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Metro-North Let Commuters Down After Fire, Schumer Says

Metro-North President Joseph Giulietti, left. U.S. Sen. Charles Schumer called on Giulietti to investigate communications, staffing and other issues after a fire May 17 that disrupted service.
Metro-North President Joseph Giulietti, left. U.S. Sen. Charles Schumer called on Giulietti to investigate communications, staffing and other issues after a fire May 17 that disrupted service. Photo Credit: Frank MacEachern

This story has been updated.

Metro-North failed to help commuters cope with the New York-area railroad's latest mishap -- a fire that caused widespread delays on suburban train lines.

That's the opinion of U.S Sen. Charles Schumer (D-NY) who sent a letter on Tuesday to Metro-North President Joseph Giulietti, while reminding the railroad's CEO that he promised to improve communication as part of a "100-day action plan" in 2014.

Schumer demanded Metro-North railroad investigate what went wrong when thousands of commuters were left stranded without clear direction on how to get home after the service outage caused by a fire beneath tracks outside of Grand Central Station as reported here last week.

Through a spokesman, Metro-North issued this reaction: "We are always working to strengthen customer communication—in particular during periods of inconvenience."

Aaron Donovan, deputy director of communications for the Metropolitan Transportation Authority, added, "We received Senator Schumer's letter today and we are reviewing it carefully."

After the fire under Metro-North’s tracks in Manhattan’s East Harlem section, many commuters reported that Metro-North’s communication during the emergency was inadequate, unavailable or confusing.

According to Schumer, riders reported that Metro-North did not have an adequate number of clearly identified staff members available in Grand Central Station to give instructions on alternative travel options.

“Metro-North's emergency communication system was not up to snuff during last week's emergency with nary an orange jacket to be found for thousands of nervous and stranded commuters," Schumer said. "‎Far too many commuters were frustrated and flummoxed by poor communication and left no guidance on alternate routes – or even worse, no way to get home or to work"

In 2014, Metro-North established a 100-Day Action Plan aimed at addressing a number of long-standing issues. One of those issues was improving communication during service disruptions and emergencies.

Schumer said this effort clearly still needs improvement.

For example, hundreds of commuters were told to take the D Train to the Bronx and then transfer to trains at the Metro-North Fordham Station. However, the D Train and the Metro-North Stations are several blocks apart and there was no staff at either station directing commuters, according to Schumer.

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