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MTA Hosts Town Hall for Metro-North Riders

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TWC News: MTA Hosts Town Hall for Metro-North Riders
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Commuters who've endured Metro-North's worst year in its history got a chance Wednesday to complain directly to the man in charge at the struggling railroad. NY1's Jose Martinez filed the following report.

There were trains to catch and gripes to air.

On Wednesday, Metro-North riders got a chance to vent in front of Joseph Giulietti, the new president of the troubled commuter railroad, no matter the topic.

"When I had a meeting in the city or I had to go somewhere, say I had a 9 o'clock meeting, I'd make an 8 o'clock train, bang, I was there. I now have to budget an hour and a half," said one person.

It wasn't exactly a swarm of angry commuters who turned out to meet Giulietti during the evening rush at Grand Central Terminal, but those who did were quick to point to problems.

"I actually don't look at it as venting, because I do that online when I want to complain about something," said one person. "I wanted them to be able to hear me directly say, 'Listen, this matters to me.'"

In the wake of the December derailment in the Bronx that killed four and injured more than 70, the Federal Railroad Administration launched an investigation of safety standards at Metro-North. Nearly two weeks ago, that report said safety wasn't as high a priority as running trains on time.

"Let's put it this way. You don't want to substitute on-time performance for safety, but you don't want to use safety as an excuse to slack off on a railroad that runs on time," said one person.

The derailment was the low point of a brutal stretch for Metro-North that also included two worker deaths, power failures and two trains colliding in Connecticut.

In response, Metro-North says it's slowing trains, installing more beeping alerters to help keep train operators alert and updating its signal system.

"We're seeing an improvement right now," Giulietti said.

Giulietti is also being rolled out at five more customer forums, mostly in the suburbs that Metro-North largely serves.

Not that all riders are impressed.

"It doesn't make a difference," said one person. "It's PR, absolute PR. That's it."

Giulietti will next meet with commuters at Grand Central on May 1, when he meets the morning rush crowd from 7 a.m. to 9 a.m.

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