Rail commuters have been facing growing problems with Metro-North Railroad that included service outages, stranded passengers, fare increases and three train derailments, including a fatal one, since last summer.
Fed up, Jim Cameron, a long-time commuter advocate and former chairman of the Connecticut Rail Commuter Council, has launched the Commuter Action Group, an online effort to give voice to commuters’ complaints.
“The Commuter Action Group will be the strongest possible advocate for commuters on Metro-North in Connecticut,” Cameron said. “We won’t have dues, and everyone can join. But we’ll make our voices heard every day.”
“The culture of incompetence and unaccountability at Metro-North has got to be reversed,” Cameron said. “Human error by railroad employees has resulted in deaths, yet nothing seems to change.
“The Con Ed power problem, the recent stranding of trains without heat on the coldest night of the year and last week’s complete shutdown because somebody ‘pulled a plug’ are all the result of mismanagement, not bad luck,” he said.
Commuters are angry
Cameron, a Metro-North rider for almost 25 years and transportation columnist for Hersam Acorn Newspapers, said he’s never heard commuters this angry.
“Their frustration is more than justified because problems persist while all we get is lip service from the railroad and Hartford. It’s time to hold them both accountable,” he said.
“Complaining to Metro-North or the (Connecticut Department of Transportation) has proven to be a waste of time,” Cameron said. “They don’t listen and they don’t care. They seem responsive and responsible to nobody — except lawmakers.”
Using the Internet as a tool
Cameron said the secret of the new group is the power of the Internet to encourage riders to report their concerns, using the commuter group’s new website, Twitter feed and Facebook page. Whether there’s no heat on a train, it’s consistently late or if a conductor is rude.
“Every single time commuters see something wrong, now they can easily report it with detail and with pictures from their smartphone,” he said. “The railroad will have precise information to fix what’s wrong and should do it.”
Cameron added that Metro-North and the transportation department may be able to ignore commuters, but they can’t ignore legislators who control spending.
“Our website also makes it easy to tell your elected officials, ‘I’m a constituent and I’m holding you accountable to make sure this gets fixed. This is an election year and I will remember in November if you helped fix Metro-North when I go to the polls’,” he said.
To promote its goals, the Commuter Action Group has issued a Commuter Manifesto of its expectations of service and response from Metro-North and the DOT.
For more information go to http://CommuterActionGroup.org.