To the editor,
The Waterbury line of the Metro-North Railroad needs some serious attention if we’re serious about reducing traffic congestion here in southern Connecticut.
Riders from the Naugatuck River Valley came out in force to discuss their poor experiences at a meeting hosted by the Connecticut Commuter Rail Council, recounting nightmare stories of being stranded at stations without warning, last-minute bus substitutions, and describing the trains as “outhouses on wheels.” After attending the meeting I decided to board the 7:03 a.m. train in Seymour, intent on finding out what the riders were talking about. They weren’t kidding.
My first impression of the train was that it was very, very old. Faux wood paneling made me feel as if I had transported back to the 1970’s. The floors were stickier than the old Milford Fourplex Cinemas used to be. The condition of the bathroom made me immediately regret my decision to enter it. It was so filthy that you’d need a bottle of hand sanitizer to even consider touching the hand sanitizer dispenser on the wall.
Luckily for me, the rest of the ride was smooth. The train was on time. The conductor was very pleasant and helpful. I didn’t have to worry about missing my connection in Bridgeport. If the train was cleaner I would’ve left as a very satisfied customer. Sadly my experience doesn’t fully reflect those that ride and depend on the train daily. It’s not asking too much to expect clean trains. It’s not too much trouble to expect notifications from Metro-North if the train is running more than 10 minutes late or if there will be a bus substitution. Imagine being stuck on a bus to Stamford during the morning rush hour. I wouldn’t want to risk that torture, and that is precisely the point.
Metro-North claims that ridership on the Waterbury line doesn’t justify investments in it. I respectfully disagree. I believe this would be a valuable asset to the people of the Valley if it were actually cared for. Ridership over the past few years has doubled, primarily because gas is so expensive and people want to spend less time in traffic and more time with their families. If the Waterbury line was cleaner, if it were more reliable, and if there was an additional train or two during the day, it would be an attractive alternative to driving into Fairfield County for work.
What will it take for this to happen? The Connecticut Department of Transportation and the Governor’s administration have to hold the MTA accountable. They operate the trains by contract, but we own them. We need to demand better service. How hard is it to create an email or text notification list so that people can sign up for notice that a train is late? The MTA recently created a “Waterbury line advocate” position to deal with customers on the line. This is a wonderful start, but isn’t it much less costly to buy a jug of bleach and mop the floors?
Editor’s note: The writer is the Republican candidate for state representative in the 105th District.