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Grand Central Station - Do You Know When the Train Leaves?

Does Anybody Know When the Train Leaves?
By GREG CLARKIN
20 November 2005
The New York Times

IN the old days, they came north on the trains, shipped in boxes and sent out of Grand Central Terminal, and were tossed onto platforms for the ticket agent to dole out to riders on Metro-North.

They are the pocket-size schedules often found in racks by the door or the ticket window of stations along the New Haven line. But that was back when stations had ticket agents.

Now, with ticket machines replacing agents, some stations have gone months without the schedules. Commuters have become so frustrated that they have been returning from Grand Central and other stations with stacks of schedules and supplying the stations themselves.

''The ticket workers have all been replaced by ticket machines, but they are supposed to have people coming into the stations and stocking them,'' said James Cameron, vice chairman of the Connecticut Metro-North Shore Line East Rail Commuter Council.

Visits to 18 stations from Greenwich to New Haven this month found that the schedules were either hard to come by or nonexistent at a third of the stations. All the stations without schedules also had no ticket agents.

At the bigger, busier stations like the ones in Stamford, Bridgeport and New Haven, schedules abound. At the moderately busy stations, the ones without ticket agents, like Old Greenwich and Rowayton, let's just say it takes a village to get a schedule.

While the Old Greenwich station doesn't have a ticket agent anymore, it does have Jack Kennedy, who helps out at the newspaper stand by giving out schedules when he has some to give out.

''We were out of schedules for six months,'' Mr. Kennedy said. ''Then they came out with the new ones and we never got any of those.''

Mr. Kennedy said that some commuters had been stocking the station with schedules, taking them up from Grand Central, but it is never enough.

''These crazy people come in and grab them,'' he said. ''I don't know why you need more than one schedule.''

Rowayton is another station without a ticket agent, but it does have five people who try to make sure there are some schedules around.

Dominick Tesauro, the parking attendant on the New York-bound side, keeps a stack in his booth. He gets them from an attendant on the other side, John Soltesz. So where does Mr. Soltesz get his supply? He or his partner gets them from the Darien station.

Eventually, some schedules make their way inside the Rowayton station to the concession and newsstand operator, Bob Diroma, but even those run out quickly.

Mr. Diroma said being able to pick up a schedule at his station was a perk for commuters. ''You can get them in the city, at Grand Central, but it's a pain in the neck,'' he said.

Mr. Kennedy in Old Greenwich said he heard a barrage of questions about the missing schedules and he had a stock answer.

''I tell them we don't have any,'' he said. ''Why? We never got any. Why not? Because they didn't come in. Call up the railroad.''

Dan Brucker, a Metro-North spokesman, said that any station with a ticket agent has schedules dropped off. There has to be someone there to put out the schedules, after all.

According to Metro-North's Web site, only eight stations on the main artery of the New Haven line still have ticket agents. At many of the stations where commuter traffic is light, it ''does not pay to have a ticket seller there,'' Mr. Brucker said.

In the last two years, ticket machines have replaced ticket agents at a number of New Haven line stations, including Old Greenwich, Noroton Heights and Greens Farms.

So fewer than half of the New Haven line stations have agents, leaving 11 stations where parking attendants or newsstand vendors are taking it upon themselves to get schedules.

Mr. Brucker said the vendors at those stations could request that schedules be delivered. A few days after an inquiry about the lack of schedules, Old Greenwich received a supply.

Mr. Brucker also said there were other ways of finding what train to take. Metro-North's Web site ( www.mta.nyc.ny.us/mnr ) can help, as can the railroad's automated telephone number, (800) 638-7646. Schedules are also posted at the stations.

''There are people who don't have a computer at home, but I think 100 percent of the people have a phone,'' he said.

Mr. Soltesz said people often pulled up in cars to his parking booth at the Rowayton station and ask for schedules. ''They're taking a later train or an afternoon train, or something like that,'' he said. ''There's always somebody.''

The pocket schedules are produced by Viacom Outdoor for Metro-North and cost the railroad nothing, Mr. Brucker said. ''It is produced for us for free as part of an advertising vehicle,'' he said.

Each one is loaded with ads for Broadway shows, restaurants and books. Fresh ones are printed at least twice a year when Metro-North fine-tunes the schedule of the New Haven line.

Pocket-Size, but Packed With Information

HERE is a breakdown of New Haven line stations: the haves and have-nots of schedules.

GREENWICH -- Next to the ticket window on the second floor are the racks for the schedules. A ticket agent, Scott Coady, is restocking them in a never-ending battle of supply and demand.

''We usually have a ton of them,'' he said. ''But you put them out before train one, and by train two they're gone.''

COS COB -- No ticket agent, and the station is locked up after the morning rush. Inside, there is a small stack of schedules by the window.

RIVERSIDE -- No ticket agent and a locked station with no schedules in sight.

OLD GREENWICH -- Jack Kennedy's station. Lost its ticket agent within the last year. It is recently renovated, bright and sunny and out of schedules. As for the riders asking Mr. Kennedy about schedules?

''They drive me crazy,'' he said.

STAMFORD -- Busy with Amtrak and Metro-North riders and hundreds of schedules.

NOROTON HEIGHTS -- No ticket agent here, but a few stacks of schedules are available.

A woman boarding the 10:19 to New York said she liked to take a bunch to keep for visitors going into the city.

DARIEN -- Has a ticket agent and plenty of schedules.

ROWAYTON -- No ticket agent, but has its Team Rowayton of parking lot attendants making sure there are schedules.

SOUTH NORWALK -- Lots of commuters and lots of schedules.

EAST NORWALK -- Just up the line, a much different scene. No ticket agent here, but Belinda Ramos makes sure she has a few of the large accordion-like timetables available behind her coffee counter. She could go to South Norwalk and pick up a supply of smaller ones, but said most people just looked at them, picked their train and tossed them out.

''They just grab them for no reason,'' she said. She hands out the larger timetables on request.

WESTPORT -- Bustling station and a large rack for schedules by the ticket window. The ticket agent opens at 6:10 a.m. and adds to the supply.

GREENS FARMS -- No ticket agent, but a small supply of schedules.

SOUTHPORT -- Forget it. No ticket agent, no schedules. There is an old wooden rack with slots for schedules. Fliers for a housecleaner and a yoga instructor are stuffed there.

FAIRFIELD -- Stacks of schedules next to the ticket window.

BRIDGEPORT -- Plenty of schedules, although the ticket agent said she ran out of them all the time.

STRATFORD -- No ticket agent. No schedules. A waiter at the nearby Shell Station restaurant produces a timetable upon request from the waiters' station. Appears to be a few kept under the napkins.

MILFORD-- Again, no ticket agent. No schedules.

NEW HAVEN -- A big, bustling station with schedules everywhere. A ticket agent said they never ran out. GREG CLARKIN
 

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I can imagine how bad it can be without knowing when trains come. I think times should be set so that they come at the same time each hour (eg: 5, 20, 35, 50 minutes past the hour) so people can memorise the times. It works outside of peak and weekends here, but frequency is usually good enough to just turn up at the station at any time.
 

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New Bi-level cars for NJTransit

NJTransit, New Jersey's commuter railroad has recently purchased new bi-level cars. They were manufactured by Bombardier. They're definately a departure from modern train design...

 

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No ofense, but why must all the trains and buses in the USA be so ugly?!
Really... I honnestly don't understand this. :(

But I'm sure they are great trains and will provide a great service! :eek:kay:
 

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Interesting that you enter on the mezzanine level and either go up or go down to the seats. The regular bi-level cars made by Bombardier have entrances from grade (not elevated platforms) and then you go up to a mezzanine and up again to the upper seats.
 

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officedweller said:
Interesting that you enter on the mezzanine level and either go up or go down to the seats. The regular bi-level cars made by Bombardier have entrances from grade (not elevated platforms) and then you go up to a mezzanine and up again to the upper seats.
Yes, but this is not an uncomon feature:



Picture taken from the Parisien RER thread.
 

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officedweller said:
Interesting that you enter on the mezzanine level and either go up or go down to the seats. The regular bi-level cars made by Bombardier have entrances from grade (not elevated platforms) and then you go up to a mezzanine and up again to the upper seats.
The Kawasaki bilevels on the LIRR are the same way. NJT has both high-level and low-level platforms though (LIRR is all high-level), so I assume these cars can handle low-level platforms as well.

These could help alleviate the overcrowding into Manhattan until the new tunnel is completed, though I don't understand why NJT insists on buying new push-pull cars instead of buying some new EMU's.
 

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mr_storms said:
^^Yes. At first i though these were jsut slightly different but its obviously they more than slightly differ from the normal bi-level cars. If this because of higher platforms?
The trains are shorter and skinier than the standard Bombardier bilevels (such as the GO trains in Toronto). The cars have to be small enough to fit in the cramped century-old tunnels in NJ, including the rail tunnel under the Hudson River.
 

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Nephasto said:
No ofense, but why must all the trains and buses in the USA be so ugly?!
Really... I honnestly don't understand this. :(

But I'm sure they are great trains and will provide a great service! :eek:kay:

I was wondering the same thing. All these other countries have nice looking trains while....well let me say New York, New Jersey and the surrounding areas have ugly looking trains. Even Chicago doesn't look that appealing but they still have some style to them.
 
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