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Metro-North Shortens Commuting Times

New Metro-North rail schedules - which will take effect May 11 - are designed to shave minutes off the commute while also improving safety.

Patch file photo.
Patch file photo.
As part of its plan to improve rail service, particularly coming off a rough 2013, Metro-North Monday announced new schedule times for trains that will make commutes a bit shorter while boosting safety.

Meanwhile, Gov. Cannel Malloy on Monday afternoon criticized the railroad's schedule changes. "While a step in the right direction, the new schedule falls short on delivering commitments to increase the frequency of trains and minimize travel time.  It's been almost a full year since the derailment in Bridgeport and since then, New Haven Line customers have been enduring longer, less reliable train service."

Below is the train service's press release describing the changes: 

Metro-North riders can look forward to new schedules that will bring back shorter morning commutes for most customers. The timetables for the Hudson, Harlem and New Haven lines effective Sunday, May 11, 2014 that are designed to provide substantially improved performance and reliability while accommodating new safety measures.

Systemwide, 96% of inbound AM peak customers will have a shorter commute compared to the current timetables, which were implemented last November. The new schedule will continue to provide 700 trains each weekday on the Hudson, Harlem and New Haven lines.

“Our first goal, now and always, is to provide a safe service,” said Metro-North President Joseph Giulietti. “This train schedule supports our ongoing efforts to serve our customers while providing our maintenance forces the time they need to inspect, maintain and repair the system.”

The schedule accounts for actual operating conditions and new mandatory speed restrictions and will be more reliable for customers at intermediate stops as well as at final destinations. While some trip times will decrease and others will increase, all will be more predictable. 

“Since I returned to Metro-North two months ago, our customers have consistently said they want to be able to rely on our schedules again and that’s exactly what these changes aim to do,” Giulietti said. “We have analyzed train performance with an eye to bottlenecks, permanent speed reductions, actual running times, customer requests and the need to provide sufficient time to allow ongoing track and infrastructure improvements. We believe the new schedule will result in substantially improved performance.”

The new timetable also reestablishes traditional AM Peak arrival times at Grand Central Terminal. Schedule changes made last summer resulted in many trains arriving later and customers shifted to earlier trains. The new timetable will undo those changes.

The schedule also removes extra running time that was added last summer to accommodate emergency track work and also will better reflect the impact of slower operating speeds at many locations as directed by the Federal Railroad Administration in its Emergency Order No 29 last December. The net impact of those two changes is that most people will have shorter trips.

The schedule allows for ongoing, infrastructure repair and maintenance in the midday off-peak and at nights and on weekends. There is much work to be done, as identified by the high-tech diagnostic equipment provided by Transportation Technology Center Inc., which Metro-North hired after the May 17, 2013 derailment in Bridgeport.

In the past 12 months, an intensive and accelerated track improvement program was begun.

In the Bronx, all four tracks have been improved so that allowable speeds will be restored to 75 mph before the new timetable takes effect on May 11. This should minimize delays in a highly congested area. At Melrose and Tremont stations, where peak busing has been needed to allow track work, full train service resumes.

Next month also will mark the first time in four years that all four tracks in the eight-mile section between Bridgeport and Southport will be in service. The Connecticut Department of Transportation contractors have replaced the overhead catenary wires that power the trains and rebuilt four bridges that carry the tracks over local roads. (Another bridge was filled in as the road became a dead end when Marlins Stadium was built in Bridgeport.)

This work had required two of the four tracks to be out of service continuously, and had required trains to slow down while passing the work zone and when changing tracks at either end of the construction area. The impact of having all tracks available for service in this key area will be increased flexibility in scheduling trains during peak periods, the elimination of temporary speed restrictions and less impact to trains when there are operational problems in this section of the railroad. The catenary work resumes in August, but in two locations where only one track will be out of service at a time.

Other service changes include an additional AM peak express train from New Haven by extending a train that currently runs from New Haven to Stamford only.  It will now depart New Haven at 6:02 a.m., stop at Stamford at 7:00 a.m., and be extended to Grand Central Terminal, arriving at 7:50 a.m.

In response to customer requests, the timetable also restores the first early morning through train that originates in Danbury. The 5:28 a.m. train once again will be a one-seat ride to Grand Central, so customers will not have to change trains in South Norwalk. In the afternoon a 4:29 p.m. departure from Grand Central to Danbury will be a through train with a 5:18 p.m. stop at Stamford but no transfer required.

Work on the new signal system and grade crossing protection continues on the Danbury Branch and should be complete later this summer.  When completed, midday and weekend busing will end.

To improve mechanical reliability of the Waterbury Branch service, the maintenance and operations base for branch service is being moved from New Haven to Stamford, where Danbury locomotives already are serviced. As a result, the connection between one mid-day Waterbury shuttle and the main line train will be moved from Bridgeport to Stamford, and a new express train from Grand Central to Stamford will operate to provide a convenient connection from New York.

And Malloy added, “Metro-North has placed the appropriate priority on rebuilding and maintaining the New Haven Line to ensure safety as its number one goal, and in turn Connecticut has completed a major portion of upgrades to the overhead catenary power lines and railroad bridges, along with several power supply upgrade and redundancy projects."

Malloy also said, “It is time to implement a schedule that takes advantage of the safety and infrastructure investments to deliver safe and reliable service that strives to achieve an on-time performance goal of at least 95 percent. This can be accomplished while sustaining safety as the over-arching priority."

He added, "The schedule should deliver that service, even as it creates the necessary time slots or windows for all required maintenance.  Safe, reliable, frequent and fast service are mutually achievable goals."

Brent April 29, 2014 at 08:36 AM
What are the proposed implications for New Canaan?

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