On June 8th, the MNRCC held its annual President’s Forum at 347 Madison Avenue (MTA Headquarters) where MNR President Howard Permut and his senior staff were on hand to answer riders’ questions and listen to suggestions and comments. Also present were Connecticut Department of Transportation representatives, James Redeker, Acting Commissioner, and Eugene Colonese, Rail Administrator, Bureau of Public Transportation. Joining them were James Cameron, Chair of the CT Rail Commuter Council and Rodney Chabot, former Chair of the CT Council. Presiding was MNRCC Acting Chair David Buchwald of White Plains. Fellow members James Blair (MTA Board representative) and Randy Glucksman, representative from Rockland County were also present. PCAC staff members assisted with the administrative details: William Henderson, Executive Director; Jan Wells, Associate Director; Ellyn Shannon, Senior Transportation Planner; and Karyl Berger, Research Associate.
President Permut gave opening remarks highlighting MNR’s performance and accomplishments over the past year. He highlighted the challenges that the Railroad is facing under severe financial constraints. He detailed the problems that led to the particularly difficult situation on the New Haven line as a result of the December 2010 snow storm. In a nutshell, the equipment, both rolling stock and overhead wires, are old and should have been replaced years ago. However, Connecticut represents 65% of the operational cost of the New Haven line and until funding from the state of Connecticut was available, nothing could be done on the Connecticut portion of the line. Finally, Connecticut agreed to a substantial capital investment in new cars and infrastructure and the first M8s came into revenue service in March 2011. Mr. Permut cautioned that until the entire fleet of M2s is replaced and new catenary and tracks are installed, there will continue to be problems during the winter snow season.
Members of the audience then spoke. One of the biggest complaints was about the collection of fares and the new fare policy whereby an unused ticket only has a life of 14 days. Mr. Permut commented that this is a continuing problem and the Railroad is still working on a solution. The biggest collection problem concerns intermediate riders in crowded trains. The expiration period of 14 days is an attempt to counter the loss of revenue from the inability to collect tickets. Other topics included WiFi activation, requests for changes in schedules, requests for improved printed schedules, photography permission, and the St. Patrick’s Day service.
A summary of proceedings will be posted on the PCAC website shortly.