Rail ridership sets record

Maintaining its reputation as the busiest commuter rail line in America, the New Haven Line posted 40.5 million passenger trips during 2016, setting an all-time record. That is approximately 20,000 more than in 2015, according to data released by Metro-North Railroad.

Citing the data, Gov. Dannel Malloy called the New Haven Line “a critical component of Connecticut’s economic engine,” adding, “its growing use signals the need to provide our state’s residents with a best-in-class transportation system.”

He acknowledged that “for too long, our state did not make the needed investments to keep up with our transportation needs, and now we are making the long overdue steps to make our bold vision of a modernized transportation system into a reality.”

Over the last several years, the state purchased 405 new, state-of-the-art M-8 rail cars, in addition to making a number of other investments, such as new maintenance facilities, new bridges and new overhead power lines, a press release from the governor’s office said. In November, Malloy announced the state is purchasing an additional 60 M-8 rail cars to add to the fleet.

State Rep. Gail Lavielle (R-143) and state Sen. Toni Boucher (R-26) applauded the ridership numbers.

“I think it’s wonderful that ridership is going up,” Lavielle said, adding, “We don’t know why it’s going up.

“The increased ridership demonstrates there is growing interest in taking the train, which is all the more argument to improving our branch lines faster,” she said.

Boucher said she agreed with Malloy’s statement that “Our future economic growth depends on the vibrancy and vitality of an efficient transportation system that attracts workers and businesses and moves goods and services as efficiently as possible,” and his comments on the need for a “best-in-class” transportation system.

“I would add that our rail riders also pay more that those in New York where that state subsidizes 50% of a rail ticket for commuters whereas in Connecticut tickets costs more for our riders,” she said. “Additionally, we would see similar ridership increases in our branch lines if the state focuses on them and makes similar improvements and upgrades. These important arteries of our rail mass transit system are in need of modernization and if electrified and extended could vastly improve local economies. I will continue to keep our rail system a top focus as a new co-chair of the legislature's transportation committee.”

Both Boucher and Lavielle praised the purchase of the M-8 rail cars but pointed out the first bond was passed in 2010 during former Gov. Jodi Rell’s administration.

The New Haven Line is owned by the state of Connecticut and is operated by Metro-North Railroad under contract to the state Department of Transportation.