Gail Lavielle: Metro-North service like a 'horror movie'

After last night’s Metro-North system shutdown, where riders on all of the service's lines were stranded for several hours because of a power shortage to computer systems, State Rep. Gail Lavielle (R-143), ranking member of the Appropriations Committee’s Subcommittee on Transportation, released the following statement:

“Watching Metro-North’s service unravel has been like watching one of those horror movies where the world gradually falls apart. The very least rail commuters should expect is to be able to board a train and stay on it until it reaches the destination marked on their tickets. Now even allowing them that basic expectation seems impossible for Metro-North.

“I received many tweets and phone calls last night from people on the trains. They have clearly lost any expectation that Metro-North will perform its fundamental role of delivering them to their destinations, and that they will arrive even roughly on time. It is important to note that the information they received during the shutdown was long in coming and not always accurate.

“On Wednesday night, passengers were stuck in a train without power for more than two hours in eight-degree weather. The train was stuck very near the same spot in Westport where another train had been stranded in 103-degree weather for an hour in 2011. Last night, the entire New Haven line and its branches were shut down because of a computer system failure.

“The reasons for these disruptions and failures no longer matter. If they are unplanned, then the factors that are causing them must be addressed immediately, even if this necessitates investment. If they are planned or can be reasonably anticipated, then commuters must be informed well in advance and accurately.

“Metro-North cannot wait for its new president to arrive to address these issues. The very least it must do is vastly improve its communication with commuters right away. This is something that requires no additional resources, and it must start today. But this is not enough, and the service problems must be addressed immediately. Back-up measures must be put in place and used when necessary. There is no excuse for waiting.

“Fares have increased by 5% for the last three years. Connecticut’s commuters are paying much, much more now for much, much worse service than they had three years ago. Each time, despite our efforts to make sure that their money was used to improve the rails, the state diverted that money to other purposes.

“The situation has reached crisis proportions, and the General Assembly must treat it as such. This railroad is essential to Connecticut’s economic survival and is a major artery for New England. I would like to see the General Assembly require the immediate submission of an infrastructure repair and upgrade plan, and then make its funding a priority over all other transit projects, including those in progress. This should be done early in the session, on an emergency basis.

“Commuters have had enough. They can’t take any more, and they shouldn’t have to.”