Snafus snarl Metro-North day before fares rise
SALISBURY MILLS — Joann Behan and hundreds of other commuters stood on the platform at the Metro-North station Tuesday, listening to announcements, checking transit alerts on BlackBerrys and iPhones — and waiting for trains that never came.
"To leave people on a platform for over one hour and keep telling them that a train is coming and it never does is just unacceptable," said Behan. "And for this, we will be paying more each month."
The "more" — Metro-North's average 10-percent fare increase — kicks in Wednesday, making Tuesday's meltdown on the Port Jervis Line a timely reminder for Orange County commuters who suffer the region's sparsest train schedule.
Dan Stessel, a spokesman for NJ Transit, said the locomotive on the 5:37 failed shortly after leaving Port Jervis. The 5:55 was subsequently coupled to the 5:37, and shoved it to the nearest siding on the single-track line, in Campbell Hall. Passengers on the two trains were transferred to the 6:07, which had followed them.
In the meantime, NJ Transit ran an extra train up from Suffern to Harriman, the Port Jervis Line's busiest station, to reduce overcrowding. NJ Transit operates Metro-North's trains on this side of the Hudson River.
But Behan and many other angry commuters didn't wait around for the fix. They carpooled instead to NJ Transit's Ramsey/Route 17 Station, where trains run about every 30 minutes.
"If they're not better prepared for a train breaking down, what would happen in an emergency?" said Behan, adding she got to work at 9:45 a.m. instead of 8:20.
On the other side of the river, Ellyn Monahan's train from Beacon got to the city on time, but the 26-year commuter was still glum about the prospect of paying $42 more a month for her train and subway tickets, the fourth increase in six years.
"Do I have a choice in the matter?" said Monahan, pointing out salaries have been frozen at her company this year, too. "I will have to bring breakfast and lunch, which I never did before. As far as buying anything needlessly, that will stop. No additional pair of shoes. 'Tighten the belt' is the key."