While the MTA’s doomsday budget means that NYC Transit, LIRR, and LI Bus riders must deal with night and weekend station closures and total elimination of several bus routes, Metro-North’s riders are slightly better off. But riders will not escape service cuts and reductions in service quality, and the plan will severely impact customer service, one of Metro-North’s strengths.
Without additional transit aid, Metro-North riders would see their fares increase an average of 23% and would be paying more for less service. The railroad’s program includes:
- Eliminating one peak and seven off-peak weekday trains and one weekend train in the east-of-Hudson system. According to the railroad, this will increase travel times or reduce train frequency for 5,500 customers on the Hudson, Harlem, and New Haven Lines.
- Reducing Pascack Valley Line weekend service. Port Jervis Line express trains will also make local stops in NJ, increasing travel time (budget documents do not explain how this saves money, but presumably the trains will take on more passengers).
- Increasing loading standards — Metro-North currently keeps peak-hour trains between 87-95% occupied, off-peak trains about 75% full, and weekend trains 65-75% full (i.e. if a train is consistently “too full” Metro-North adds cars to it when it adjusts its schedule). The new standards would be 95% for peak trains, 85% for off-peak, and 75% for weekend, meaning trains would be more crowded.
- Cutting maintenance personnel, reducing planned purchases of maintenance equipment, and deferring some maintenance on locomotives, cars, and the restoration of Grand Central Terminal.
Metro-North’s cuts will have major impacts on customer service, including less ticket sellers, cutbacks on car and station cleaning, and delay of a program to allow riders to use credit cards to buy tickets on-board trains. The railroad will even eliminate its toll-free customer hotline and cut the number of phone representatives, meaning callers will be put on hold longer and pay for the privilege.
The program would save $35 million annually, with just under $14 million of that coming from administrative cuts. The plan would also save ConnDOT $6 million based on that agency’s agreements with Metro-North.
Image: Adam Moreira/Wikimedia Commons. Pascack Valley service is jointly operated by Metro-North and NJ Transit.