Rail company needs to pay more attention to this area

Metro-North leadership appears to be doing better at listening to its main customers -- the people who ride the trains.

Now it needs to focus more on the Danbury line, which serves many from the Greater New Milford towns.

Improving communications was one of four focus areas established by Joseph J. Giulietti in his first month as Metro-North president in March when he drew up an 100-day action plan.

Giulietti showed again last week he was listening when he announced the appointment of a Waterbury Branch line advocate who will be responsible for improving service on that line.

That the Waterbury line needs attention is undisputed. We are pleased for Waterbury-area riders they will have an advocate now.

What about the Danbury Branch?

The 23.9-mile line, with eight stations from Norwalk to Danbury, has nearly twice the ridership as the Waterbury Branch -- and the same complaints, plus other issues.

Manyn of the riders are Greater New Milford-area residents.

The Danbury Branch needs a Metro-North advocate, too.

The line does have fine representation on the rail council -- Timothy Beeble, who lives in Bethel and uses the train to commute to work in Stamford. Beeble was appointed to the council by state Sen. Toni Boucher, R-Wilton, who is a strong supporter of improved transportation.

Yet a railroad employee who is dedicated to the needs and issues of the Danbury line would be an insider voice.

In May, the Danbury Branch had 61,922 riders, close to double the 31,004 riders on the Waterbury line. The Danbury ridership was down 12.8 percent from the month before and it's no wonder -- a bus was substituted 424 times for the train.

Admittedly, that bus use was higher than usual as a new signal system installed on the line malfunctioned, causing railroad gates to lower at crossings when no train was in sight and, worse, fail to warn at times when trains approached.

Buses were used for some connections while the system was repaired.

Finally, at the beginning of July, the work was completed and the added 8 to 10 minutes of commute time were removed from the schedule. Reliability and timeliness are crucial.

Now, for the economic good of all the towns along the line, as well as for commuters and tourists from the Greater New Milford area, more trips to and from Grand Central Station should be added.

Metro-North responded well by appointing an advocate specifically for the Waterbury line.

The railroad ought to do the same for the larger Danbury Branch line.