Another Rough Commute Done As New Haven Line Repairs Continue

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A view of one of the trains at the Bridgeport station. (Mark Mirko, Hartford Courant).

NEW HAVEN — A third day with inadequate train service between Stamford and New York City began Friday with signs that more commuters opted to stay home.

Union Station in New Haven lacked its usual crowds at 7:30 a.m., and traffic on major routes to the city was only a little heavier than usual.

“Yeah, there’s usually a lot of people at this time,” Glen Richards of New Haven said at Union Station Friday morning. “It’s usually shoulder-to-shoulder I think. Today it’s a little bit emptied out.”

“So far good,” said Sam Blakeman, who is making his way to New York to catch a plane at JFK. “ But I think Stamford will be different.”

Work began Thursday to restore partial power, while Gov. Dannel P. Malloy suggested that Metro-North consider a refund for inconvenienced customers.

Commuters have been crowding onto fewer trains, sitting in highway traffic, finding creative ways to get to work or staying home since an electrical failure forced Metro-North to suspend commuter rail service between the two cities Wednesday.

“You usually can’t get a seat on the train at night, but last night since people were taking different routes, maybe half the train was empty,” said Jared Barolli, who was commuting to New York Friday.

Limited bus and train service is being provided — accommodating about 33 percent of the regular ridership — for the New Haven line, the Metropolitan Transportation Authority said in an emailed alert Friday.

The electrical problem could take several weeks to repair fully, leaving limited service available to the 125,000 people who use the New Haven Line each day, officials said. Metro-North has been using diesel trains and buses to get some commuters back and forth, but it is operating at about one-third of its normal capacity.

Standing in Grand Central Station on Thursday, Malloy said that work was underway to restore partial power to the New Haven Line as early as Saturday, but even then, he said, it was uncertain how many trains could use that limited power.

He also expressed frustration with yet another commuter nightmare in Connecticut, and said he has spoken with Metro-North about the need for a refund policy for inconvenienced riders.

“This is a failure, for one reason or another, of the system,” he said.

Malloy also directed the state Department of Transportation to stop all routine road maintenance in lower Fairfield County to allow for better traffic flow.

As commuters found ways around the problem — leaving earlier or later, carpooling, working at home, traveling to the Harlem Line trains in New York — traffic through southwestern Connecticut was not much worse Thursday than on any other day, DOT spokesman Kevin Nursick said.

 By Christine Dempsey and Kelly Glista, Hartford Courant

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