Today I had to head up to New Haven for an important special occasion. This is the type of trip I wouldn’t have blogged about normally but with the Metro-North Crash on Friday closing off the entire New Haven Line between Westport to Bridgeport the Train-Bus-Train Transfer that we had to deal with made this a trip I had to blog about. For the historical archive here are the train/bus schedules: Westbound, Eastbound. The reason for the bus bridge is because of a train crash in Bridgeport on Friday that amazingly killed no one (the modern construction of the M8s showed their worth) when an M8 derailed and a train going the other direction smashed into it, the site is still closed as the railroad is getting completely rebuilt.
With 4 of us going from my neighborhood to Fordham at an extremely early hour, a car service (for $10) seemed in order to make sure we made our train. At 6:26 we are in a taxi going down Fordham Road and over the University Heights Bridge, a Spanish Language morning news program is playing and I can decipher (I don’t know Spanish) a news story on the Metro-North incident.
We get to Fordham at 6:36 I jump out of the taxi and dash into the station to buy all of our tickets. Inside the station is a reverse from normal, there is no line at the TVM but a long one for the ticket window (At Fordham this isn’t often the case and I have a habit there of usually visiting the ticket window). My friends pay the car service and meet me on the platform, we have arrived across the street (where there is a staircase down to each platform) after telling the driver not to bother pulling a U-turn to get us directly in front of the station (and waste valuable time).
- The Westport-bound train comes in late at 6:42, we manage to find 4 seats together, by 7:04 were in Greenwich our first stop on this early morning reverse peak express that stops luckily at Fordham. No sign of a conductor. 7:12–We come to a stop outside of Stamford as they announce their waiting for the station to clear.
- 7:16–finally stop at Stamford, they simply say train to Westport and don’t announce any busing, I hope the website is right and were not supposed to switch in Stamford where the buses are discharging their New York-bound passengers. We again stop in the yard at Stamford.
- 7:22–Noroton Heights, all the LED signs say Good Service, something I find a bit ironic. I think the conductor has decided not to bother punching tickets.
- 7:32–South Norwalk, 7 minutes late. I think I hear something bus service over the hard to hear PA and dash out of my seat noticing a metro-north employee on the platform, he confirms that we need to stay on the train until Westport.
- 7:34–East Norwalk, middle 4 cars only
At 7:38 we get to Westport, we all get off the train and there are quite a few employees directing us to the underpass we take this to the opposite platform where there is a Norwalk Transit District WHEELS bus waiting for us for the ride to Bridgeport.
We board the bus and there is some discussion between the bus driver and Metro-North Cops and employees whether the bus is running non-stop via I-95 to Bridgeport or going via Route 1 to stop at Fairfield and Fairfield Metro (Southport and Green’s Farms have already been told, I think partially because of issues driving buses on the community’s narrow roads that they won’t have any replacement bus service). There a few people trying to get to Fairfield and the agreement is to take the slower Post Road (Route 1). Just before we leave a Metro-North employee snaps a few photos of us with his camera. The bus driver is a bit confused about the routing up to the Post Road so a Metro-North cop will lead and escort us to Route 1 in his car.
We finally leave the Saugatuck Road station at 7:44. I notice a variable sign directing bus traffic One Way and passenger traffic the other. We head up to the Post Road.
- 7:50 – finally at the Post Road. A few Shuttle Buses (using a combination of Wheels Transit Buses and I see a minibus) pass the other way, none too crowded.
- 7:58 – pass the sign for the Greens Farms station
- 8:07 – pull in front of the Fairfield Station. Some people get on thinking were going to Westport, there more cops then people outside. I notice a GBTA minibus in use as a shuttle bus.
- The bus diver announces to the bus: is just Bridgeport okay? We’re going to skip the new Fairfield Metro. I’m perfectly happy with this decision.
- 8:15 – Cross the Bridgeport city line. According to the schedule there is a New Haven Shuttle at 8:29, I’m wondering if we will make it. We pass a very crowded Coastal Link bus, a daily operation from Norwalk to Bridgeport that I’ll end up on one of these days when I finish the New Haven Line.
At 8:27 we get to Bridgeport and to a parking lot with mess of MTA buses, a combination of Low-Floor Artics and Express Buses. I see others from DATCO. I think they got more buses then they needed! The driver is a bit confused on where to discharge us. A cop boards the bus and announces we will exit the bus into traffic and to go up to the front of the station for buses to go back to New York or up to the platform for trains to New Haven. I snap a few photos as we rush up to the platform to catch the 8:29 train.
The M8 waiting for us, leaves on time at 8:29.
- 8:36 – Stratford, there is no one waiting to go in either direction. The conductor comes through and we finally get our tickets punched on this train for the first time today. Had I been alone with a bit extra time in Bridgeport I would have bought a new Bridgeport to New Haven ticket and used my still unpunched ticket for the ride home. He hands our three year old the now punched tickets, he’s friendly.
- 8:42 – empty Milford.
- 8:47 – through West Haven under construction. The conductor walks by and I ask if the train is continuing to State Street, closer to our destination (Some of the Shuttle’s are, I can’t remember if this one is) I get the confirmation of no.
- 8:50 – entering New Haven we pass an Amtrak shuttle train set. There is an Acela in the station. They are using it for the few regional trains to Boston, I wonder how the station stops of Westerly and Mystic are being handled with it.
We walk out and I get a picture of the solari board that seems to show a normal train schedule and not the correct schedule with Bridgeport as the destinations. There is just a note beneath the board about the service change. I also realize its time to add this Solari Board to the endangered list. New LCD screens are popping up along the tracks and in the main station.
We go outside and the Yale Shuttle is right there. Again perfect timing. The Yale dispatcher is really amusing saying “Your doing a great job out there” as we take the short trip to our destination. Total travel time from Fordham to New Havenwith the bus shuttle just slightly over two hours, not bad at all, having perfect timing for the transfers has helped tremendously. We feel very luckily
Coming home is another adventure:
We get back to Union Station at 7:48, I had only bought one-way tickets. I hit Fordham because, according to the website were on anomaly of a train that whose bus connection will connect to a train from Westport only to Stamford where the next train out of Stamford is a local out that will stop at Frodham. If we end up on an Express I’ll just pay the $3.50 difference and go via 125th street. I need to just get home. We leave into the sunset. The conductor coming through for tickets. She announces were on buses to South Norwalk for the bus (I know that the peak buses are leaving from there, maybe we are going back that way too).
- 8:04 – stop at empty Milford empty
- 8:07 – They announce track 4 for Bridgeport and wrong-railingwe slowly switch over the 4 track mainline as we cross the Houssantonic River.
- 8:10 – Stratford to an empty platform. It starts raining. A man gets on and the conductor comes for his ticket. He says Nagatuck (on the Waterbury branch), lacking a ticket, she tells him just to buy one at the machine in Bridgeport. She keeps making announcements for the bus.
- 8:15 – arrive in Bridgeport.
We walk through the underpass and out to the street to a Peter Pan Coach for what will be a non-stop express ride to South Norwalk. An employee comes aboard and reminds us the bus is going to South Norwalk only, and to get off and wait for the local shuttle bus for Fairfield and Westport. We hit I-95 without any traffic and I realize if loading had been slightly faster we might have made the 8:39 express train (stopping at Fordham). We pass a MTA Express Bus on I-95 with a MNR railroad destination sign. Time for the first longer layover of the day and home an hour later, at least this didn’t happen on the way up. We’re off the highway at 8:38. Arrive at the South Norwalk Station at 8:44.
We all head into the underpass and find out the next train is at 9:17 (they don’t mention another transfer at Stamford with a ten minute layover). A Westport-bound train arrives it deposits one bus load of passengers onto an MTA bus. I hear “At 9:30 there out if here, maybe local buses” from the employees at the line of MTA buses across the tracks. 9:17 comes and goes, I wonder what happened to it, it’s disappeared from TrainTime on the MTA’s website too and the unique sponsored LCD screens (top 3/4 ads, bottom few lines for train departures) in the station. The next train is now at 10:03.
- 9:42 – no sign of the 9:17, there a couple of employees on the opposite platform who are wondering too.
- 9:49 – They announce the next train on track 3 is for Grand Central.
- 9:51 – A train comes in I hear an employee say “Why is this train going so slow,” its a Shoreliner with the lights off in most of the cars in Push Mode. It turns out to be our special train to Grand Central that has entered special service after the 9:17 failed to show-up (I wonder if its just the 9:17 running extremely late).
At 9:53 we walk to the back of the platform (only the last 3 cars are open for passengers) and get on, the crew announcing we will be stopping at Stamford and Grand Central only. They do announce were skipping Harlem.
We finally leave at 9:55 with the bells going off to close the doors of the Shoreliner cars.
- 10:02 – come to a stop somewhere, another announcement is made, we are now stopping at 125th Street. The conductor comes through as we go through the yards at Stamford. I have my ticket and $3.25 out I tell him I want to go to all the way to 125th, he gives me the don’t worry about it wave. I put my money away. With the long delay I feel like its a good courtesy and I’m not skiving off of conductors not feeling like issuing on board tickets.
- 10:10 – a quick stop at Stamford quite a lot of people get off, just a few on. I read my book listening to the Shoreliner noises in the night. I’ve never ridden a New Haven Express on one before and the diesel locomotive pushing us makes everything sound so different. Following I-95 there isn’t too much traffic.
- 10:35 – look up from my book and realize were bypassing Botanical Garden on the espress track
- 10:42 – over the Harlem River Bridge and above Park Avenue
- 10:43 – arrive at 125th street I decide to go down to Grand Central as out of the way that it is and not deal with getting crosstown on 125th street this late at night and for a rare ride of mine into the rail terminal who’s tracks I find fascinating.
- 10:46 – Hear the ventilation go on and off twice over park avenue. I assume we’re finally dropping our third rail shoe into electric mode
- 10:47 – Enter the Park Avenue tunnel at 97 Street.
- 10:52 – Ventilation, but not lights go on and off as we come to a stop short of a platform. I guess our “extra” is waiting for a track assignment. I guess they have lighting taken care with third rail gaps on P32AC-DMs in electric mode. This is unlike Amtrak’s P32AC-DMs I’m used to riding into Penn Station with their lights frequently going on and off. I forgot how much I enjoy entering Grand Central.
- 10:55 – Finally on the move and arrive on track 36 at 10:57. A place I was a a week ago on the museum train! How unexciting.
I walk into the main concourse with a photo of the departure and arrival boards. I’m amazed Metro-North brought out an extra train for us, the next scheduled train from Westport is now arriving, less than ten minutes after us.
I head over to the 42 Street Shuttle that is running just one train this late at night (it fully shuts down at midnight making the 7 train the only crosstown option after that). The train is luckily leaving in 3 minutes sitting on Track 3 so I get on. At Times Square I walk down to the Uptown 1 train platforms, the next 1 train isn’t for 7 minutes (if a 1 train is in the station I’m planning to take it it to 59th Street to avoid the long walk through the 41 Street tunnel). I walk down the platform and head downstairs for the — mile walk underground all the way to the front of the A train platform beneath 44 Street and 8 Avenue. I have a routine now making the Shuttle to A train transfer if I have an Unlimited of just leaving the station and walking down 43 Street on the surface. An A Local (I local service is now starting earlier than before) soon comes into the station. I’m home before midnight.
All in all it was a very long day for a very special occasion I’m very happy I was able to attend. The MTA did the Bus Bridge the best they could considering the curcumstances. We just had bad luck coming home with the 9:17 train.