Testimony of the Metro-North Railroad Commuter Council
Before the MTA Board on Proposals for Fare and Crossing Charges and
Service Administrative Changes
White Plains Performing Arts Center, White Plains, NY
March 1, 2010
Good Evening. My name is David Buchwald. I am Vice-Chair of the Metro-North Railroad Commuter Council (MNRCC), the legislatively mandated representatives of the Metro-North Railroad riders. Over the past 25 years, Metro-North has risen from a collection of castoff passenger lines to a preeminent position among American railroads. Our members are concerned that the proposals before you will erode that position and with it the benefits that Metro-North provides for the economy and quality of life of our region and State.
The proposed reductions of car consists will make for more crowded conditions on Metro-North East of Hudson trains. It is stunning that for an annual savings of $2.8 million, a rounding error in MTA terms, the Railroad is considering inflicting upon a total of 12,000 daily customers a situation where some riders will regularly find it difficult to secure a seat. Yes, we are aware that the loading standards are proposed to be increased to a point where 5 percent or more of seats will be unoccupied, but the reality is that passengers do not distribute themselves evenly throughout the train, and we are convinced that substantial crowding will occur, even as seats are available elsewhere in the train.
The trains proposed to be discontinued or combined are also of great concern to the MNRCC. While the West of Hudson lines face proportionately greater reductions, we will address them at the Suffern hearing. Here, we will address the proposal to discontinue or combine 13 East of Hudson trains and the alternative to discontinue or combine 8 trains in lieu of Port Jervis line cuts. With these reductions, we are creating gaps in service and less convenient schedules that will affect customers’ decisions to ride. Again, the potential savings from these cuts is small at $1.6 million.
Look at the proposed elimination of the 1:15 a.m. outbound train to Stamford. This train makes local stops on the New York portion of the New Haven line. If it is eliminated, passengers who are unable to make the 12:25 a.m. train will not have a way home for another 88 minutes, when the 1:53 train leaves Grand Central. We do not believe that “going your way . . . eventually” is the message that the MTA should be sending to those who rely upon late night service to return home after an evening’s work or attending an event in the City. This cut sends a clear message about whether one can rely on this service that goes far beyond the number of riders on any given day.
The MTA’s financial problems are clearly not a result of operating too much service. The impact of $143 million in State funding cuts in the Governor’s Deficit Reduction Program and shortfalls of $229 million and $378 million in 2009 and 2010 tax receipts dwarf the savings that can be gained here. While Metro-North management has sought to impact the least possible number of riders, there is demonstrated demand for each of the services that is being eliminated. We question what is being lost in making these cuts and whether the savings generated can justify the impact on riders and on the region. We are asking this Board to critically examine this issue along with us.
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