FAIRFIELD COUNTY, Conn. – Even though the Metro-North New Haven Line broke ridership records in 2016, a recent report in the Republican-American revealed that Connecticut's three Metro-North branches all saw decreasing ridership last year, prompting members of Congress to demand improvements.
The Waterbury, Danbury and New Canaan branches all saw declines last year, the Republican-American reported. The Waterbury branch saw a decrease of 2.9 percent, the Danbury branch had a decrease of 2.4 percent and the New Canaan branch saw a decrease of 1.1 percent, the Republican-American found.
In response, U.S. Sens. Chris Murphy and Richard Blumenthal along with U.S. Rep. Elizabeth Esty sent a letter to Metro-North President Joseph Giulietti asking for detailed plans for service improvements that would increase ridership. They had previously written Giulietti in August, saying they were pleased with improvements such as a signalization project on the Waterbury line, and were seeing month-to-month increases in ridership.
"However, recent reporting and MTA ridership data suggest that consistent lapses in services on the Waterbury, Danbury, and New Canaan Branch Lines have led to a decline in ridership," the three legislators wrote.
"With that in mind, we write today to convey our deep concern about this trend, particularly because its cause—poor service—may be mistaken for a lack of demand. Nothing could be farther from the truth. Our constituents continually clamor for more frequent and reliable service on these lines. For some, the branch lines are the only way for thousands of my constituents to get between their jobs and families."
Murphy, Blumenthal and Esty said that a clear line can be drawn between improvements and increases in ridership, pointing to years past when adding trains or repairing infrastructure has led to jumps in ridership. By contrast, they said that in years when service has gotten worse the ridership has subsequently declined.
They said they weren't surprised that the ridership fell on the Waterbury branch in 2016, "when the on-time rate dropped to 75 percent in the summer and long-delays and poor communication to commuters plagued the line. Nor does it come as a surprise that ridership decreased in 2016 when riders were directed to bus service over 100 times."
"Our message is clear: Riders are frustrated, and they want better service," the three wrote, adding that better service and increased ridership will increase investment. "Conversely, devolving service quality and reliability may cause people to mistakenly question the soundness of investments in the lines, jeopardizing future funding for improvements."
They asked Giulietti to provide them as well as branch riders with a plan to improve service on the three branches in both the near and long term.