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New Canaan station empty as commuters avoid trains

Published 11:12 am, Thursday, September 26, 2013

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  • The lumber yard parking lot by the Elm Street train station, usually packed, was nearly deserted Thursday morning after mechanical failures disrupted train service on the Metro North line Wednesday. Sept. 26, 2013. New Canaan, Conn. Photo: Tyler Woods
    The lumber yard parking lot by the Elm Street train station, usually packed, was nearly deserted Thursday morning after mechanical failures disrupted train service on the Metro North line Wednesday. Sept. 26, 2013. New Canaan, Conn. Photo: Tyler Woods

 

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The place with the least congestion and crowding Thursday morning may have been the Elm Street train station in New Canaan.

Tumbleweeds blew down the platform the day after mechanical failures brought the Metro-North New Haven line to a near-standstill, with many riders evidently choosing to drive or find alternate transportation to New York due to the dismantled schedule.

"My wife drove me to White Plains to pick up Harlem line yesterday," Andy Smith, a New Canaanite waiting at the station Thursday morning, said. He was there to scope out the situation going forward, and had brought his laptop to do work during the wait.

"Unfortunately, there was an incident where a woman was pushed on the track, and my wife with three kids in the back drove me all the way to New York."

According to various news reports, a 21-year-old woman is in serious condition at a hospital after a homeless man pushed her onto the track in front of a moving train in White Plains, N.Y. Police have charged him with attempted homicide.

At the end of the day, Smith, a lawyer in the city, took the Harlem line back to White Plains, where his wife picked him up.

"I'm going to try to just make the best of it and hope this doesn't actually last for two weeks," Smith said.

The delays are due to the failure of Consolidated Edison feeders that supply traction power to the line's electric fleet, according to a Metro-North statement.

The power failure has paralyzed Metro-North rail service and could take days, or possibly weeks to fix.

Metro-North is making alternate plans using its fleet of diesel locomotives and buses, but the plan only will be adequate for transporting about a third of the usual number of passengers.

Metro-North is recommending commuters stay home, but if they must travel into New York City, to use trains along the Harlem Line and to expect crowded conditions in trains running along the New Haven Line.

Gov. Dannel P. Malloy said Wednesday afternoon it could be as late as mid-October before power is restored through a section of New York track on the New Haven Line after an electrical failure at a power substation in Mount Vernon, N.Y. "As a result, customers should seek alternate service and expect crowded conditions."

Crowded in some places, not so much in others. Several taxi drivers waiting at the New Canaan station said Thursday had been the worst day for them ever.

"No business I'm getting," Francois Apollon said. "It's different. We got nothing. Some people went to Stamford and took taxi back to here to drive to the city."

Another taxi driver jumped in the conversation.

"The Stamford trains are like the Mumbai trains. Packed like sardines," Steve Garcia said. "There is no one coming. I am here since 6 o'clock this morning. How much I make?"

Garcia held up his hand with his fingers in the shape of a circle.

"Zero. Normally, I make 70, 80 dollars."

But the specter of long waits and crowded conditions are not keeping everyone away.

"When I woke up I found out they're not running normal trains," Patty Malloy, a personal assistant to a retired executive in New York, said. "I'm hoping to get a train to Stamford and the wait there for a diesel train. I think a lot of people are driving into the city."

Malloy said her neighbor had offered to drive her to the city at 6 a.m., but it was too early for her.

Roadways are also congested. Southbound traffic delays stretched more than 18 miles on both the Merritt Parkway and I-95 when many Metro-North riders took to the roads.

twoods@bcnnew.com; 203-330-6582; @Woods_NCNews