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)
JUNE 14, 2006 MEETING
Present were: Rodney Chabot, Chairman, Jim Cameron, Vice Chairman, Bob Jelley, Jeff Steele, Stan Trybulski, Terri Cronin, Joe McGee, Carl Lehman, Jeff Maron, and Ed Zimmerman, Members; Gene Colonese and Peter Richter, DOT; George Okvat and Jeff Watson, Metro North; Mark Ginocchio, Stamford Advocate; Patrick Lindsey, Norwalk Hour; Larry Uydess and Erik Chabot, Members of the Public.
The minutes of the May 17, 2006 meeting were approved.
BIDS FOR M-8 CARS
Gene Colonese reported that Metro North and the State were still negotiating with Bombardier and Kawasaki, the two car builders which have submitted proposals for new M-8 cars. He said that the situation was still delicate, and did not give any further information.
Jim Cameron said that Steve DiSalvo had told him that the problem of walkways between the parking lot and the station platforms was somewhat improved.
In response to a question, Mr. Colonese said that the State had extended until fall the opening of bids for six new dual-mode locomotives. He said that the State thinks they have five interested potential bidders. He acknowledged that the dual-mode locomotives being ordered by New Jersey Transit are different, in that they are to be diesel and AC powered through the catenary. Those being ordered by Connecticut are diesel and third rail.
With respect to the 6 used Amtrak locomotives leased by DOT, Peter Richter said that two are being used on the Shore Line East trains to Stamford, two others are in operation, and two are not working.
With respect to the Virginia cars being worked on at Kawasaki in Yonkers, Mr. Richter reported that one cab car and four trailers were there, with three being worked on now. He said that so far no real problems have shown up. He said that Kawasaki would have 18 cars back to Connecticut by the end of 2006. Then in 2007, the DOT will send the Virginia cars presently in operation on Shore Line East and the cab cars still in Virginia to Kawasaki.
With respect to existing Metro North cars, Mr. Richter reported 104 M-2 cars have now been rehabilitated, and that M-4 window replacement is almost complete, with only four triplets left to do.
Mr. Colonese and Mr. Richter reported that the consultant study of what needed to be done to the old garage had been sent back for further, more specific work recommendations. Jeff Maron suggested that in addition to capital improvements to be made to the garage, it would be useful to deal with signage issues, which have been previously discussed, right away. Rodney Chabot seconded Mr. Maron’s suggestion and said that he thought that the stop signs on the station floor ought to be repainted immediately.
Mr. Cameron asked if parking revenue was going into maintenance of the garage.
Mr. Cameron raised the issue of pigeon droppings. He mentioned that the Town of Darien had been holding meetings to alert people about bird flu problems. He said that he thought the bird flu situation made it imperative to deal with the pigeons now. Mr. Richter said that the DOT was engaged in a program to relocate the pigeons, because various groups oppose the killing of pigeons. George Okvat spoke of his experience at Yonkers station with pigeons, and said that the pigeon problem was almost impossible to solve.
There was some discussion of the escalators at Stamford station going in the wrong direction in the afternoon. Mr. Colonese said that the DOT would look into the problem.
MEET THE COMMUTER DAY
Mr. Cameron raised the question of a “Meet the Commuter Day” in June. It was decided to have it at Greenwich station on Wednesday morning, June 28.
STATIONS AT WEST HAVEN AND ORANGE
Bob Jelley pointed out that Public Act 06-136, passed by the legislature this year, ordered the Commissioner of Transportation to develop a new rail station in either West Haven or Orange, and further ordered him to evaluate and plan the implementation of a second station between New Haven and Milford. Mr. Jelley said that he understood the legislation to, in effect, order the building of stations in both West Haven and Orange. He reminded the Council that the question of which of the two towns should get a station had been being studied forever by the DOT. He asked if the legislation hadn’t finally decided the question and whether the DOT would now go ahead and build the stations. Mr. Colonese said that the DOT understood that it was to build the two stations, but was studying the question of whether money was available. Mr. Jelley said that it appeared to him that the bill did provide money.
Mr. Colonese discussed the May Operations Report. He said that the extra train service for the US Open golf tournament in Mamaroneck was working well, and on the first couple of days of the service the trains carried 3,000 passengers from New York City and 4,000 passengers from East of Mamaroneck in Westchester and Connecticut. Mr. Colonese found the latter figure surprising.
Mr. Cameron and Mr. Maron asked about consist compliance, that is, whether trains have the planned number of cars. Mr. Colonese said that consist compliance had improved. He said that the expectation was that with new cars, 8-10% would be out of service on any particular day and that on older cars, 15% would be out of service.
There was some discussion of the early morning train service and whether that had affected ridership on later trains.
SUFFICIENCY OF POWER ON THE NEW HAVEN LINE
Mr. Colonese was asked about the sufficiency of power supply to the New Haven line. The reason for the question was the Amtrak power failure in late May. Mr. Colonese said that the New Haven line had a robust supply of power. Mr. Chabot and Mr. Jelley asked about the issue of the New Haven line between the Housatonic River and New Haven only being supplied from the Housatonic River end, and asked the status of a planned substation in New Haven. Mr. Colonese said that the DOT was working on that, and that it would be built in the next 2-3 years.
Mr. Colonese went on to say that the M-8s will be 24% more efficient in using power than the existing fleet. He said that the reason for this was that the M-8s will incorporate regenerative braking, which puts power back into the line during braking. Joe McGee noted that the railroad was the biggest user of power in Connecticut, and was openly skeptical about the 24% efficiency figure. It was suggested that at the September or October meeting of the Council having one of Metro North’s electrical engineers discuss power supply and usage.
WATERBURY TRACK WASHOUT
Mr. Cameron raised the issue of the 300 feet of Waterbury line track that had been washed out in a heavy rain storm. He said that there had been no e-mail notice about buses replacing trains on the line. There was general recognition that the railroad had done a good job in restoring the track quickly.
EXPANDED SHORE LINE EAST SERVICE
Mr. Jelley mentioned that Public Act 06-136 ordered the Commissioner of Transportation to identify obstacles to improve a rail service on Shore Line East, including increased frequency of service, reverse commuter service and weekend service. It further ordered him to report his findings to the Legislature by January 1, 2007. It also, in requiring the Commissioner to make rail station improvements on Shore Line East, stated that that requirement should include at least four Shore Line East stations east of New Haven. Mr. Jelley asked if the DOT understood the “four station” requirement to mean that the Branford, Madison, Clinton, and Westbrook stations were to be become two-sided stations. Mr. Colonese said that was the DOT’s understanding. Mr. Jelley then asked whether the Madison station, presently under construction, and the Westbrook station, not yet under construction, would have their designs changed so as to make them into two-sided stations. Mr. Colonese said they would not, and that in his view it would be more efficient to convert all four stations into two-sided stations at a single time. Mr. Jelley expressed skepticism.
NORTH END ACCESS TO AND FROM GRAND CENTRAL TERMINAL
Mr. Jelley noted his surprise in May to discover that the north end access to and from the lower level of Grand Central has a staircase at about 45th Street with more than 60 steps and a single escalator. He said that when he and Mrs. Jelley had gotten off a lower level train at about 6:30 pm on a Wednesday, the escalator was going down so that passengers leaving the train and wishing to go out at the north end had to climb the 60 step flight of stairs. Mr. Okvat said he would look into the matter, and suggested that perhaps the escalator should always go up. Mr. Jelley asked if the situation would be improved with eastside access for the Long Island Railroad and the underground mezzanine to be built for LIRR passengers, and Mr. Okvat said that he thought not.
After the regular meeting concluded, there was an election of council officers for the following year. Mr. Chabot announced he had been on the Council for 21 years and had been Chairman for the last 11 years and that he had decided it was time for him to step down as Chairman. He said that he would remain as a member of the Council. Carl Lehman said that in his view, the Council had been ineffective for the first 10 years of its existence, and that that had changed about 10 years ago when Mr. Chabot had become chairman and Mr. Cameron had become Vice Chairman.
The following officers were elected:
Jim Cameron, Chairman
Jeff Steele and Terri Cronin, Vice Chairmen
Bob Jelley, Secretary
Mr. Cameron announced that Mr. Chabot would have the title of Past Chairman.
There was discussion about having a summer meeting, and Mr. Cameron said that he would poll the members.
Mr. McGee spoke of the importance of the Council remaining non-political, and not appearing to take positions that appeared to favor one candidate over another. He said that this was particularly important this year, because rail transportation had become an important issue.
The meeting adjourned at 9:10 pm.