Commuters to Metro-North: We want our money back
Following numerous storms that have knocked out rail service between Connecticut and New York City, a commuter group wants Metro-North Railroad to make good on prepaid fares they couldn't use because of service cancellations.
The Connecticut Rail Commuter Council is backing legislation that would force Metro-North to honor weekly and monthly tickets beyond their usual valid dates if service is canceled for more than 48 hours.
Jim Cameron, chairman of the Connecticut Rail Commuter Council, said Tuesday that commuters are under enough financial pressure without losing money for rail service they do not receive. He cited disrupted service after Tropical Storm Irene in August 2011, Superstorm Sandy last October and the massive storm that snowed in New England beginning Friday and extending through Monday.
"When airlines cancel flights, they give you a new ticket," he said. "But when Metro-North cancels your train, they keep your money and don't even offer an apology. That's wrong and we hope this bill will correct that."
Spokeswoman Marjorie Anders said the Metropolitan Transportation Agency, which runs MetroNorth, is not subject to Connecticut laws. A spokesman said the Connecticut Department of Transportation will not comment on the pending legislation.
State Rep. Gail Lavielle, a Republican who introduced the legislation and whose district includes Westport, said commuters should not be forced to pay for service they did not receive.
"Everyone understands brief disruptions, but when it goes on for days it's difficult to put up with," she said. "The riders need a fair deal."
For example, a large part of the $119 weekly round-trip fare between Waterbury and Grand Central Terminal is invalid following last week's massive snow storm. Metro-North announced on Tuesday that the regular weekday schedule will resume for Waterbury Branch and Shore Line East trains on Wednesday, more than four days after the storm arrived.
Cameron said the branch lines are particularly troublesome because they typically are single-track railroads in wooded areas that occasionally are halted by fallen trees. The trains use a diesel system he said can be unreliable.
"Even in good weather it's not uncommon to have buses because train equipment fails," he said. "The branch lines are the second-class citizens of Metro-North."
A public hearing on the legislation is scheduled for Wednesday.