A commuter’s guide to winter travel on the Metro-North and CT highways

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Ah, winter in New England! One day it’s foggy and soft, the next day it’s a blizzard. How do we get through the next few months and still get to where we’re going? Here are some crowd-source tips from your fellow commuters:

If you take the train:

First, never assume that your train will run on time. While Metro-North’s new M8 cars do much better in snow than older cars, the railroad quickly changes schedules and cuts service if conditions warrant. Check their application before going to the station. Leave early and expect to arrive late.

The same is true on Amtrak (and Shore Line East) where that railway is planning possible cancellations due to staff shortages when mandatory vaccination rules go into effect for engineers in January.

Parking is always plentiful at stations (and, in most cases, free on weekends), but be careful on unplowed lots. If the waiting room at your station is not open, call the town hall because they are the ones who are responsible for opening these heated shelters.

Do the same if you come across icy steps and docks: call the town hall. They’re supposed to use station parking revenues to keep stations open and lights on, not Metro-North. if you see something, say something.

The HVAC systems on Metro-North trains are much more reliable than in the past. The TrainTime app will alert you before your train pulls in which cars are least crowded, but a seemingly empty car can be for a good reason: no heat. So be ready to move.

If your station uses center single-track station platform “bridge plates” for boarding, stay away from the glazed aluminum until the train arrives and stops. And always “watch out for the gap”.

Finally, please wear your mask at all times on the train. It’s federal law, and regardless of your immunization status, you don’t want to have an Omicron Christmas.

On the roads :

The Connecticut Department of Transportation is already warning us of a looming shortage of snowplow operators as the agency struggles to hire staff in the competitive job market.

They will still treat major roads with a mixture of snow and melting ice, but depending on the rate of snowfall, even I-95 could become impassable. In strong wind conditions, when large trucks are prohibited, take this as a sign that you should reconsider your travel plans.

Keep your washer fluid reservoir full as you will need it after driving through the nasty debris and ice lifted from the road by cars in front of you.

Above all, slow down. Even if you drive a tank-sized SUV, don’t assume you’re safe when things get slippery.

Or stay at home:

Finally, ask yourself if your planned trip is really necessary. “Zooming in” might be an easier way to get things done in the warmth and security of your own home.

If there is a positive side to COVID, it has taught us that we can all be productive without risking our lives fighting Mother Nature on the roads and rails, right?

Jim Cameron is the founder of the Commuter Action Group, which advocates for Connecticut railroad users. Contact Jim at [email protected]


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