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Explainer: Your Metro-North Commute Survival Guide

Sunday, September 29, 2013 - 02:30 PM

MTA chair Tom Prendergast, Con Edison VP Tim Cawley and Metro-North Railroad president Howard Permut (l-r) view Con Edison's temporary substation under construction at the Harrison Metro-North Station (Adam Lisberg/MTA/flickr)

Even though the New Haven Line now has some "bare bones electrical power," Monday's commute will only have half the capacity of a normal one -- and passengers should prepare for crowded conditions. Here's what you need to know.

I usually take the New Haven Line! How will I get to work?

Con Ed installed a temporary substation in Harrison on Saturday, giving the MTA some "bare bones electrical power," in the words of MTA chief Tom Prendergast. So on Monday there will be a little more train service on the New Haven Line, but it's still limited -- about 50% of normal service. Of that 50%, a little more than half will be diesel -- but there are now some electric trains as well (although they will run express from Harrison to Mount Vernon). So the MTA is setting up park and ride facilities -- see the map below, and check out the MTA's web page. And check out the MTA's map, below.

What about these park and ride facilities?

The MTA, in collaboration with Westchester County, is setting up some temporary park-and-ride facilities that will provide 8,600 free parking spaces at the below locations. They are near other Metro-North connections, as well as several NYC  subway lines.  But even those, when added to the rail line, will only provide capacity for 70 to 75 percent of normal customers on the New Haven Line, said Permut.

  • Orchard Beach – 5,000 parking spaces, with a free shuttle bus to MTA New York City Transit’s Pelham Bay Park station on the 6 subway line.
  • 8 E. 153rd St. Garage (Yankee Stadium) – 1,500 parking spaces, a short walk to Metro-North’s Yankees-E 153 St station and the 161 St station on the B, D and 4 subway lines. Yes, the Yankees parking lot will be used for something in the post-season after all.
  • 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.

 

Drive to a park and ride?! Won't the roads be packed?

Are they normally not packed? For what it's worth, the Connecticut DOT is suspending normal road work for the duration of the train outage. Also: rethink your work hours. The MTA is advising customers to "leave additional travel time, and use trains that arrive in Grand Central after 9:30 a.m., after the morning peak period. Those who can stay home or telecommute during this service disruption are urged to do so."

Can I take other Metro-North lines?

Yes -- and your ticket will be cross-honored. The Harlem Line is closer to the New Haven Line -- but officials expect it to be "very crowded." The Hudson Line, while further away, will have more capacity.

How crowded are Metro-North trains going to be?

The MTA isn't sugarcoating it. "The rail service we'll be operating tomorrow will provide for about 50% of capacity-- so we know that will result in very crowded trains and very difficult circumstances," said Metro-North head Howard Permut on Sunday. "You can't carry all the people with half the trains."

So should I try car pooling? And how do I do it?

Connecticut's Department of Transportation maintains CTrides, a website that acts as a clearinghouse for commuting information and does have some car pool info. New York has MetroPool and 511NYRideshare. There are also rideshare apps like ZimRide and eRideShare.

Does that mean the subways will be more crowded on Monday?

An MTA spokesperson says "New York City Transit will be monitoring the lines closely, but we do not expect that extra service would be needed."

When will things be back to normal?

Not for more than a week. Howard Permut, the president of Metro-North, said Con Ed "now expect(s) to complete their repairs by Oct. 7, with the goal of giving Metro-North time to complete required testing and restore full train service by Oct. 8." At a press conference on Sunday, MTA chief Tom Prendergast said "we're continuing to pressure them (Con Ed) to improve that. Their original date of October 14 was moved up to October 7 yesterday....we will continue to pressure them to see if they can improve that on a day-to-day basis."

Why did the New Haven Line lose power in the first place?

According to a Con Ed spokesman, last week oil -- which acts as an insulator -- got into the feeder line. What's unclear, however, is why that happened. Con Ed says it's still investigating. Whatever the reason, Senators Blumenthal and Schumer aren't happy. And Tom Prendergast said he supported calls for a New York State  investigation. "Everyone's frustration level is exceptionally high," he said. "This is affecting 50 percent of the people on the most heavily traveled (commuter rail) line (in the country)."

Will I get a refund?

Possibly. "I will be making a strong recommendation to the board...that we consider some form of remuneration, either in the form of a refund or a credit," said Prendergast on Sunday. Hang on to your tickets, monthly and weekly pass holders.

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