A recent column by Jim Cameron ignores the facts of Metro-North service – painting our railroad as indifferent to the needs of returning riders when that couldn’t be further from the truth.
Since last year, our team at Metro-North has continuously reviewed ridership with an eye toward planning for an increase in commuters as the pandemic continues to wane. This ongoing analysis resulted in the plan announced Monday that comprehensively increases service for the first time since schedules were pandemic-modified more than a year ago.
Starting June 21, we are adding 24 new peak trains on all three east of Hudson lines in response to the increased ridership we are seeing during the morning and evening peak. Additionally, another more significant increase is planned for August 29, which will bring Connecticut and New York riders 83% of weekday pre-COVID service just in time for the expected post-Labor Day surge in returning commuters. And to accommodate our customers who use the train to travel to the many recreational and entertainment destinations around our region, Metro-North’s weekend service will increase to 70% of pre-COVID levels.
These moves are consistent with service adjustments made across the MTA as riders have begun to return. I am immensely proud of the gains we’ve made since the darkest days of the pandemic. Five of the first nine weekdays this month have seen daily ridership of more than 90,000 – reaching a COVID-era high point of 94,923 passengers on June 1.
We are not “paying lip service,” as Mr. Cameron disingenuously claims, when we say we want more riders to come back to build on this momentum. Moreover, it is patently false to suggest we’ve done “little” to make Metro-North service more attractive to customers during this unprecedented crisis.
To name a few improvements– stations and trains are cleaner than ever thanks to our comprehensive disinfecting regimen; we are piloting an air filtration system that is so sophisticated, it’s more efficient than what’s required in some surgical operating theaters; the real-time capacity-tracking feature on the Metro-North Train Time app was recently expanded to our M-8 electric fleet on the New Haven Line; Positive Train Control has been installed across the system, making operations safer than ever; and the Connecticut Department of Transportation has completed the renewal of the New Haven Line’s catenary system within the State of Connecticut, which will make New Haven Line service more reliable, especially during the hot summer months.
As president of Metro-North, I will never stop trying to make our railroad safer and more comfortable for riders. Strong and thriving public transportation is essential to the region’s continued economic recovery, and we at Metro-North and the MTA take that responsibility very seriously.