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Metro-North ridership up, Grand Central Terminal celebrated

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Ridership on Metro-North Railroad’s commuter rail lines came up just short of the record in 2012, the Connecticut Department of Transportation (DOT) and Metropolitan Transportation Authority announced as the latter kicked off centennial festivities at Grand Central Terminal.

Commuters notched some 83 million trips in 2012, up 0.8 percent from 2011, with the New Haven Line providing a record 38.8 million rides, eclipsing the old mark, set the prior year, by 1.3 percent.

Stamford was the busiest outlying station and suburban work destination last year, with 5,300 people disembarking there each morning, according to the Connecticut DOT.

“Our investments in new and more comfortable rail cars and other equipment seem to be paying off,” said DOT Commissioner James P. Redeker.

And those commuters continue to stream daily through Grand Central Terminal, which officially kicked off its Centennial Feb. 1 with a full day of festivities.

A rededication ceremony was held that morning during a program dotted with dignitaries and celebrities all paying honor to the transportation hub and its place in both daily life and preservation history.

New York City Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg kicked off the program with a tribute to the Beaux Arts landmark that opened its doors in 1913.

“It’s not easy to last 100 years in a city of constant change,” Bloomberg said, noting that with the ever-growing list of restaurants, shops, shows and entertainment within the terminal it’s become “a city within a city.”

But, he added, “At its heart, this is a commuter train station,” one poised to address the needs of contemporary society.

“It represents beauty and art but also commerce and industry.”

Howard Permut, president of the MTA Metro-North Railroad, summed up the enduring spirit of Grand Central Terminal, saying, “It heralded to New Yorkers, then and now, you have arrived — and you have places to go.”

Jim Cameron, chairman of the Connecticut Rail Commuter Council (CRCC), echoed Redeker, saying that the new fleet of M8 rail cars, which began coming into service in 2011, has resulted in “much improved service.”

“They’ve not only made for a more comfortable ride, but we hope — and this winter will be a good test — they’ll provide more reliable service, especially in the winter months when the old cars would be prone to freeze-ups and breakdowns,” said Cameron, a Darien resident.

Cameron said the CRCC, an independent board created by the state legislature in 1985 to advocate for riders, would continue to push for improvements such as additional surface parking.

“DOT has not done enough in terms of expanding parking at the train stations,” Cameron said. “In most of southwestern Connecticut, there is an 8-year waiting list for annual parking permits. … DOT is ultimately responsible for that supply because they own and lease the stations and the parking next to the stations, and they have done nothing to expand parking at busy stations like Greenwich, Darien, Norwalk, and Westport.”

Patrick Gallagher contributed to this report.

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Mary Shustack
Reporter/Editor

Mary Shustack writes features for Westfair’s WAG magazine, as well as for the business journals. A graduate of the University of Missouri-Columbia, her previous experience includes more than 20 years with the Gannett Company.

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