Day this spring. After some discussion, Greenwich was decided on.
Meeting adjourned at 8:45 p.m.
The next meeting is on Wednesday, June 14, 2006 at 7:00 p.m. at Stamford, CT.