Members of the legislative Transportation Committee want Metro-North officials to meet with their committee to discuss the increase in service-related stoppages and hindrances to service on the nation’s second-busiest commuter rail line. During a news conference in the Legislative Office Building this morning, bipartisan members of the committee said that the commuter line’s two-year-long decline in service is unacceptable. They want the top leaders of Metro-North to testify and for the federal government to hold them accountable. The co-chairmen of the committee, as well as ranking members sent a letter to Metro-North asking for the public accountability.
The letter requests that Thomas F. Prendergast, the chairman and CEO of the Metropolitan Transportation Authroity and Metro-North Railroad President Joseph Giulietti to appear before the committee and announce a plan to improve service and credibility.
“We are deeply concerned about the ongoing problems at Metro-North,” said Sen. Andrew Maynard, D-Stonington, co-chairman. “I am particularly eager to meet with MTA Chairman Prendergast and President Giulietti to review in detail the steps they are taking to improve safety and operations, and restore credibility to the railroad.”
“Metro-North’s unrelenting series of failures has battered confidence in the railroad,” said Rep. Antonio Guerrera, D-Rocky Hill, the other co-chairman. “The people of Connecticut want answers. We expect incoming-President Joseph Giulietti and MTA CEO Thomas Prendergast to appear before the Transportation Committee and provide concrete details about Metro-North’s plans to improve safety, accountability and reliability.”
“Metro North railroad represents one of the largest, busiest and most important transit systems in the country,” said Sen. Antonietta Boucher, R-Wilton, ranking member. “It is the life blood of the Tri- State area’s economy. A failing rail system seriously harms the regional economy, since nearly 40 million riders rely on the New Haven Line every year. Any disruption has an immediate ripple effect on business and jobs. Unfortunately, Metro North has lost credibility in its ability to operate a safe and dependable railroad. Commuters deserve a safe and reliable transportation system. Many now feel that riding on the rails is dangerous and some are even considering moving out of state closer to their job so they can avoid the chaos all together. People pay far too much of their hard earned money for unsafe and unreliable service. Something must be done now to restore trust in Metro North’s ability to run this railroad.”
“I think reasonable people would agree that the frequency and severity of the recent Metro North catastrophes are egregious, and should never have happened,” said Rep. David Scribner, R-Brookfield, ranking member of the committee. “I represent border communities that rely heavily on Metro North for regular travel, and those folks expect their government to ensure our transportation systems are safe and reliable. My hope is that we can all work together constructively to improve Metro North through greater oversight, accountability and funding. The State of Connecticut has invested billions of dollars to improve the quality of our rail system for the benefit of our ridership and improvement to the state’s economy; we deserve safe and reliable service for that investment.”
The legislators want Metro-North to establish “measurable” goals, including the adherence to national safety standards; and a commitment to remedies for the now-weekly problems on the rail line. They also want evidence of “management oversight of all employee activities.”
The legislators also want adequate federal and state funding to tackle the growing infrastructure failures of the rail line.