“In my 30 years in the transit business I never thought I’d be asking people NOT to take the bus,” says Doug Holcomb, CEO of Greater Bridgeport Transit, the operator of 57 buses carrying 5 million passengers a year. But not this year. Like most transit agencies, GBT is asking people to stay home and to ride their buses only if it is essential. So ridership on those buses has dropped 65%. On Metro-North the ridership is down 90 to 95%.
When it comes to transportation, Joe McGee is often the smartest guy in the room. If I want a vision of our state’s mobility future, he’s the first man I turn to. McGee served as then Gov. Lowell Weicker’s commissioner of economic development. For years I worked with him on the Connecticut Metro-North Rail Commuter Council. And until recently he was the Fairfield Business Council’s vice president for public policy, specializing in the intertwined issues of transportation and economic development.
Starting Monday, April 13, Metro-North will operate on an hourly schedule on the Hudson, Harlem and New Haven Lines on both weekdays and weekends. — an announcement from Metro-North
The new, temporary schedule is in response to a reduction in ridership of more than 95 percent as customers in the region have honored stay-at-home orders as a precaution against COVID-19. We would like to remind customers that trains are running for healthcare workers, first responders and essential personnel only. If you don’t absolutely need to be traveling, please stay home. […]
Trains will operate hourly on the New Canaan Branch and every three hours on the Danbury and Waterbury Branches daily.
My usual beat is writing about transportation. And some of you, faithful readers, often tell me I’m too negative and cynical. That might be true. So how’s this for a change? We all know these are stressful times.
Did you ever wonder what it would be like to work for the railroad? That’s what Paul Holland did for 39 years, first with Amtrak, later with Conrail and finally as a conductor on Metro-North. His self-published “My Life As A Rear End” pays tribute to his time in cabooses, but it’s his commuter rail stories that kept me laughing. Like the colorful crowd from the psychiatric hospital on the Harlem line who would escape — often in their pajamas — and ride his trains, obviously unable to pay. Or the many times he was assaulted by knife-wielding thugs only to be rescued by his 6-foot-7-inch cross-dressing frequent rider “Rocky.”
Over the years, Holland collected his stories, often scribbling them on seat checks.
With the passenger volume on Metro-North trains now down 94%, and volumes down an overall 90 percent on all Metropolitan Transportation Authority trains, subways or buses, the MTA, which includes Metro-North, announced Wednesday that it’s cutting back service, including restricting the New Haven Line schedule. The new schedule starts this Friday, March 27. Except at “peak” times, trains will be arriving at stations only once an hour, the MTA said. Preserving some transportation on trains and keeping peak commuting service roughly the same on most (but not all) New York City buses and subways will allow “the healthcare workers, first responders and essential personnel on the frontlines” to get to their jobs, the announcement said. Fewer trains will also make them safer for employees, the announcement pointed out.
First Selectman Jayme Stevenson early Monday afternoon issued a town “State of Emergency” order that closes all town playgrounds, the buildings at both town train stations, winter Park & Recreation Department programs and “all nonessential municipal meetings.” After issuing a news release at 1:27 p.m., an additional release with more information was sent out at 2:06 p.m. Here is the longer, later version:
Sub headings and boldface have been added by Darienite.com:
First Selectman Declares State of Emergency for the Town of Darien Business and Public Facilities/Programs Closure Notice
At 2 p.m. today [Monday, March 16], in response to and in coordination with federal, state and local agencies, First Selectman Jayme Stevenson has issued a Town of Darien State of Emergency. This action has been taken to augment the Town’s response efforts to slow the spread of the COVID-19 and to underscore to the Darien community the seriousness of the virus crisis. State Level Actions
Beginning at 8 p.m. on Monday, March 16, Governor Lamont, in a coordinated action with the governors of New York and New Jersey, has ordered the temporary closure of all bars, restaurants, gyms, fitness centers and similar public exercise studios, and movie theaters. Restaurants and bars that serve food will be temporarily required to move to takeout and delivery service only.
You can’t beat the convenience of on-demand ride services like Uber and Lyft, but wouldn’t it be great if a similar ride-sharing service was available locally and for free? We’re not talking about existing ParaTransit services for the disabled or even some Connecticut communities’ senior transport services. No, the newest “microtransit” services are much more for the masses. Such a service has met tremendous success in Norwalk, and will soon launch in Westport and several other eastern Connecticut towns. In Norwalk
The Norwalk program is called Wheels2U and is run by the Norwalk Transit District using the agency’s paratransit minibus fleet.
Maybe the NoTollsCT folks (and the recent Hearst editorial) are right: The current toll proposal should be scrapped. Mind you, I’m still pro-tolls and have been for years, but the governor’s latest plan is so insipid and compromised as to be a waste of time. It raises too little money, doesn’t toll millions of out-of-state cars, and most importantly it seems that most people don’t want it. Nor do they trust it will be limited to trucks. I once described NoTollsCT founder Patrick Sasser as a “bully” because he threatened to oust any legislator that voted for tolls.
Wednesday Feb. 26 is Ash Wednesday and clergy from St. Luke’s Parish will be at the Noroton Heights Ttrain Station from 6:30 to 7:30 a.m. to offer commuters “Ashes to Go.”
This is an opportunity for commuters to observe this solemn holy day and still keep to their busy schedules. St. Luke’s will also offer Ash Wednesday services at the church and chapel at 1864 Post Road at 9:30 a.m., 12 noon, 5 and 7 p.m. All are welcome.
“Buckle up, folks. There’s some bumpy air ahead,” the pilot said on a recent flight. No need to remind me; my seat belt is always fastened, as “bumpy air” — a euphemism for air turbulence — is my worst fear in flying. It’s the whole “fear of death” thing. Intellectually, I know that modern aircraft can survive all manner of stress from changing or violent winds, but can I?
Trains make noise, especially when they blow their horns entering stations and at grade crossings. But for folks who live near the railroad branch lines, which have dozens of such crossings, the noise is too much. Those neighbors crammed a Stamford meeting this week seeking solutions. What they got was an education — and maybe some hope. The New Canaan Branch has seven grade crossings in a two-mile stretch, each requiring (under Federal Railroad Administration safety regulations) 10 seconds of horn blasts at 110 decibels.
The sewer project previously announced for the northeast area of town has been postponed from this week to next week, the Darien Department of Public Works announced, and the department announced another project downtown for that same week. The new downtown project is on a part of Center Street nearest to Old Kings Highway South. Center Street, Downtown
The Center Street sewer work will take place from 12 midnight Tuesday to Wednesday and continue for eight hours, until 8 a.m.,Wednesday, Feb. 19, according to an announcement from the DPW. The announcement also said:
“The Town of Darien has hired a company to perform cleaning, internal inspection, and relining of sanitary sewers.
Remember Rodney Dangerfield, the comedian always complaining that he “gets no respect”? That’s how Waterbury line commuters (and local officials) feel. Their little branch line gets no respect. In fact, the Waterbury branch of Metro-North is the longest of three branch lines — 27 miles from the mainline (at Devon) to Waterbury. It carries about 1,000 passengers a day, the same as a single 10-car train on the main line.
The new year will bring some big changes at Greater Bridgeport Transit: The introduction of two new, all-electric buses to the fleet. GBT runs 57 buses, 35 of them diesel-powered and 22 hybrids. The diesels get 3.2 mpg and the hybrids just 4.5 mpg, which means the busy transit agency must buy over a half-million gallons of diesel fuel a year. It’s a very busy transit agency, carrying over 5 million passengers a year (about 17,000 a day). Fares have been steady since 2010: $1.75 for 90 minutes on any route, $4 a day or $70 for a monthly pass.