Monday's Commute: Carmageddon Avoided

May 23, 2013

Metro-North railroad has announced it will restore full service to the New Haven line on Wednesday. While many commuters heeded pleas to avoid rush hour travel on Monday, some didn’t have a choice or decided to brave it anyway -- including me. 

After biking to New Haven’s Union Station at 7 a.m. this morning, I was met with a surprise: A practically empty train station at the height of rush hour. Janet Piselli was one of just a handful of people on the 7:22 train that would take her to Bridgeport before she’d then have to get on a bus to Fairfield, where she works. She could have driven, but she didn’t think that would help. 

“It was either a nightmare on the bussing, or a nightmare sitting on 95," Piselli said. 

Normally, Piselli just takes the train from Milford, where she lives, straight to Fairfield. But Friday’s train crash put all the train stations between Fairfield and Westport out of service. Metro-North is providing buses to people who use those stations, adding at least a half hour to Paselli’s commute. In Westport, a crowd of people were waiting for a bus in the other direction, including Ken Atterberry, trying to get to work in Fairfield. He was in for a bit of a wait, but took it in stride.

“25 minutes, so we have time to eat breakfast, if we want to eat breakfast, and just wait and just be patient, I guess," he said. 

Officials say ridership on the New Haven line dropped 20 percent and that traffic patterns were pretty normal during rush hour. That means many people were likely able to work from home or carpool. But whether that will continue into the week is an open question. John Moriarty was on a packed bus from Westport trying to get to his job at a bank in Bridgeport.

“I do have to go to work, I got a change my clothes and everything. I got to get to the bank," Moriarty said.  

As the bus wound through local roads to get to Bridgeport, his shift was starting in just 15 minutes. Moriarty said he may not be able to handle the bus-train combination tomorrow.

“I’m probably going to have to look for someone to drive me.”

Many other commuters said they may end up driving tomorrow instead of trying public transit. That could put many more people on the roads, competing with more than 100 buses that are running in substitute of the lost train service.