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)
AUGUST 23, 2006 MEETING
THE BUSINESS COUNCIL OF FAIRFIELD COUNTY OFFICES
Present were: Jim Cameron, Chairman, Jeff Steele, Vice Chairman, Terri Cronin, Vice Chairman, Bob Jelley, Secretary, Bob Baird, Joe McGee, Jeff Maron, and Steve DiSalvo, Members; Gene Colonese and Peter Richter, DOT; George Okvat and Ed Lydecker, Metro North; Mark Ginocchio, Stamford Advocate; Jeff Wieser, Barry Adler, and Maryanne Roberts, members of the public.
The minutes of the meeting of June 14, 2006 were approved.
Jim Cameron welcomed new member Bob Baird to the Rail Council.
Jim Cameron said that he planned to appoint committees to study various railroad problems, with the committees making reports to the full Council at regular meetings. He also spoke of the attendance requirement in Section 13b-212b of the Connecticut General Statutes, and said that missing three meetings will be treated as a resignation. He went on to say, however, that excused absences were possible, if he was informed of the expected absence before the meeting.
Mr. Cameron spoke at some length of the Governor’s interest in fixing up railroad stations on the New Haven line, and explained that that interest had resulted in the Council’s “fix my station” initiative. He said that a number of commuters had submitted information and pictures of defects at various stations.
Ed Lydecker explained the July operations report. He noted that Metro North had carried 100,000 riders to the U.S. Open Golf Tournament in Mamaroneck. He went on to say that July had been a hard month for Metro North operations, because of the heat wave, resulting in the wires coming down on several occasions.
There was a discussion of the figures for mean distance between failures for M-2, M-4, and M-6 cars. Mr. Lydecker said that because there are 240 M-2s, but only 54 M-4s and 48 M-6s, a failure of an M-4 or an M-6 produces a larger effect on the average than the failure of an M-2.
Gene Colonese said that the contract with Kawasaki for 300 new M-8 cars was signed in July. A prototype train is expected in three years. The first new cars should appear on the railroad in 42 months and thereafter, delivery should be ten cars per month. Bar cars are not included in the 300 cars ordered, but will be in a future add-on order. Mr. Colonese went on to say that the Kawasaki bid was lower than the Bombardier bid.
Bob Jelley pointed out that the new M-8s will not have 25 cycle capability and therefore will not be able to operate into New Jersey from Penn Station. Mr. Colonese explained that the M-8 will be able to run to Penn Station, because the catenary from Harold Interlocking in Queens over the Hell Gate Bridge to New Rochelle is 60 cycle and the new M-8s will be able to use third rail by means of an over-under shoe from Harold Interlocking into Penn Station. He went on to say that it was possible that the power problems Amtrak was having on the main line from Penn Station to Washington might result in a change from 25 cycle to 60 cycle power.
MAIN LINE ISSUES
Mr. Cameron brought up the “fix my station” initiative and asked Mr. Colonese about the DOT’s inspection of stations to determine needed repairs as ordered by Governor Rell. Mr. Colonese responded that the DOT had already respected the stations on the Danbury branch and the Waterbury branch and in addition, some of the main line stations. Mr. Cameron noted that most of the stations are leased to the Towns in which they are located, and the Towns are responsible for basic maintenance. He said that the four Greenwich stations are among the worst on the line. He went on to say that each lease is different and suggested that the DOT place an information sign in each station stating what body is responsible for each aspect of the station, together with phone numbers. Jeff Steele spoke of the lighting problem in wet weather at Fairfield station. Steve DiSalvo said that there had been a flurry of construction activity at Milford station preceding the oyster festival last weekend, but said there was still work that needed doing.
Mr. Cameron noted an email from a commuter using the South Norwalk station. He said that the station is closed at an early hour in the morning each day, which the Town of Norwalk attributes to the police being unable to control vandalism if the station remains open. George Okvat said he was there a month ago at a later hour and thought everything was find. Mr. Colonese said the Town of Norwalk owns the station. Mr. Richter agreed to follow-up on the complaint and report back to the Council.
Mr. Steele asked why escalators at Stamford station were going down rather than up at evening rush hour. There was some discussion about considering having escalators always go up. Jeff Maron asked about the waiting list for the Stamford garage. He said that nobody he knows has ever seen a full garage. Mr. Colonese said that he believed that the garage was 90-95% full. Mr. Maron went on to say that taxis were queuing in the garage in travel lanes. He also asked about the consultant’s report on the condition of the old garage. Mr. Colonese said that the consultant was looking at the cost of repairs. Mr. Cameron noted that the signs painted on the floor of the new garage had been at last repainted. Mr. Maron said that signage was still bad in the garage.
Mr. DiSalvo noted that there had been not seat drops about the catenary problems during the heat wave in July and that there were many hot cars. Mr. Colonese acknowledged that there were air conditioning problems, but spoke of 95% compliance since the Spring, and said that it was frequently better, because of the shortage of cars, to use a hot car rather than withdrawing a pair or a triplet from service. The phone number for reporting a hot car is 1-800-RAILHOT. It was asked how hard it was to fix the air conditioning in a car. Mr. Colonese said that the new M-8s will have dual air conditioners, and that the air conditioning units will be easy to remove and replace.
SHORE LINE EAST
Mr. Jelley asked about the problem of the thru Shore Line East trains from Stamford to New Haven being canceled on a number of occasions this summer. Peter Richter said that at temperatures over 80°, the old catenary sags enough to prevent the use of the higher locomotives, which were never intended to be used on the main line. He said that DOT was looking for different equipment for next summer. Mr. Jelley asked whether the problem will disappear after the replacement of the catenary, and Mr. Richter said that there would still be low catenary under several overpasses.
Mr. Jelley spoke of the evening busing problems on Shore Line East while the Branford River bridge was being replaced. He noted that none of the communications systems at State Street Station work, and that DOT employees were, therefore, required to supervise the busing.
OTHER BRANCH LINES
It was reported that all the switches at Devon are being replaced, so Waterbury branch trains will be unable to enter the main line. As a result, there will be busing on the Waterbury branch for two months with the exception of the first down-bound train each weekday morning..
Mr. Cameron appointed several committee chairmen: (1) Mr. Steele for a committee to audit available parking at stations; (2) Mr. DiSalvo for a committee dealing with customer courtesy and noisy talking on trains; (3) Terri Cronin for a committee on bar cars; and (4) Ms. Cronin for a committee to investigate safety training of conductors.
The meeting ended at 9:05 p.m. The next meeting is scheduled for Grand Central Terminal on Wednesday, September 20, 2006 at 6:30 p.m.