OLR Research Report

March 31, 2008




By: James J. Fazzalaro, Principal Analyst


● Studies and investigates all aspects of the daily operation of the New Haven commuter railroad line.

● Monitors the rail lines' performance and recommends changes to improve their efficiency and quality of service.

● Annually makes findings and recommendations to the governor, transportation commissioner, Connecticut Public Transportation Commission, General Assembly, the New York Metro North Rail Commuter Council, and the Management Advisory Board and Office of the Inspector General of the Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA) in New York.


1. One of the major issues facing the New Haven Line has been replacement of the aging and unreliable rolling stock. Now that the process of acquiring the new rail M-8 cars and constructing a major new maintenance facility for servicing these cars has begun, are you satisfied with the terms of the purchase agreement and schedule that has been laid out for implementing these improvements?

2. Are you satisfied that the features and specifications, features, and amenities of the M-8 car design will serve the commuters well?

3. Did the council's involvement in the focus group process to determine the car designs meet your expectations?

4. If the Department of Transportation is reorganized, how do you think it can best be done to provide the maximum benefit for rail riders and other users of public transportation?

5. In your view, has the acquisition of the rail cars from Virginia Railway Express proceeded as you envisioned and have you seen any positive benefit for Shoreline East service from it yet?

6. While awaiting arrival of the new M-8 cars, DOT is also embarked on a program to rehabilitate some of the older (M-2, M-4, M-6) equipment (this is known as the CSR Program). What benefit will this have for the rail commuter and what timetable has DOT laid out for the council to consider? Is the rehabilitation schedule aggressive enough?

7. Have you been satisfied with the performance of the locomotives the DOT has leased from Amtrak?

8. What is your opinion of the plan to expand and improve service on Shore Line East? What role do you think the council should play while the plan is implemented?

9. Do delays on Shore Line East create problems for making connections in New Haven? How is the service operating on an overall basis compared to the Metro North Service from New Haven?

10. Are delays on Shore Line East being adequately communicated to riders waiting at stations or does this need to be improved?

11. How great an obstacle does the current agreement with respect to the maximum number of trains that can run on the shoreline because of the movable bridges represent a threat to the future viability and expansion of the Shoreline East? How do you think the interests of rail commuters and recreational marine traffic can best be accommodated?

12. When commuter service is operating on the New Haven Line, Shore Line East, and the New Haven-Hartford–Springfield corridor, what scenario do you see as the ideal for how these services will be integrated and who should be the entity operating them? Are there alternatives not being considered at present that you think should be?

13. What types of transit-oriented development around existing and new rail stations do you think would have the greatest benefit for those currently riding the trains and for attracting new riders?

14. What issues do you see that affect the branch lines, in particular the Danbury and Waterbury branches.

15. Are you satisfied with where things stand currently with the Danbury branch electrification project? Do you think the state can be moving faster on this?

16. What value do you see in possibly extending the Danbury branch line service to New Milford?

17. Plans are progressing for demolition of the Stamford station parking garage and its replacement with a new structure. What do you think about the current plans? Has the council played an adequate role in the implementation of this project in your view?

18. Is commuter rail service in Connecticut being marketed innovatively enough? Are there things you would like to see Metro North, Amtrak, and the DOT do that are not being done now?

19. What opinions do you have on the issue of whether the New Haven line operations should provide service to Penn Station as well as Grand Central? What are some of the issues you see with regard to this possible service enhancement?

20. Is service into New Jersey possible as well?

21. What about the possibility of extending commuter service from New London to Providence? Is anything being done on that front?

22. What “quality of life” issues for rail riders (for example, quiet cars, cleanliness, adequate seating, on-time performance, frequency of power outages) do you think are most in need of addressing?

23. What are the most common kinds of complaints the council receives from riders?

24. Do current signs and public address systems at the stations adequately assist rail riders?

25. What problems does train overcrowding create for the attractiveness and effectiveness of the rail service?

26. Is the power system on the New Haven line performing adequately or could improvements be made that would enhance service?

27. Are there changes to the New York side of the service that you would like to see made to improve service quality and efficiency?

28. Is the council's current working relationship with Metro North management working to the benefit of rail commuters?

29. Now that DOT has completed the rail governance study, what station and parking ownership issues do you think it raised that the council should have a role in addressing?

30. What do you think can or should be done about the long waiting lists, many times several years long, for station parking permits for some of the stations along the Metro North line? Do you think this situation negatively affects the marketability of the commuter service?

31. The proposal for New Haven-Hartford-Springfield rail commuter service is moving into the environmental assessment stage. Do you think the proposed level of service is adequate to make it successful? If not, what service level would you want to see implemented? How would you like to see it integrated with the New Haven and Shoreline East services? Who should provide the service for the state?

32. Would acquiring the New Haven-Springfield line from Amtrak be any benefit in your view?

33. Do you believe the phased, seven-year fare increases that were adopted to replace the $1 per ticket surcharge is a satisfactory way to help fund the new M-8 car purchase?

34. Station parking issues are among the most difficult to resolve for the New Haven Line service. As plans proceed for the New Haven-Hartford-Springfield service, what do you think needs to be done differently with respect to parking along the line that might avoid the pitfalls experienced along the New Haven line? What role do you think the council can play in resolving some of the issues between the municipalities and the state that seem to make it so difficult to solve parking issues?

35. Are you aware of any proposals to implement commuter rail service between New London and Worcester? What value do you think such service would have for Connecticut riders?

36. Is Connecticut undergoing a rail “renaissance” or are there limits to what commuter rail should be expected to produce?

37. Assuming one or more of these new services come to pass, what do you feel rail users would like to see happen around the stations or rail lines in terms of development and amenities to enhance their commuting experience?

38. What can you suggest for improving conditions for passengers during breakdowns, delays, and power outages?

39. Do you think Metro North does an adequate job of informing passengers on delayed trains of the reasons for the service delays? If not, what do you think they should do to improve this?

40. What are your opinions with respect to the pending proposal to build a new station in West Haven and Orange?

41. How important an amenity are the café cars on the Metro North line?

42. Are you aware of possible plans to provide service to professional football and baseball games to the Meadowlands in New Jersey and Yankee Stadium? Do you think such service would be patronized by Connecticut riders or are there better ways to improve service?

43. What input do you think the council should have on pending and future planning and decision making for proposed new stations? Are more train stops or express train services needed?

44. Are you familiar with the study of a possible fuel cell power generating station for the New Haven line service? Do you think such a facility would be a benefit?

45. Are you satisfied with the state's response following the January 2008 fire at the Southport station?

46. Could service be improved and train headways decreased if the train signal system was improved? What would it take to do this in your opinion?

47. Would putting back the fourth track that used to exist between Milford and New Haven have benefits to the system? Is this feasible?

48. Proposals at the federal level suggest some major changes to the way Amtrak provides intercity rail service, including who would be responsible for the infrastructure on the Northeast Corridor and who would run certain key services. What implications do you think this might have for services like Shoreline East? If Connecticut must accept a greater responsibility in this area, what do you think it should get in return?

49. What role do you think the council should play with respect to the Connecticut Transportation Strategy Board? Do you think there should be a formal relationship between the two? How do you think the council could be best integrated into this process and the board's deliberations?

50. What are your views on rail service security issues? Do you see the need for additional security procedures for protecting rail passengers?

51. Are improvements in feeder bus or other types of station-to-employment circulation capabilities along the Shoreline East- Metro North corridor being effectively implemented? Where must this be accelerated?

52. Can anything more be done to make the rail commuting system more user friendly for bicyclists who want to use the “park-and-ride” mode for getting to and from the trains?

53. The council's statutory charge is to study and investigate all aspects of the daily operation of the New Haven commuter line, monitor its performance, and recommend changes to improve service efficiency and quality. Are you satisfied with this role or do you believe the council could play a different or expanded role? If so, what would this be?

54. Do you believe Connecticut functions as an equal partner in its relationship with New York and the MTA? In what ways do you think Connecticut's role in this partnership can be strengthened? Would you like to see Connecticut pursue getting a seat on the MTA?

55. What do you perceive as the most important issues for commuter rail service in Connecticut—parking availability, station quality, service quality, cost, or something else?

56. Are you satisfied with how Metro North and MTA are responding to the council's input?

57. Are there any other issues that affect rail commuters that you feel are not currently being addressed but should be?