Winter on the Hudson Line

If you weren’t yet sick of winter, yesterday’s storm probably pushed you over the edge. We’ve had an immense amount of snow dumped on us the past few months, leading to a lot of cancellations and early closings at my work. Pretty much every time I made sure to have my camera on me to document Metro-North through the storms (you can see the first part here). Today’s winter-centric post features the Hudson Line, and a collection of photos all taken within the last week. In yesterday’s storm I hung out at both Spuyten Duyvil and Croton Harmon, and then headed home on the fantabulous 1:55 Harlem Line “fun boat” to Wassaic, making all local stops, standing room only. If anybody out there saw complaints on twitter about a stupid girl eating tacos on that train, I swear, it wasn’t me!

Considering that today is Friday, it is worth mentioning that this is the end of new Metro-North president Joseph Giulietti’s first work week. I suppose the weather decided to throw an appropriate welcoming party for a man that spent the last fifteen years working in Florida. Nonetheless, rumors are abound that Mr. Giulietti has already begun “cleaning house,” which is likely a good thing. There are plenty of things that Metro-North can improve, but if you ask me, number one ought to be communication.

Over the past few years, Metro-North has greatly improved its communications with riders with both email and text alerts. Although they still haven’t figured out that messages have character limits, and that it is super annoying to receive the same exact message 10 times in one day, we get a lot of info about service changes and info. In fact, we get more info than Metro-North’s own employees! Conductor Bobby touched on this in his open letter to his passengers, which if you haven’t yet read, you most definitely should.

Yesterday’s 1:55 train highlights the issues in communication with Metro-North. The train was a combination of several trains, and was advertised on Grand Central’s big board as an all-local to Wassaic. As far as the crew knew, the train was either going directly to Wassaic, or there would be a connection waiting for us at Southeast. However, en route, passengers began receiving alerts saying that Wassaic service was suspended. Some rather irate passengers from Tenmile River began shouting at the conductor, “I thought this train was going to Wassaic! They TOLD ME Wassaic! Now service to Wassaic is suspended?! What the hell am I going to do?” The kicker is, the crew had no idea the train was not going to Wassaic. They learned this from a passenger. At this point the Rail Traffic Controller was contacted, “I’ve heard from some passengers that Wassaic service is currently suspended. What am I to tell the people that are on this train going to Wassaic?” The response was, “we have no info at this time.”

Another thing that I watched happen yesterday was at the very beginning of the storm – the early morning Upper Harlem train arrived late and a woman demanded to know on board, “so which one of you conductors woke up late to make my train late?” Despite the smut tabloid headlines that “transit expert” Jim Cameron likes to post (he claims he once worked for a reputable news agency, but his New York Post-esque headlines seem only fit as a rag for dogs to pee on), Metro-North conductors are not horrible people. They do not hit people with trains and run away. And it is ludicrous to even insinuate that it is a regular occurrence for Metro-North employees to perform disgusting acts on passengers because they are “stressed out.” In reality, handfuls of Metro-North employees slept on trains or in rail yards to make sure they were able to work through the storm. Others worked nearly 24 hours straight because their trains got stuck in the snow. Are there some Metro-North employees out there that are assholes? Probably. And I bet you have assholes where you work too. But by and large, the majority of employees work hard to get people where they need to go. Like in this snow storm.

As you’ll see from the photos below, running trains yesterday was not easy. Many people like to debate over catenary versus third rail methods of powering electric trains – each has its merits, but yesterday demonstrated one of the downsides to third rail. Excessive amounts of snow up to and covering the third rail makes it difficult, if not impossible, to operate electric trains. But if 100 car pileups could attest, the roads weren’t that great yesterday and today either.

Anyway, enough ranting. Here’s what winter looks like on the Hudson Line:

  
 
  
 
  
   
  
   
  

   
  
 
   
  
 
   
  

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Metro-North’s newest Arts for Transit – a revisit to the Hudson Line

I think it is fairly well established that I love the Arts for Transit program, and pretty much any transit-related art in general. My three-year-long jaunt to every single Metro-North station was not only a great way to become familiar with our rail system, but to also become familiar with the art found within many of the stations. The Hudson Line has some of the newest and most attractive pieces out of the Arts for Transit program, including two stations that never made it into my Tuesday Tours. Both Croton-Harmon and Peekskill got some art in the latter half of 2012, after both stations had been featured on the site. Both are rather attractive designs, and I figured it would be worth visiting the Hudson yet again to check them out.

Some of Arts for Transit’s most successful installations are those that almost transcend the barrier between art and function, and those that interact with the space in which they are placed. While bronze sculptures hanging on the wall are certainly a lovely (though easily missed) addition to any station, the bronze chairs you’ll find at Pleasantville station become even more than that. They are attractive, but also functional, they interact with the people that use the station, and they begin a dialogue. People that spy them from the train might say, “what are those nice looking chairs, and why are they there?” And as the artists intended, they evoke the comforts and feelings of home, and the thought that to many regular commuters this station is their second home. When comparing Arts for Transit pieces, Pleasantville always seems to be the bar to which I compare, and is (at least in my opinion) one of the best embodiments of the program’s concept of enhancing the experience of travel.

In a similar vein to the Pleasantville piece, both of the newest Arts for Transit works on the Hudson Line seem to interact with the stations in which they’ve been placed, and thus the people that frequent them. Croton-Harmon’s artwork, a series of laminated glass panels by Brooklyn-based artist Corinne Ulmann, not only depict the changing of seasons, but seem to change on their own based upon the light that filters into the overpass. Several Hudson Line stations feature both faceted and laminated glass works in the overpasses, and I’ve always felt they’ve been successful as they’re never the same at all times. As sunlight passes through, colors are reflected onto the platforms and walkways and move as the sun crosses the sky. Thus the art is hardly static, it subtly changes due to season, time, and weather.

Metro North President Howard Permut at Peekskill station
Metro North President Howard Permut speaks at Peekskill, with the station’s newest Arts for Transit piece in the background. [image credit]

Peekskill’s art, an installation of various painted steel pieces by Joy Taylor, also interacts with the station, and the sunlight. The large pieces cast shadows on the platform, but also highlight a play between new and old at the station. During Peekskill’s recent renovations, the station’s historical canopy was restored. This canopy runs parallel to the more modern one found on the station’s other platform, but both evoke a different feeling. The historical canopy is rounded, where the new is more angular, with squared edges. But with the artistic flourishes added to the modern canopy (the historical canopy was appropriately left without embellishments), the new canopy visually parallels the old. Not only does it create an interesting play between new and old, but it emphasizes the historical nature of the one canopy. That side of the platform is not bare, however. The fencing behind the old canopy carries the same flowery motif, but without compromising the part that is historical.

If you happen to get over to the Hudson Line, both pieces are certainly worth checking out, and make commuting on the Hudson Line a little bit more attractive than before.

 
 
   
  
   
 
   
  
 
  
 
  
 
  
   
  
 
  

And before I forget, Metro-North’s newest Arts for Transit will be at Fordham station on the Harlem Line. If you happen to be an artist, you still have a few days to reply to the Call for Artists. Submissions need to be postmarked by the 28th.

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Tuesday Tour of the Hudson Line: Croton-Harmon

As I mentioned last week, today’s stop on our Tuesday Tour is one of the least attractive stations on the Hudson Line, Croton-Harmon. You have to have mixed feelings about this place, because despite not looking all that spectacular, there’s a lot of action going on here. Not only does Croton-Harmon serve Metro-North, Amtrak has several trains which stop here. The station is also the northern terminus of electric service on the Hudson Line, and although Metro-North offers many through trains, some passengers still have to transfer here, so it is definitely a busy station (in the past fewer through trains were available, thus transferring here was a must). Metro-North’s Croton-Harmon shops, which recently won a Brunel Award, are also here, which certainly adds to the action.


Croton-Harmon timetables and ticket.

Croton-Harmon station is located about 33 miles from Grand Central, and a ride to the Terminal takes, on average, around an hour. However, there are a few express trains that will get you there in around 42 minutes. In terms of ridership, Croton-Harmon is the busiest station on the Hudson Line, and the sixth busiest system-wide (strictly Metro-North traffic and not counting GCT. Only White Plains, Stamford, Scarsdale, New Haven, and New Rochelle get more weekday passengers). Amtrak service adds another 42,000 passengers a year traveling through the station.


Croton-Harmon through the decades: 1963. The Hudson Division was part of the New York Central at this time.


Croton-Harmon through the decades: 1974. The Croton-Harmon shops in the Penn Central years. Penn Central Memories on Flickr has a lovely collection of photographs at Croton-Harmon in this era.


Croton-Harmon through the decades: 1984. Metro-North is still a fledgling railroad, after taking over from Conrail in 1983.


Croton-Harmon through the decades: 1992.


Croton-Harmon through the decades: 2012. The current award-winning shops at Croton Harmon. [image source]

Denoting its busy status, Croton-Harmon has three island platforms, allowing multiple trains to stop at the station simultaneously. Above the platforms is an enclosed waiting room for passengers. Croton-Harmon is one of the few system stations to still have a manned ticket window, which serves Metro-North customers only. Amtrak does have two ticket machines not far from the ticket window. The waiting area also has a few vending machines, and restrooms available. Closer to the parking lot, the station also has a cleaners – this building was the temporary station in 1988 as the current station was under construction.

There isn’t much else noteworthy to mention of today’s Croton-Harmon – it is a busy, functional Metro-North station, that when compared with other Hudson Line stations like Poughkeepsie and Yonkers, is hardly attractive. With the traffic moving in and out, the station is at least nice place to watch trains… thus I’ll let the photos below speak for themselves!

 
 
  
 
  
 
   
 
 
   
 
   
 
  
 
  

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Metro-North and the Aftermath of Irene, Damage Photos

Edit: Metro-North has resumed most service. For the most current information, check the MTA website.

Mayor Bloomberg’s press conference addressing the damage after Irene has just completed. Of course, Chairman of the Metropolitan Transit Authority Jay Walder was present to address the state of New York City’s transit system. The unfortunate news for Metro-North riders is that it was our railroad that suffered the most damage out of all of the MTA. Walder said there was severe damage to all three lines, including significant flooding and track erosion. Damage assessments are still going on, and there will be no decision on when service will be restored until these assessments have been completed.

What I must say, however, is that MTA has been keeping us in the loop via their Flickr account, which is much appreciated. From the photos we can see that there is severe flooding at Tuckahoe and Valhalla, on the Harlem Line. Valhalla also has power lines down, in the vicinity of Kensico Cemetery. There was a mudslide at Spuyten Duyvil and Scarborough on the Hudson Line. Beacon, also on the Hudson line, has massive flooding and is probably the worst station I’ve seen so far, with the parking lot and pedestrian underpass completely filled with water. Harriman, on the Port Jervis Branch also has a flooded parking lot. Thus far there has been no photos posted of the New Haven Line, but Governor Dannel Malloy has said that there was extensive damage to the catenary system, and on the New Canaan branch. I’ll let the pictures speak for themselves… (all photos credited to the MTA)





  
 
  
 
  
 
   
  
 

Also interesting are a few photos from yesterday in Grand Central. Seeing the station this empty is a bit creepy. Although people say that this happens quite frequently at night, it is obvious that it is not night in these photos. You can see Grand Central Terminal empty – with the sunlight still streaming through the windows. That light makes these images even more amazing to me. I’m a bit jealous I wasn’t there myself to take photos of the empty station!


 

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