Just when it seemed it could get no worse for Metro-North Railroad this week, it did with the arrest of an employee for allegedly committing a lewd act while standing over a sleeping woman on a train.
On its own, the incident is likely not a reflection of the railroad as a whole.
But when it follows months marred by a collision; a fatal accident involving an employee; two derailments, one of which killed four commuters; and a power problem that stopped all three of the railroad’s lines in its tracks last week, it’s the most appalling in a line of failures that show no sign of stopping.
The derailments and accidents, as well as the arrest, go over and above the near daily complaints from those who regularly ride the rails: Canceled trains, late arrivals, lack of heat or air conditioning, breakdowns and a shortage of cars, and therefore seats, for the Connecticut commuters who foot the bill for the nation’s second busiest rail line. Don’t forget: The state owns the New Haven Line but contracts out the operations to Metro-North.
Having heard enough before Tuesday’s incident, longtime commuter advocate Jim Cameron, former chairman of the Connecticut Rail Commuter Council, announced Monday the formation of the Commuter Action Group. Feeling ignored by Metro-North, as well as the Connecticut politicians who control the purse strings, Cameron wrote and read a manifesto that spells out certain rights rail riders expect:
• A clean, safe, on-time, seated ride on trains with heat/AC and lights.
• Immediate and accurate communications from the rail line when things go wrong or need to be fixed.
• Responsive customer service.
• Open and transparent operations by opening all meetings to the public and media.
• Regular meetings between rail leadership and commuters.
Cameron is directing commuters to share their complaints to the Commuter Action Group’s website, Twitter feed and Facebook page. Rail riders have responded, as Twitter has been flooded during each morning and afternoon commute this week with tales of rude conductors, late trains, and paying customers packed in standing-room-only conditions.
The Commuter Action Group is not only letting Metro-North know riders are not happy. Complaints are also being shared with the politicians in Hartford who control the funding for the railroad, and whose decisions also affect the quality of the operation.
Connecticut’s commuters deserve better than what they’re receiving. The formation of the Commuter Action Group seems akin to an employer documenting, in writing, the shortcomings of an employee on the way to case for termination.
Might the ultimate answer be, as some have suggested on social media, firing Metro-North?