Commuters asking for answers after heat-related havoc on Metro-North
Commuters waiting for trains Monday morning were still steamed after heat-related problems on the Metro-North Railroad last week caused massive delays, overcrowding and health issues for many riders stuck on tracks after wire problems shut down train traffic.
Temperatures were down Monday and trains were running on schedule, but many commuters were still looking for answers.
Marc Alexander, 45, of Fairfield, said his train was only delayed for a little while on Friday, but said that throughout the sweltering heat, air conditioning on the trains was spotty.
"Obviously we can't expect perfection, but when it comes to people's health, it's a major concern," Alexander said as he stood waiting for a train Monday morning. "With no windows open and temperatures in the 100s, it's dangerous. I would hope they (Metro-North) would take more precautions to make sure everything is working right before letting people on the train."
Stacy Martin, a 39-year-old Fairfield resident, said she is frustrated with the lack of dialogue that Metro-North provided.
"During the winter we were all upset because trains weren't running and they never told us anything," said Martin. "Now in the summer, it's not any better. If these trains aren't going to work and people are going to be put at risk, something has to be done. At least tell us what is going on and give us warning that trains may not be working properly, so that we can find another way in and out of the city."
With record-breaking temperatures above 100 degrees across New York and Connecticut on Friday, Metro-North suffered service issues not seen since the winter, when snow-related engine and wire problems led to widespread delays and several trains being taken out of service for repairs.
As was the case months ago with frozen trains, the railroad's aging cars could not handle the extreme temperatures on Friday. Trains became tangled in overhead wires and became stranded on tracks outside of stations across the line.
In Westport, riders were stuck for more than an hour. Town emergency officials said they received numerous calls from those stuck on the train complaining of medical issues related to the heat. It took extra time to locate the trains for the EMS and fire department crews sent out to rescue the stranded riders because of an apparent lack of communication between the emergency officials and the MTA crews.
No one was seriously injured, but many complained of heat fatigue. The train was eventually towed into the Greens Farms station, where emergency respodners from Westport and Fairfield provided water and evaluation for the sweat-soaked passengers, including at least three pregnant women.
Westport officials are hoping for a meeting between the two groups to ensure similar issues don't occur in the future.
Metro-North spokesperson Marjorie Anders blamed the issues on a combination of heat-related damage to wires that drooped into train traffic and more than 40-year-old equipment that is desperately in need for replacing. The state has already begun to bring new cars onto the line, as one set of the M-8s are in service.
The train stuck outside of Westport wasn't the only one affected Friday. Riders reported trains stuck between Stratford and Bridgeport. Another rider said she waited for almost an hour outside of the Bridgeport train station for a Waterbury bound train she could see stuck on the tracks in the distance.
Not all riders blamed Metro-North for the issues.
Chad Foster, 37, of Fairfield said he made sure to be extra prepared.
"Our train was stuck for a little while on the tracks coming back last week, but I brought extra water on the train with me just in case," Foster said. "I know Metro-North should take some of the blame for the trains breaking down, but as hot as it was, I think people should have thought before they got onto the trains. It was definitely hot with no AC, but it's hard to blame Metro-North for the weather."