From New Canaan to Waterbury to Danbury, ridership on Metro North's Connecticut branch lines fell in 2016, compared to the year prior, the fifth time in six years that's happened.
While the decreases on all three lines were less than 3 percent, it stands in stark contrast to the increase in riders on the New Haven Line, the busiest commuter rail line in the country.
"When you start to tell people that their train isn't guaranteed to be on time and they're not even guaranteed a train, they're not coming. It's that simple," said Jim Gildea of the Connecticut Commuter Rail Council, an independent board selected by the governor and legislature to advocate for commuters.
He says it's not just reliability issues that are driving commuters away. "Sit in old cars that are antiquated, that on good days the heating and air conditioning doesn't work and on bad days the toilets and the restrooms don't work and it's not a pleasant experience," he added.
Like many things in this world and in Connecticut, the fix appears to be more funds. "I think it's time that the state of Connecticut, who has the Let's Go Connecticut funds, had money appropriated and available, start to show the branch lines the same level of respect and commitment and move ahead on purchasing new equipment for those lines as well," said Gildea.
The good news is that the branch in Waterbury will be getting a $70 million upgrade. But it won't be complete until the end of 2018. And there is no scheduled upgrade to the branches in Danbury or New Canaan.