Cold Spring

Sorry about the delay. Everything is wrong.

Below is what I remember from the message the Metro-North conductor gave us last Wednesday.   We were stopped south of Croton-Harmon.  It seems like a good time to reminisce as the Hudson Line trains are running late again tonight.

“Sorry about the delay everyone.  We’ve got a delayed train in front of us, signal problems, and speed restrictions.  Again, sorry about the delay.”

It summed it up; single tracking, track work, delayed trains ahead, and speed restrictions.  Here are some of my personal observations:

Monday:  The 5:32p arrived in Cold Spring after 7p.  Schedule arrival 6:46p.

Wednesday:  The 5:53p arrived in Cold Spring 12 minutes late.

Thursday:  645p train arrived late in Cold Spring.  I can’t remember but it was late.

Friday:  The 10:16a from Cold Spring arrived at Grand Central 10 minutes late.

According to June’s numbers, Metro-North had more than 1100 trains late or cancelled across the system.  In May, it was worse, with more than 1400 trains delayed or cancelled.  For late trains, Metro-North only counts trains that are more than 5:59 late, as umm, late.

And you can add the 6:15p Hudson Line train to Poughkeepsie to the late list.  We are now 20 minutes late.

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Groundhog Day is her favorite holiday

Ground Hog copy

Groundhog Day is in February.  On Groundhog Day, February monthly passes are accepted.  In July, February monthly passes are not accepted. But, don’t tell that to one woman I recently heard about trying to ride Metro-North.  The woman, who claimed she spoke very little English, presented the February monthly to the conductor.  The conductor wasn’t going for it.

The conductor asked for a different ticket.  She said this is what had come out of the machine.

15 minutes into the trip he returned to the lady and told her she would either need to buy a ticket or face the consequences.

The woman – now grasping the English language – paid for a ticket.  The conductor said this isn’t the first time this woman has tried to pull this scam.

 

Lawmakers could boil the frog

By James Lee FormerIP at en.wikipedia [CC BY 2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)], via Wikimedia CommonsYou have heard the metaphor about a frog placed in a pot of cold water that is gradually heated, never realizes the trouble it is in and is boiled alive.

That metaphor can be used about Albany’s dealing with the MTA Capital Budget.  Newly reappointed MTA boss Tom Prendergast has been sounding the alarm about the $14 billion budget hole.  But, of course, the New York State legislature just hasn’t gotten around to it; seeing how busy they’ve been with the important stuff that just needed to get done before session ended.

The reality is Albany rarely boils the frog.   It is only $14 billion over five years.  The New York State budget is $142 billion this year alone.  Plus, the MTA still has money left over from its last capital budget.  State lawmakers historically tackle big problems just as the water in the pot begins to bubble and our scaly friends realize it is time to take action.  Of course, I am talking about the frogs, not the lawmakers.

My commute is a political football

20141006_181448I received this note in my inbox from my benefits provider this morning:

The Tax Increase Prevention Act of 2014, signed into law on December 19, 2014, retroactively increased the tax-free mass transit benefit from $130 to $250 for the 2014 calendar year.

But, I feel a little used.  This happens each year.  The benefit is treated as a bargaining chip inside the mess that is our Congress.  It is used as a way for elected officials to say, “Hey, look what we did for you.  We got you $250 of tax-free transit.”  Or, in non-transit states, “we didn’t raise your taxes because we found some money in a place you wouldn’t look anyway.  Don’t forget to vote in November.”

The sad part is this is just for 2014.  In 2015, now, we go back to $130.

Why it is bounces back and forth makes very little sense seeing it doesn’t really cost a whole lot.

From the House Ways and Means Committee,

According to JCT , this provision would reduce revenues by $10 million over 2015-2024.

$10 million over 10 years.  That’s doesn’t sound like a lot of money. But, it is Congress, why should it make sense.

The great crumbling

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Croton-Harmon Station

Two days and two breakdowns on the Hudson Line: Monday’s 8:28a from Cold Spring was canceled because the train broke down at New Hamburg. Tuesday’s 6:48a from Cold Spring broke down in Peekskill. It seemed fitting that yesterday the APTA posted this 60 Minutes report from November outlining our country’s failing infrastructure.

Metro-North Mess

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Metro-North was a mess this morning.  Delays had the boading platform for our Hudson Line train packed with people trying to get off fighting people trying to get on.  A lady yelled at me and I yelled back.  Once onboard, it was so full of people – including a field trip of 35 kids heading to Cold Spring – people were standing in the aisles.  But, the kids made up for the Metro-North mayhem as they were fascinated by scenary of the Valley  

Ass Transit: The Metro-North “Shoreliner”

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Hudson Line “Shoreliner” at Grand Central Terminal. Early Shoreliners with no middle doors were given names.

The name Shoreliner brings to mind the idea of shooting down the river in ultimate comfort and luxury while surrounded by the beautiful vistas of the Hudson Valley.

Well, at least the last part is true.

Metro-North’s Shoreliner passenger coaches will take you away.  Right back to the 1970’s.

Where I rode it:  Metro-North’s Hudson Line heading north of Croton-Harmon (they are also on other Metro-North lines)

Where I sat:  In the window seat of the three seater, which on some Shoreliners includes a lower back on the aisle seat.  I guess this is make sure there is no doubt about the rider getting whiplash if we crash or stop short.  This seat back was phased out in later versions.

The Good:  The views of the Hudson River, the NJ Palisades, and Hudson Highlands are all amazing.

The Bad:  If the MTA advertised travel on the Shoreliner, it would go something like this:

Come travel back in time with Metro-North.  The luxury of dulling beiges and jewel toned vinyl, faux wood wall panels, and fluorescent lighting. Comfortable seating for at least an hour until your butt loses all feeling. Memories of your weird uncle’s den will fill your mind as you ride:  The Shoreliner.  Plus, the AC and heat works!

Even when they were brand new, “replacing coaches that dated to the 1940’s”, the reaction to the new Shoreliner cars was mixed.  Some saying the seats “weren’t very comfortable” but the new cars were better “compared to the subway.”

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Seats in a first generation Shoreliner

The Reality:  The Shoreliner is based on a design from the 1960’s that was first delivered to the Erie-Lackawanna Railroad in the early 1970’s for its New Jersey commuter service.  The Comet coaches were state-of-the-art at the time and became the design for the first generation of Metro-North Shoreliners rolled out in the early 1980’s. These then-new coaches were a needed and welcomed improvement over what was an aging and unreliable fleet past its prime.

Thirty years later, the Shoreliner will never be known for its luxury or comfort.  But, as you drift to sleep, resting your head on your rolled up coat propped up against the window, remember you are truly riding a time machine.  You are being taken back to a starting point associated with the rebuilding and rebirth of commuter railroads. Because, if you shut your eyes a little tighter and actually were to end up in the late 1960’s, 1970’s or early 1980’s, it was a heck of a lot worse, as seen here, here, and here.