May 22, 2013
Written by Jim Cameron
Wednesday, 15 February 2012 00:00
There’s discussion again about bringing some Metro-North trains directly from Connecticut into New York City’s Penn Station. But will it happen?
As with many good ideas that seem so easy, this one also has been studied thoroughly and found to be problematic in a number of respects. Gov. Dannel P. Malloy floated the idea in 2007, but it went nowhere, aside from an experiment by N.J. Transit to run trains from New Haven to the Meadowlands.
Here are the reasons that daily commuter service isn’t yet possible:
As any commuter on Metro-North can tell you, we don’t have enough seats for existing service to Grand Central, let alone expansion to new stations. It’s standing room only in rush hour and on weekends.
Our existing fleet of MU cars cannot take a left turn at New Rochelle and head over the Hells Gate Bridge onto Long Island, then hang a right, in through the tunnels into Penn Station. The old cars’ overhead power catenary system operates under a different voltage than Amtrak. And in third rail territory on Long Island, even our new M8 cars use a different kind of shoe to contact the third-rail power source.
The 2009 experimental direct train from Connecticut to Giants Stadium in New Jersey was actually run with New Jersey Transit railroad equipment which was only available because it was on weekends.
Even if we had the cars with the right electrical equipment to make it over the Hells Gate Bridge and through the tunnels to Penn Station, there’s no room in the station; the station is full-up serving Amtrak, the Long Island Rail Road and N.J. Transit.
If and when the $6.3 billion East Side Access project bringing some Long Island Rail Road trains into Grand Central is completed (many years from now), says the MTA, there might be room for Metro-North trains to access Penn Station.
Cut LIRR service?
Recently, the MTA has hinted they might run some Metro-North trains into Penn Station, but it would have to cut Long Island RR service. You can imagine the push-back that got, pitting one set of commuters against another. (See more on our Facebook page).
Whatever the decision, it won’t be made by us here in Connecticut. Once again, Connecticut is being told by the New York MTA what our transportation future will be. Connecticut still has no say in the matter; not even a voting seat at the table, either on the MTA or the Metro-North boards.
Connecticut may be the MTA’s largest customer, hired by CDOT to operate Metro-North trains in our state, but when it comes to important decisions, like expanding rail service to Penn Station, the MTA is clearly in control.
Years ago, Gov. Rell acknowledged the inequity in this position and promised to fight for a seat on the MTA board. But nothing happened. Nor has Gov. Malloy said anything about this unfairness.
So, just why is a New York agency still in charge of Connecticut’s transportation future?
Jim Cameron has been a commuter out of Darien for 21 years. He is Chairman of the CT Metro-North/Shore Line East Rail Commuter Council, and a member of the Coastal Corridor TIA and the Darien RTM.
You can reach him at: Web: http://www.trainweb.org/ct E-Mail:
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