Metro North

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Anonymous's picture

"Several of us were delayed and not allowed on certain Metro North trains this past Sat. Others & I were as upset @ the time. Personally, I was surprised by the attitude of one conductor; Michael Wagner, who was unyielding to our protests. He would not let any more than 8 of us on an almost empty (non-bike) train. I did some research (b/4 venting my frustration to Metro North) & consequently will not try to fight ""city hall"". As it turn out Mr. Wagner was following the ""letter of the law"" regarding us (

ii. On weekends the maximum number of bicycles permitted on trains is eight (8). In addition, on weekends certain trains are designated as ""Bicycle Trains"" and noted in the timetable with a bicycle symbol, these trains may carry more than the permitted number of bicycles.

My experience in recent years (not the case in years past) with Metro North personnel has been very positive; with the exception of Mr. Wagner they have let us on all trains ignoring the ""letter of the law"". So this particular fellow made his ""command decision"" & stuck to it. I think contacting Metro North re this would do more harm then good. Regards.......mark"

Anonymous's picture
Fixer (not verified)
Eight is Enough

Geez, the limit used to be 4.

I wouldn't show up with 10-12 cyclists at a train station. Unless it's a designated bike train and they're expecting you.

You're putting the conductor in a tough spot. The limit is 8. Suppose some passengers complained about all the bikes on the train?

You're right that most conductors do us a favor and bend the rules a bit, but you can't expect that, and you shouldn't get upset if they don't. Maybe the guy's boss has been breaking his chops lately and looking for something to write him up on.

Or maybe he just felt like breaking your chops. Just bad luck...

Anonymous's picture
Shrdlu's Evil Twin (not verified)
The (cleaned up) Legend of the Montenegrin Bird

"This post was previously taken down, perhaps because I called the person who posted prior to me an idiot. Therefore I will take it back and try again. The person is not an idiot. He is simply doing something that could ruin taking our bikes on Metro North for the rest of us. My post:

>>My experience in recent years (not the case in years past) with Metro North personnel has been very positive; with the exception of Mr. Wagner they have let us on all trains ignoring the ""letter of the law"". So this particular fellow made his ""command decision"" & stuck to it. I think contacting Metro North re this would do more harm then good. Regards.......mark<<

Indeed, by even advertising this fact, you may be killing the possibility of its continuing. I am reminded of the ancient Legend of the Montenegrin Bird:

A Montenegrin bird loved the rugged countryside of Montenegro so much that he decided not to fly south to Africa across the Mediterranean for the winter with his comrades.

""I shall stay here and enjoy the beauty of the majestic white capped mountains,"" he told his companions in his flock.

Winter came, blowing down from Northern Russia with a bitter icy blast. The little bird had never experienced such bone-chillikng cold. He froze solid, and fell off his icicle-covered branch onto the road below, nine tenths dead.

Just then, a peasant came by with his horse-drawn sled. He was a kindly old man, and when he saw the frozen bird, his heart was filled with angstg and pity. ""How can I help this wretched creature?"" he wondered.

At that very moment, his horse raised its tail and let fall a great lump of steaming manure.

""Ah hah!"" said the kindly peasant. He picked up the hot manure and spread it all around the little bird. Gradually, the bird, now insulated by manure-y warmth, regained consciousness. Aware that somehow he had been saved from the cold, he began to sing a cheery song.

Hearing the bird sing, the old peasant smiled a satisfied smile and continued on his way. But not five minutes later, a prince's hunting party came by, unhappily venting their frustration. They had been hunting all day, but had found nothing to shoot.

Suddenly, they heard the loud and cheerful chirp of the tiny Montenegrin Bird. The prince brightened.

""I say!"" he declared, ""Release that tiny creature from its lump of manure immediately, so that it may fly away!""

His footman ran and did so. The tiny bird fluttered its wings and took off into the icy sky. As he did so, the prince raised his blunderbuss to his shoulder and blasted the bird out of the sky, scattering its feathers as the dead creature plunged to earth.

That is the end of the story. But since this is a Montenegrin story, it of course has a moral. In fact, it has three morals.

1. It's not necessarily your enemies who get you into it.

2. It's not necessarily your friends who get you out of it.

3. If you're in it up to your neck, for the love of heaven don't sing!

So the trainmen on a certain line are doing you a great favor by violating the rules and endangering their own jobs to get you on a train?

No, you can't possibly be an idiot. You're a real genius!

Your Pal,

Anonymous's picture
Robert Rakowitz (not verified)
Couldn't agree more

...Metro North has been great whenever I have been on, asking me where I was heading, etc. to help ensure I got off before they left the station. Additionally, I have rarely been asked to display a pass.

The real toughies are LIRR conductors - they're the ones who really stick to the rules. I saw them deny a pair of cyclists on a Manhattan-bound Hamptons train on a summer Sunday PM - understandably so - it was rush hour.

On the other hand, I have seen Metro North actually help find room for cyclists on a crowded train.

I know its ruled by personality and environment, but I have to say that I've seen a better welcome mat rolled out by Metro North.

Complaining is a bit unwarranted in this case, as they often do bend the rules in our favor.

However, I've been going back and forth to Chicago more frequently on business - and I am SUPERIMPRESSED by their cycling culture: bike racks on the front of buses, bike cars in trains and subways, public bike stations in transport hubs. I know that Europe is different, so that's why I chose Chicago.

Anyway - point is, be happy when they bend the rules for us, and be content when they follow them. If we really want to tackle an issue, let's talk about infrastructure.

Anonymous's picture
Carol Wood (not verified)

"Didn't the club previously have some kind of arrangement with Metro North, whereby we would notify them that we were coming and they would accommodate us? I seem to remember that George Kaplan had taken that role, and also that Hank Schiffman usually called the RR for his rides. Correct me if I'm wrong.

Restricting the train to eight bicycles is an arbitrary policy not applied to other customers. Does Metro North restrict the number of baby carriages the train will take? Or golf bags? Or large noisy families with dirty children? Or sacks from sprawling Bloomingdale's shoppers? Or crotchety senior citizens who hog a four-seater so they can read the Times in comfort, while others stand?

I can recall some trips where making arrangements with the conductor on the platform was tense, but so far none has resulted in expulsion. This latest is a most undesirable development, and I suggest we try to find a way to finesse it.

Otherwise, we are at their mercy. F'rinstance, about a month ago a conductor snapped at me and two others to stop hogging the seats and move our bikes into the vestibule between cars. (How safe is that?) We got up and complied--yours truly remarking sotto voce that ""the rule apparently doesn't apply to shopping bags"" (in reference to several seats being claimed by bag ladies). Mr. Bad Mood Conductor marches back down the aisle and gets right in my face. ""And if I hear another word from you, I'll put youse all off the train!"" he yelled. I looked him square in the eye with a very straight face. Clearly we were dealing with a madman. A few minutes later, we were standing in the vestibule when here comes Mr. BMC again. ""Get the name on his badge,"" I whispered to my pal. But she didn't need to. Mr. BMC--succumbing to a crise de conscience, proof of at least some humanity--now tells us we can put our bikes in another car. ""Thank you, sir,"" we politely told him.

I sympathize that these guys can be under stress like any normal person, especially if they have to work with the public. But that doesn't give anyone the right to inflict power trips or treat people abusively."

Anonymous's picture
Jay (not verified)
a different kind of experience Sat!

On Sat the conductor opened up a brand new car for us 3 NYCC cyclists and we had a private car all the way back to NYC! I felt like an 1890-1910 industrial, oil or banking baron! BTW the conductors have recently rarely asked for passes.

Anonymous's picture
Robert Gray (not verified)
Sunday, October 17, 2004 Hudson Train

From: Robert Gray [mailto:[email protected]]
Sent: Sunday, October 17, 2004 11:01 PM
To: 'Fred Steinberg'; 'Fred Steinberg'
Subject: Putnam Valley Options

Sorry to see you having trouble at Tarrytown this PM; we were on the train you missed.
The conductor said it was his fault -
He had asked for help on the train (for another conductor) and management helped him by reducing the number of cars from 7 or 8 to 5 so he could cover it by himself. (Seriously!)
The train was already crowded at Garrison, I have never seen that before.

Anonymous's picture
fred steinberg (not verified)
Metro North & cyclists

Metro North is a tremendous resource for cyclists but cannot be taken for granted. It's a business and conductors are supposed to take care of its customers.

Notwithstanding the amount of cyclists attempting to board a train, no cyclist has a legal right to be on a train. Conductors always have the perogative of refusing to board cyclists to ensure they have adequate seating, proper safety, etc. bike train or not.
You will never win such an argument. The best you can do is nicely point out that the train is listed as a bike train.

That said, the best insurance of boarding a train with one's bike is to know the MNRR schedule, plan to board bike trains, board as far up on the line as possible, when its least crowded, avoid shorter early afternoon trains, especially locals which have fewer cars an may require moving bicycles to keep doorways clear. If the group is large plan ahead to spilt it between two trains.

If not adhering to he previous suggestions, board singly, not in groups. Conductors will usually let a sole cyclist or two('two per car') aboard but will reject a bunch on the platform when the train is crowded.

In my experience the Hudson line is the best line, especialy the cars with the door in the center with huge wheelchair bays. The Harlem and New Haven Lines do not have similar equipment.

Remember, its a business. If told to use the seats, store your bike upright on the two seat side, minimizing lost seating. These are the last seats passengers will double up in.

I have found that pleasant experiences with MNRR conductors far outnumber the bad ones. There is usually a reason why cyclists have problems boarding trains- to few cars, not enough conductors, behind schedule, a prior argument with a cyclist, etc..

Anonymous's picture
Carol Wood (not verified)


Good advice as usual. But unfortunately, not applicable in all circumstances. Surely you know that being nice, while preferable as a general mode of conduct, doesn't always guarantee the same in return.

For instance, my encounter with Mr. BMC took place on an early Saturday afternoon on the Hudson line (below Peekskill?) and there were only three of us. The train was busy but not packed. I don't remember all of the particulars but I believe a different conductor told us to go in that car. (This happens often, that one conductor says to do one thing, and then another comes along to bark at us for it and tells us to do another thing.)

On this occasion, we were sitting quietly among the other passengers and not annoying anyone when approached by the angry conductor. The guy was just having a bad day, and he singled us out as easy targets. That he realized his unreasonableness was evidenced by his change of heart in moving us to the next car.

I still haven't gotten a response as to what the club's earlier practice was. Striking some kind of arrangement in advance seems like a good way to smooth relations with the railroad. Surely it will never be frictionless, but making a show of trying to communicate and cooperate with the railroad can't hurt us.

Anonymous's picture
Robert Gray (not verified)
Metro North & cyclists

My experience with Metro North is consistent with Fred's above and all his suggestions are good. I would add that it is possible to put several bikes upright on the floor in each of the empty bays next to the center doors if you remove the front wheels of the bike so the bikes fit in the seat width. Some of us had done that last Sunday and that helped a lot because the bikes do not take seats. The conductor even complimented us for that.
I have found conditions to be inconsistent and unpredictable. Advance arrngements are not terribly practical because they have to be made long before the ride and if the ride is canceled or the train is missed, it annoys them and erodes credibility. Even when I made the arrangement and actually made the train, they were not prepared or expecting us.

Anonymous's picture
Hank Schiffman (not verified)
Metro North and bicycles

As the NYCC Metro North Liaison, I sympathize with your problem. Robert and Fred's remarks are salient. We ride the rails at the pleasure of Metro North. Consider the Metro North Bike Pass. It is basically a liability waiver with a processing fee. Yes, we do add to the coffers of Metro North in offpeak periods but are a small percentage of revenue. The conductors are the clutch between us and the railroad. And just about every conductor is part of the solution; only a few, sometimes, are part of the problem. Carol's behavior of being direct and differential sounds correct to me. Some of the things we can do to help make things work include:
* Taking bike trains whenever we have the opportunity. If you can end your ride on a bike train, and as Robert said, at a station further up the line, you will be in a better position than if you don't.
* Wait for the train at the rear of the platform and contact a conductor as to where he or she wants you to go.
* Be prepared to get on and off the train quickly. Slowing the operation of the train sends the worst possible message and reflect poorly on cyclists.
* Throw away your garbage.
* Keep the aisles in the trains open. Do not block passage through the train with either bikes of people.
* If you have arranged for your ride in advance with Metro North and you are canceling the ride, contact Metro North as soon as you know. Metro North will sometimes add extra cars on these trains. Just like you and me, they don't appreciate busy work.
* Thank conductors who are accomodating. Pay back kindness with kindness.
And if, perchance, you do find youself not getting on a train due to a conductor having a bad day, remember that the chances are very good that the conductors on the following train will be helpful. Let's do what we can to keep it that way.

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