News

Slight Relief Coming For Metro-North New Haven Line Riders

Meanwhile, 2 Senators Call For Investigation After Power Outage

NEW YORK (CBSNewYork/AP) — The Metro-North Railroad on Sunday announced that some slight service improvements are on the horizon for New Haven Line for the start of the work week Monday.

Meanwhile, two U.S. senators have called for federal and state investigations into the Metropolitan Transportation Authority and Con Edison after the power outage on the Metro-North commuter train service‘s New Haven line left commuters frustrated last week.

The Monday schedule for the New Haven Line was posted on the Metro-North website Sunday afternoon.

“We’ll be at about 50 percent capacity,” said MTA Chairman Thomas Prendergast.

He said a temporary Con Ed workaround involving transformers and residential power has helped get some electricity back between Harrison and Mount Vernon, WCBS 880’s Jim Smith reported.

He said it was enough “to be able to run two trains at any one time in that circuit. We normally run 10.”

Thirty percent of capacity on the line will still be by diesel train, he said.

Metro-North President Howard Permut said 50 percent capacity is not good enough, CBS 2’s Dave Carlin reported.

“You can’t carry all the people with half the trains on the line,” he said.

But the options are in place, and commuters are urged to avoid rush hours if at all possible. Those options include thousands of park-and-ride spaces will be made available in Westchester County and the Bronx, so commuters can ride the Harlem Line or the New York City subway into Manhattan.

The more than 8,600 free park-and-ride spots will be available at the following locations:

• Orchard Beach: 5,000 parking spaces, with a free shuttle bus to the Pelham Bay Park No. 6 subway station.

• 8 E. 153rd St. Garage at Yankee Stadium – 1,500 parking spaces, a short walk to Metro-North Yankees-East 153rd Street station and the 161st Street-Yankee Stadium station on the B, D and No. 4 subway lines.

• Rye Playland – 1,500 parking spaces, with a free shuttle bus to the White Plains station on the Metro-North Harlem Line.

• Kensico Dam, 600 Park Drive West, Valhalla – 600 parking spaces, with a free shuttle bus to the North White Plains station on the Harlem Line, and walking distance to the Valhalla Station on the Harlem Line.

“When you add (the park-and-ride sites) to the rail plan, we’ll be able to provide capacity for 70 to 75 per cent of the normal customers,” Permut said.

Customers can also choose to go to other stations on the Harlem and Hudson Metro-North lines, which will both cross-honor New Haven Line tickets.

“I’d rather not take the bus,” said Gregory Grines of White Plains. “But you’ve got to do what you’ve got to do, right?”

Prendergast also said while Con Ed is pledging full restoration by Oct. 8, he is hoping for better, 1010 WINS’ Gary Baumgarten reported.

“We will continue to pressure them to see if we can improve that on a day-to-day basis,” he said.

The heavily used line between New York City’s Grand Central Terminal and New Haven, Conn., is serviced by two high-voltage feeder cables. One of them was taken offline weeks ago as part as a previously scheduled upgrade. It is not known what caused the second feeder cable to fail. The outage, officials have said, could take as long as three weeks to repair.

Commuters who rely on the train service have experienced hours-long delays and packed trains since the outage, and highway traffic has been bumper-to-bumper in parts of Connecticut as riders took to the roads to get to and from work.

The MTA has been running diesel trains and shuttle buses on limited schedules to accommodate some of the affected ridership. On Saturday, Con Ed crews were building a makeshift substation, using residential power and three portable transformers to create voltage for the trains to use. Such a setup to tap into power has never been attempted before, Con Ed President Craig Ivey told WCBS 880’s Sophia Hall.

Prendergast said Con Ed and the MTA will work together to get to the bottom of what happened.

“We are going to work very aggressively and very cooperatively with anyone doing an investigation,” he said.

But some riders are skeptical.

“A lot of the people here don’t have trust in them,” said Steve Hensler of Harrison. “I don’t think they’ll be done by the time they say.”

Also skeptical are U.S. Sens. Charles Schumer, D-N.Y., and Richard Blumenthal, D-Conn., who announced Sunday they have sent a letter to officials at the Department of Energy and New York’s Public Service Commission asking them to help restore power and figure out what caused the Wednesday outage at a Westchester County substation.

“Heads need to roll,” Blumenthal told reporters, including WCBS 880’s Monica Miller and 1010 WINS’ Glenn Schuck, at Grand Central Terminal. “Management needs to be changed. There needs to be a full explanation.”

Schumer said when he has asked officials what has caused the power failure and why the backup feeder cable is off-line, “the answer we get right now on something this serious is ‘blah, blah, blah.’ Nothing.

“I sort of smell cover-up because they said a line was cut, then they said a line wasn’t cut. We need to know what happened here fully, and we need Con Ed, Metro-North and all the others to come clean,” Schumer continued.

Echoing sentiments made by Connecticut Gov. Dannel Malloy on Thursday, Blumenthal called for Metro-North commuters to be given refunds. “And those refunds ought to be in the mail today,” Blumenthal said.

Prendergast denied allegations that there has been a cover-up, saying the MTA is communicating all it knows with the public.

Also Sunday, Malloy also complained that both Con Ed and the MTA needed to take action on behalf of commuters, and so far have dropped the ball in doing so.

“Connecticut commuters should not even be in this situation,” Malloy said in a news release. “For the last five days, I have been making it clear to Con Ed and the MTA that a delay like the one they initially proposed was completely unacceptable. While I’m glad they moved their deadline up at my urging, I want to reemphasize that they need to alleviate this problem as quickly as possible.”

The MTA’s Prendergast himself said he thinks customers deserve refunds and credits, and said details are being worked out.

Still, Malloy warned that commuters traveling from Connecticut to New York on Monday, and in the week to come, will continue to run into major delays. He advised making alternate plans.

“All indications right now point to another tough commute,” continued the governor. “Even with some electric service restored, there will be very limited service and significant overcrowding on trains,” he said. “If at all possible, I would urge residents to consider working from home or shifting their time of travel to off-peak periods. If you have to drive, consider carpooling.”

A spokesman for the MTA said in an earlier statement that the agency is confident one normally functioning 138,000-volt cable could carry the full load of electricity needed while the other cable is being upgraded.

Con Ed said its focus is on restoring power to the tracks, adding it would work to determine the cause of the failure at the substation.

Sens. Charles Schumer and Richard Blumenthal hold a joint news conference at Grand Central Terminal on Sept. 29, 2013. (credit: Monica Miller/WCBS 880)

Sens. Charles Schumer and Richard Blumenthal hold a joint news conference at Grand Central Terminal on Sept. 29, 2013. (credit: Monica Miller/WCBS 880)

But the senators said more needs to be done to ensure a similar outage isn’t possible anywhere else.

“To grow jobs and strengthen our economy, safe and reliable rail service must be a top priority, and it is simply intolerable for a single cable failure to imperil that progress,” Blumenthal said.

Amtrak trains were also affected by the outage. But on Monday, Acela Express service will resume on a limited basis. Northeast Regional Service will continue operating on diesel power, so delays are possible.

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