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Lawmakers Blast Metro-North's Communication During Train Shutdown

Taking the train in Fairfield County is getting a little more unpredictable after two incidents of stopped trains in one week.
Taking the train in Fairfield County is getting a little more unpredictable after two incidents of stopped trains in one week. Photo Credit: MTA Flickr

FAIRFIELD COUNTY, Conn. – The thousands of frustrated people who were stuck at stations or on board trains for hours due to a signal problem Thursday night did not get the information they needed from Metro-North, legislators from Fairfield County said.

“Commuters have had enough. They can’t take any more, and they shouldn’t have to,” said state Rep. Gail Lavielle, R-Wilton.

Thursday's incident was the second time trains were stopped in Fairfield County this week. A train was stranded in Westport after a catenary line snapped due to the extremely cold weather on Wednesday. And Friday morning, trains were delayed again due to weather-related issues .

The outage that had trains stopped Thursday at Grand Central Terminal and along the New Haven, Harlem and Hudson lines was being investigated, a Metro-North spokesman said Friday morning.

U.S. Rep. Jim Himes, D-4th District, spoke to MTA President Howard Permut and said via Twitter that the "cause was electrical work next to control center in GCT which shut down computer and cut power to signals on all lines." Metro-North did not offer more information Friday.

“I think I have huge questions about what they’re calling a power outage and how in the world a power outage can happen,” said state Rep. Kim Fawcett, D-Fairfield. The issue for her was not just political but personal: Her husband was stuck on a train for four hours during Thursday night’s power outage. “The whole system is in disarray right now.”

Fixing the problem, she said, will have require transparent communication among the state legislature, commuters and the Metropolitan Transportation Authority.

Fawcett said she and her husband spent a long time discussing what could be done to improve communication with commuters, including a better "boots on the ground" effort to gather information about each train.

“It’s very frustrating because many of us have been in conversations with Metro-North working to try and improve service and ask for better communication not only with the legislatures but with commuters,” said state Sen. Bob Duff, D-Norwalk/Darien.

But getting information from the MTA has been a struggle for lawmakers, not just commuters.

“It’s not that difficult for them to send out timely information when they’re having an issue or at the very least have their conductors tell people what’s going on when the train stops,” said state Rep. Brenda Kupchick, R- Fairfield.

Putting information on the MTA website or using social networks would be one of the easiest ways to get more information out to people who need it, Kupchick said, especially when nearly everyone has a smartphone.

“The very least [the MTA] must do is vastly improve its communication with commuters right away. This is something that requires no additional resources, and it must start today,” Lavielle said. “There is no excuse for waiting.”

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