July 30, 2014

Talking Transportation: Top Ten Things I Like About Metro-North

Jim CameronDespite what you may think, I don’t hate Metro-North. Sure, I am outspoken about its many failings, but always with a goal of making it better. So, to prove I’m really a fan of the railroad, I’m kicking off the year with my “Top Ten Things I like about Metro-North”:

10) New Stations: Reflecting expanded demand for rail commutation, CDOT added new stations (and parking) at West Haven and Fairfield Metro in recent years.

9) Lost & Found: Metro-North runs one of the biggest and best Lost & Found operations in the country handling, over 50,000 items a year.

8) Package Tours: You might not realize it, but the railroad offers all sorts of package deals for big-city events, combining train tickets, admission and even hotel stays.

7) The Bar Cars: Metro-North is the only commuter railroad in the US that still offers patrons a bar car. There are only a handful of bar cars left, soon to be retired and possibly not replaced, so enjoy ‘em while you still can.

6) Online Tickets: You still can’t buy a ticket on the train using a credit card, but you can buy them online (and receive them by mail)… and they’re even cheaper (by 2%) than purchasing them at a ticket machine or Grand Central.

5) The TrainTime App: Forget about those old paper timetables and get yourself the new TrainTime App (for iPhone, iPad and Android). Not only does it show train times, but track numbers, any delays, fares and station information. And it’s free!

4) Expanded Schedule: The trains may be running slower, but there are more of them than ever before. Service on weekends has been expanded as ridership has grown and more cars were added to the fleet.

3) Grand Central Terminal: There is no more beautiful rail station in the world. And for the next 269 years it will be managed by the MTA, parent of Metro-North. Their renovation of the station completed in 2007 has turned a station into a destination. The shops, restaurants and open spaces are the envy of commuters everywhere… especially the poor “Dashing Dans” on the LIRR who arrive in the squalor of Penn Station.

2) The new M8 Cars: Years late in their design and delivery, the newest cars in the Metro-North fleet are clean, comfortable and much appreciated. With power outlets at every seat (and someday even WiFi), the first 300 of the M8 cars on order are proving themselves dependable even in winter weather.

1) On Time Performance: No matter how great the destination, how comfortable the train or how expensive the fare, nothing matters more to commuters than getting to their destination on time. Until recently, Metro-North had an enviable on-time performance in the upper 90%’s, a number I’m confident they can achieve again.

For each of the items mentioned above Metro-North deserves credit. Can each be improved? Sure. But let’s see the glass as more than half-full and give the folks at the railroad their due.

I still love Metro-North. I just want to be able to love it even more.

About the author: JIM CAMERON has been a Darien resident for 22 years. He was a member of the CT Rail Commuter Council for 19 years and still serves on the Darien RTM. The opinions expressed in this column are only his own. You can reach him at Jim@MediaTrainer.tv