Milford resident struggles with accessibility on Metro-North trains

MILFORD — For most people who ride on the train moving from car to car is second nature. However, for people who have disabilities it can be more challenging.

Milford resident Emily Bump said she has to take the Metro-North Railroad to and from work four days a week, although she has arranged rides a few times due to the difficulty she has experienced.

“When I get on and off the train in the morning, not every train car opens,” she said. “Unfortunately, the only train car that opens to get off the train does not open when I get on the train, so I need to switch cars before the train gets to my stop.”

Bump has fibromyalgia and persistent postural-perceptual dizziness, the latter which causes unsteadiness when standing or walking. She said passengers are told to walk between the cars while the train is in motion to get the right train car, which is difficult for her to do because of her disabilities.

“If there is someone to check my train ticket — a lot of time there is not — I tell them that I need to get off the train at the stop before mine, where all the cars open, to walk to the correct car and get back on,” she said.

“I also call every day about an hour before my train arrives to let the crew know that I will need to do this,” Bump added. “Once the train stops at that stop, I get off and walk as quickly as I can to the correct car. Sometimes, the door is still open when I get there. Sometimes it’s closed, and I get left behind.”

An MTA spokesperson said that those who have had an experience like Bump could call customer service and give an incident number to bring attention to their situation.

But the call ahead program is a comprehensive program that really helps, according to the MTA. For those with wheelchairs, there is an option to have someone put out a special bridge plate for easier access on and off trains and sometimes there is even the option of having an usher meet the train on the track and help a person get off the train, the spokesman said.

But even by following the process of calling ahead and letting the workers know she needed more time, Bump said she has been left behind four times in her morning commute.

“The solution that was given to me is that I should get out at one stop and get back on in the correct car, but the doors close before I can get there, and I walk relatively quickly for a disabled person,” said Bump.

“Someone with more limitations would need even more time,” she added.

Because of this, Bump said Metro-North could do more to improve the situation and prevent issues for other passengers with disabilities, like having better communication to commuters who request extra time to get to the correct car and more train cars open at the station.

“While I understand that not every car can open because the platforms are smaller than the train, more cars that do reach the platform can be opened, but they just aren’t,” said Bump. “I was told that each individual crew can decide which cars will be the ones to open at these stops, but there should be some sort of standard so that the same cars open each time. It would also be nice if extra time were always given so that people could get off and get to the car that they need to be in instead of needing to request an accommodation beforehand, especially because it’s dangerous to pass between moving cars.”

Bump said these issues don’t just affect people with disabilities.

“It can also be difficult for elderly people with lots of luggage, people with balance issues, people with young children and people who are afraid of walking between the cars,” she said.

The MTA spokesperson said the conductors are trained to handle different situations.

“The conductors are very friendly, they take training on this stuff, and they are good,” the spokesperson said. “Their job is to take tickets mainly, but they are really personable, and even if you’re not doing the call ahead program, they’ll ask where are you going, and they make sure you get off your stop.”